How can I help my son’s Leaving Cert study get back on track?

Ask Brian: There are simple ways to help students re-engage after losing focus during Covid-19 lockdown

My son’s school work at home since the lockdown in March has been patchy. Photograph: iStock

My son’s school work at home since the lockdown in March has been patchy. Photograph: iStock

 

My son is due to sit his Leaving Cert next summer. His work at home since the lockdown in March was patchy. He has lost focus and motivation, and I’m worried he’ll won’t fulfil his potential. What can I do to get him back on track?

In many ways the Leaving Cert class of 2021 are the biggest victims of the closure of schools in mid-March last. Unlike this year’s Leaving Cert class, who at least had the chance to complete mock exams and begin to focus on revision, the class of 2021 lost out on getting stuck into the core of the curriculum content.

It is not surprising that your son feels a bit disheartened facing back into school. Both at individual school level and nationally, there was a wide divergence in the quality of remote tuition provided.

There is no point in raking over this issue now, as some teachers lacked both the IT skills, the competence to teach remotely, or in many cases the broadband connectivity to enable them to teach effectively from home.

Policy decisions are being taken to ensure that, in as far as it is possible to achieve it, your son and all his fellow Leaving Cert compatriots will get a fair opportunity to perform to the best of their ability in the method of assessment, which will be used at the end of this school year.

Minister for Education Norma Foley confirmed recently Leaving Cert and Junior Cycle candidates are to be given greater choice in next year’s State exam papers to help ease pressure on students who have lost out on months of school.

We all need a bit of reinforcement and encouragement going forward in this Covid-19 world

It means, for example, that students completing the Leaving Cert higher level English exam will have a wider selection of poets and other questions in the exam. Similar changes with greater choice and fewer mandatory questions are being made to all State exams due to be held next year.

A subject-by-subject document outlining the changes for State exam candidates is available on the Department of Education’s website.

So, what can you do to support your son’s engagement with his learning over the coming months?

One approach is to have an open dialogue with him on the challenge he faces in re-engaging with his Leaving Cert studies. Point out to him that he can reach his potential if he starts back into his subjects, with no recriminations or blame, over what occurred in the second half of the last academic year.

His hopes and dreams for the future will not be constrained by the past, but will be enhanced and enriched if he picks up the reins now and works positively with each of his teachers in the weeks and months ahead.

We all need a bit of reinforcement and encouragement going forward in this Covid-19 world. If we look out for each other, the challenges thrown up by virus will be overcome, and our children will reconnect with their learning and most importantly, their unique world inside their schools in the coming weeks and months.