After a very different year, the big day is finally here. Leaving Certificate exams kick off with English Paper One on June 9. Although candidates have the choice of whether or sit the exams or not, the vast majority have opted to sit some or all papers as well as receiving accredited grades.
There will be very little difference between how the Leaving Cert exams will be run this year and how they normally proceed. The main difference is that the exam hall will be a little more spread out and there will be more exam centres.
On the day of an exam, candidates should give themselves ample time to arrive at their centre. They are required to be in their seats a minimum of 30 minutes before the start of the first exam and not later than 15 minutes before the start of the rest of their exams.
It is essential that candidates have their exam numbers with them and give themselves time to find the correct exam centre. It is also essential that they leave home extra early to ensure they are not late. The aim is to keep the morning of an exam as calm as possible. Missing a bus or rushing around can be very unsettling.
Most candidates I have spoken to over that last week have been extremely sensible about limiting their contacts and following public health advice in order to ensure they will be able to attend their exams. This is an extremely responsible choice but is no guarantee that it will prevent a potential issue. If a Leaving Cert student has been deemed a close contact, has tested positive or is waiting for a test or has any symptoms at all, they should not attend the exam. If this happens, they have their accredited grades
Of course, it would disappointing if it is not possible to attend an exam for which you have prepared diligently, but it is essential to ensure that the exams go ahead as smoothly as possible for everyone.
This time is perhaps just as difficult for parents as they are forced to watch from the sidelines of this challenge. Students are likely to settle into the new normal of the State exams extremely quickly and parents will notice the levels of anxiety decreasing.
So how can parents help support their young person through this challenge?
Try to remember that stress is contagious. Just like toddlers, young adults will look to their parents for cues on how they should react. If a young person is disappointed with how the exam went or is starting to panic about their ability to succeed, a parent’s reaction can have a huge influence on their ability to bounce back.
So feed them, support them and help them stay calm. Keep the house quiet, the food coming, remind them to have balance in their life and ask them what they need.
Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Co Dublin