Leaving Cert students: ‘We just need clarity now’

We invited Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students to share their thoughts with us about how their preparations have been impacted by the pandemic.

The move to distant learning has proved difficult for some students. Photograph: Getty  Images

The move to distant learning has proved difficult for some students. Photograph: Getty Images


The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has reached almost every corner of Irish life. In the area of education, one group stands out is that of students who are due to sit the State examinations in just under eight weeks time.

We invited Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students to share their experiences over the last two weeks. This is a selection of their responses.

At this point in time I am uncertain about what lies in the future of the 2020 State exams. As a Junior Cert student, I want answers to whether or not these exams will either be cancelled or go ahead. However, my opinion is that many students cannot cope with the amount of stress with studying for these exams and not being in a school environment - Leaving Cert students especially. The welfare and wellbeing of students should always be put first. We are in the dark about how long this pandemic will last and what effect it will have on all of us.
K Murray, Junior Cert student

I suffer with dyslexia and dyscalcula. Trying to study at home and complete the Leaving Certificate course for me is totally impossible in the middle of this crisis. I have not finished the course in some subjects and it’s so worrying that I will be expected to reach my potential and preform in the exams in June as if there is no pandemic and as if I’ve been in school preparing in the months prior! I’ve worked really hard for this exam and now it seems impossible. I’m so anxious . On top of my exam anxiety my Dad is a front line worker and I am so worried for him. The exams need to be cancelled and use predicted grades. Other countries have done this and third level colleges have done this. As a country the Government is priding themselves on how they are handling this crisis but they have no idea the stress they are causing for us the exam students .. It’s a nightmare that’s not ending . It’s the only fair solution in this very surreal time.
S Ryan, Leaving Cert student

I am a Leaving Cert student and I am in complete opposition to the idea of predicted grades. It seems to me to be the least just way of handling what is undeniably a very difficult decision and one which I know will not be made lightly. The concept of predicted grades is one which angers me as bias and unfair judgement is inevitable, favoritism is part of human nature and is unavoidable hence the anonymity of the leaving cert is the only way of creating a fair and level playing field. Not only do predicted grades rule out all anonymity they also rule out the chance of improvement and will only prove that hard work will not pay off.
C Jermyn, Leaving Cert student

No other year group has ever experienced this type of situation, and I sincerely hope it never affects another year group in the future. The Leaving Cert, and the education system as a whole, has engulfed our lives. We know nothing else but that. Since primary school, and into Junior Cert and then now. Education, learning, and exams. That’s all we know. The Leaving Cert is the toughest year we have faced. Others have gone through it. Some haven’t done great, and some have… We’re trying to get our education. We’re trying to get into college, get our degree, and get into whatever sector and industry that we want to get into. We all have to get through it, and yes a pandemic is going on. ..It’s tougher for us this year because of the massive interruptions that have faced us now. We are trying to teach ourselves. We have no teacher there to ask. .. Please do not think that I am saying that we are the only people who are important right now. Of course I don’t think that. We are going through a life changing time right now. A future setting time. People are dying. People are losing their loved ones. But students are facing losing their parents, grandparents, possibly siblings, possibly even their own lives. But they are also facing the Leaving Cert, that is still due to take place in June “by hook or by crook”, as Leo Varadkar said.The UK, Sweden, France, Spain, Italy, and now Malta, are among the countries that have cancelled their exams. Whether it’s by predicted grades, or postponing until a later date. They’ve taken that action. They’ve actually verbally said what they are going to do. Schools are shut for the rest of the school year there. We just need clarity now.
M Joyce, Leaving Cert student.

Missing an extremely large portion of revision in school and the sudden move to online classes has made it difficult to understand and retain information which will definitely affect my exam results if the exams go ahead. The Leaving Cert is going to add unnecessary stress to this global pandemic.
C O’Brien, Leaving Cert student.