Bray People

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The great Leveller of the Leaving Cert gets quarantined in the end


Students celebrating their results in 2018.

Students celebrating their results in 2018.

Students celebrating their results in 2018.

Can you sense the relief?

After weeks of agony, the moment of truth arrives as you walk out of the exam hall, eyes fixed, determinedly facing dwon a flaming red horizon that is your future?

Crash, bang, whallop, Zoom call and suddenly the whole momentum of six years of seconary school education has evaporated in the still cool haze of early summer for 60,000 plus students across the nation.

The announcement that Leaving Cert 2020 is KO'd is massive, not only in how it impacts students, but by virtue of the fact that the wheels of the Irish education system - as antiquated and unwieldy a State institution as Orwell could imagine - were brought to a suddering halt.

This, despite the best efforts of the Minister for Education.

Having spoken with some students and done my own reflecting on my Leaving Cert years, it's fair to say that they will not shed too many tears about missing out on sitting in a sterile exam hall, socially distanced amid great shafts of summer sunlight, no.

They will miss their friends, their teachers, even the ones they can't stand and poke fun at.

One student recalled the noise from the squeaky highlighter one of her classmates used.

My memories of that formative year in my life. Ok years, I sat the Leaving Cert twice, are crystal clear.

I remember the study sessions at friends' houses, where not much study was done.

Back in the 90s, the Leaving Cert was the biggest thing in the world for some. It was a means of escape from small town life to a world of sex, drink and rock n'roll, OK drugs too, (for some).

It was a bit different for me. Things usually are!

For one, my parents dropped the bombshell that we were emigrating to America the same month the results were coming out. That put the kybosh on my studies as I suddenly lost focus; my head too filled with California, (or rather Upstate New York) dreams.

I plodded through my exams and enjoyed the benefits of part-time work during the hottest summer of the decade.

After a short lived sojourn to America I returned to repeat my Leaving in October 1996.

Luckily a few of my friends who had also come acropper first time round were there in the class, (well most days). One of the reasons I came back was because I missed my friends. That is natural and our friendships are one of many aspects of our lives thrown into sharp relief at the moment.

Many of the class of 2020 never got a chance to throw eggs down each others shirts and crack them, or even sign them outside school on the final day, in act of defiance, but also of friendship. Memories made at school last a lifetime is a catchy phrase, (did I just make up a phrase?), but it is also true.

In an English study session a friend asked me to write out all the biggest words I knew. He used them in his essay and ended up with more points than me.

Needless to say he has gone far in life.

The Leaving Cert is a leveller but life is the teacher.

Bray People