While last week's announcement that the Leaving Cert exams were to be cancelled brought an end to weeks of uncertainty for most students, for some the wait for answers continues.
Chloe Bates (23) was due to sit her Maths and Irish Leaving Cert exams as a mature student this summer. Her goal is a place on a Masters course in Primary Education at Hibernia College next April.
However, unlike the vast majority of teenage students, Chloe is ineligible for predictive grading. And so she needs to sit her exams, and she needs to sit them soon.
'Because I'm an external student, calcuated grading is not an option for me. The course in Hibernia College has two start dates each year: one in April and one in September. The deadline for entries for the April intake is January so I need to receive my results before then,' she says.
If Chloe doesn't receive her results by January she risks having to wait until 2022 to finally get her place on the course.
'The deadline for entries to the September intake is in the middle of July and they won't allow you to apply if your results are still pending,' she explains.
And this Masters course is just the final step in what has been a long and circuitous route to what Chloe describes as her 'dream job'.
'I always had my heart set on being a primary level teacher but I didn't get enough points in the Leaving Cert six years ago,' says the Wexford town woman.
'So I decided to take a long route to get to the career I wanted. I did a three-year degree course on the Wexford campus in childcare and worked very hard to get a 2:1. But I didn't have the entry requirements for Maths and Irish for this Masters course, so I decided to resit those subjects.'
Even before Covid-19 struck, Chloe had chosen to reduce her hours at the créche she works in so she could focus on her studies. And having already put aside the €15,000 required to enrol in Hibernia College, she poured more money into preparing for her exams.
'Once I decided to sit those exams again I began studying from home. I had been working in a créche and I reduced my hours to 15 per week so I could focus on my studies. I'm currently spending €75 a week on grinds.'
And the prospect of waiting until 2022 to finally begin the two-year course is a daunting one.
'If that happens, I'll be faced with a long wait and more studying. I can only pay so much for my grinds. I don't have the money to go and study for another year, there's only so much of this you can do,' she says.
Complicating matters further is an impending change in the requirements to enrol in the Masters course, one which will make Chloe's task even more difficult.
'In order to meet the requirements for April's intake you need to have 40% or more in Maths. But that goes up to 60% for the September intake. I can't see myself getting that,' she says.
'In my five years in school, I did ordinary level Maths all the way through and then dropped to Foundation level eight weeks before the Leaving. I think I can manage the 40% but if it rises to 60% it will take me another couple of years.'
With so much on the line, Chloe's reaction to the cancellation of the exams was understandable.
'When the news came through, I just broke down. I've shed so many tears. It's affecting my mental health, I'm not sleeping. Without my parents and my boyfriend Ashley I don't know how I'd manage,' she says.
'I'm still studying these two subjects not knowing if I'm going to be able to sit the exams this year. I've had so many breakdowns, it feels like my dream is about to be crushed. But if I knew I was going to get the results in January, it would put my mind at ease.'
Ultimately, all Chloe wants is some form of communication from the Department of Education, some recognition from a Government which has thus far ignored the plight of those in her position.
'I understand it's a hard time for the Department, but there isn't that many mature students going to back to sit their exams. Surely they could have allowed us to do them, spread us out?
'I've given up a full-time job to pursue this. I've been saving for years, it's always been my dream to be a teacher. The Department made one statement with regards to the Leaving Cert, but there's been nothing for us.
'I haven't had any resolution, I'm still in that boat of not knowing what's going to happen,' she says.
Chloe says if it isn't possible to sit her exams this year then the Department could at least facilitate those who've missed out by freezing entry requirements into colleges for the following year.
Jessica Ní Mháirtín is one of Chloe's tutors and describes her as 'the most dedicated student' she's ever had. Jessica works with a number of mature students who were due to resit their exams and says the lack of acknowledgement from the Government is 'infuriating'.
'The Department of Education could easily have arranged for external candidates to sit their exams as there are so few of them. But the fact that they haven't even acknowledged them in any of their statements is infuriating.
'Seventeen, 18 and 19 year olds are all so adaptable and will be able to progress from here but external candidates/mature students have made a life changing decision to further their education - and spend lots of money while they're at it - and neither colleges nor the Department have mentioned anything about how they should proceed,' she said.