Leaving Certificate student Jamie McCourt has told how learning remotely and the lack of clarity from the Department of Education over the exams is piling the pressure on young people.
With the schools closed again due to Covid-19 Leaving Cert students nationwide are preparing for their exams over Zoom from home.
Jamie, a sixth year student at Coláiste Chú Chulainn in town, said the lack of classroom teaching and uncertainty over exams is adding stress on Leaving Cert pupils.
“Preparing for the Leaving Cert is stressful enough and now we have the added pressure of learning remotely and the uncertainty of not knowing if we will even have exams or if it will be continuous assessment and calculated grades”, he said.
“Remote learning is never as good as face-to-face teaching in a classroom.
“You obviously don’t get the same one-on-one attention from a teacher which is far superior.
“At the moment we are all in our houses trying to prepare for exams.
“At my school we are getting a mixture of work assignments daily in each subject sent to us and zoom classes.
“We have some online lessons with the whole class and the teacher, but it is not the same as in a classroom as if you have a question the teacher can come down and show you how to do it.
“Our teachers are doing the best they can in the situation, and I know everyone’s hands are tied but students need leadership and answers from the Department of Education as the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen is extremely stressful.”
Jamie said that it can be a struggle for some students to get into a routine of learning remotely rather than the structure of a classroom.
“When you are at school, you get up, put on your uniform, and go to school where you have a timetable and a set amount of time dedicated to each subject.
“It is difficult for some Leaving Cert students to get into a routine of learning remotely and they might not be as focused as they would be in a classroom.
“And there are students who have younger siblings who might not be able to have a quiet place at home dedicated for studying and schoolwork.”
Jamie said that the current lockdown learning is affecting young people’s mental health.
“Psychologist David McMahon says the Leaving Cert is stressful and can have a toll on young people’s mental health in a normal environment.
“In the current pandemic with students learning remotely and not knowing if the schools will definitely open at the end of the month and the uncertainty about if the exams will go ahead is mounting the pressure and stress on us.
“There is a huge amount of uncertainty among students about what is going to happen and that is stressful on top of studying for the Leaving Cert – just not knowing what is down the line is difficult.
“School is not just a place of learning; it is a support system.
“Myself and my school friends are missing being in a classroom and being able to talk to each other about things.
“There is the social aspect of school, hanging out with friends on breaks and after school activities that are now gone, there is no social outlet for us anymore.
“Having that network during a year when students would normally be stressed about studying for the Leaving Cert is piling on the pressure and can affect young people’s mental health.”
Jamie said that the Government announcing that Leaving Cert students would attend school three days a week and then doing a U-turn added to students’ concerns that there was a plan in place for them.
“That alone shows uncertainty and leaves students feeling like they are in freefall and where we land, we don’t know”, he said.
Jamie said students are concerned that after losing time in the classroom last year and this month they will struggle to get the points needed for the college courses they want.
“In my case I need around 430 points for the courses I am applying for and in December I was thinking I can do that, but with the schools closing again and the uncertainty of what will happen I am not as sure what will happen.
“Last year the points for courses went up due to continuous assessment and calculated grades, so that is another worry for students if that happens again.”
Jamie said that filling out the CEO applications while the schools remain closed is also stressful for students.
“Normally we would have them there face-to-face to go through everything with you and answer any questions you have and give you advice.
“My school is arranging a career guidance team meeting over zoom, which will help answer a lot of questions.”
Jamie said that Leaving Cert students need clarity from the Government.
“We are under so much pressure already and the uncertainty is adding to that - we need to be told what path is set out.
“They need to decide if the Leaving Cert is definitely going ahead or if it is going to be continued assessment and calculated grades like last year.
“They need to tell us what is happening so we can find a way to plan the best route to achieve our goals.”
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