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Coronavirus crisis: 'Anxious students need clarity on Leaving Cert - doing exams for the sake of it helps no one'

Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Joseph (18) and a group of fellow students are campaigning for the exams to be replaced by an estimated grade model. A petition has already gathered thousands of signatures, and a poll run by Unicef Ireland has shown it was the favoured option by 61pc of those who voted. Today, Joseph appeals for an end to the uncertainly that is causing students all over Ireland stress and anxiety.

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2020 Leaving cert student Joseph Murray, from Knock, Co. Mayo. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

2020 Leaving cert student Joseph Murray, from Knock, Co. Mayo. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

2020 Leaving cert student Joseph Murray, from Knock, Co. Mayo. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Leaving Certificate. But amid a global crisis, the question of holding exams in June, if at all, becomes more questionable by the day.

In normal circumstances this is the time of year that is a time of huge pressure and stress for students.

Yet, the work gets done, projects are submitted, and the exams begin as usual.

This year, that scenario is looking more unlikely.

We are facing issues that no other group of Leaving Certs have experienced before us, or are likely to again.

The schools will remain closed until April 19, but that deadline will almost certainly be extended.

In truth, we may not set foot into our school buildings until June 3, the date our exams are due to start.

Nobody is complaining about this. We acknowledge that public safety is the number one priority; we are aware that social distancing is necessary.

We don't expect the Leaving Cert to be top of the Government's agenda.

But, we do feel the air of uncertainty surrounding our exams needs to be addressed.

We have been told that we should prepare for the Leaving Cert to go ahead as scheduled.

Yet we were also told this crisis has only begun and may last well into the summer months.

If that is the case, how can we realistically expect to sit our exams in June?

It would be very difficult to police social distancing at all times in a school environment.

If we got sick, most of us would be fine. But some of us would not.

Some of our family members would not. With this in mind, sitting exams in June is not feasible.

So, where does that leave us students?

The exams could be deferred to as late as September.

However, this would cause more problems than it would solve.

Where would it leave students who wish to study abroad?

And it could have a severe impact on the mental health of those who are already struggling to stay afloat this school year.

With very few solutions remaining, students are becoming increasingly anxious about what is to come.

We deserve clarity and communication from the people in charge of our education.

We don't expect a perfect solution or even an immediate one, but some are more sensible than others.

Doing an exam for the sake of doing an exam isn't going to help anybody.

Joseph Murray is a Leaving Cert student at St Louis Community School in Kiltimagh, Co Mayo.


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