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“Not only are we frightened for our exams, but we are frightened for our lives and the lives of those around us”

“NOT only are we frightened for our exams, but we are frightened for our lives, and the lives of those around us.” Those are the words of Ennis Leaving Certificate student Jake O’Loughlin who is pleading with the Taoiseach Mícheál Martin and the Minister for Education Norma Foley to listen to students’ worries about how Covid-19 will affect this year’s state examinations.
The Gaelcholáiste an Chláir student believes that the government have up until now “been extremely hesitant to listen to the pleas of my fellow students” and he is calling for clarity on plans for the Leaving Cert this year.
He says there is “intense worry” among students. He expresses appreciation to the Taoiseach and Minister for Education for “finally addressing the physical health of me, my fellow students and our families, by not forcing us to return to school on January 11”.
However, he insists that the government needs to address the mental health of students immediately. “The leaving certificate is a stressful and anxious time for every student; past, present and future. It requires so much time, so much effort and so much devotion.
“Last year, with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, the stress, anxiety and worry of students multiplied exponentially. Now, not only are we frightened for our exams, but we are frightened for our lives, and the lives of those around us. We are unprepared to sit our exams in June, never mind mock examinations in three weeks. We are concerned about our practicals, orals and schoolwork, and we have been voicing these concerns continuously over the last few weeks on social media platforms, only to be ignored.”
He continues, “It is clear from a number of surveys online that an overwhelming majority of students feel it is unfair to sit the traditional leaving certificate exams this year. We have missed out on much more time than last year’s students. We are the first cohort of students in the history of the state to face major disruption to not one, but two of our senior cycle years. Some students feel predicted grades should be made optional, and others wish to sit their exams. Each and every student deserves to be listened to.”
Jake has made a number of proposals which he hopes will be taken on board by the government. He is urging that predicted grades be made optional, allowing those who want to sit their exams to do so. He believes the exams should be delayed so students have enough time to prepare.
He is also calling for the creation of a “fairer leaving cert, in which changes are made that are much more substantial than the changes that have been made so far”.
Jake is hopeful that the government will open its eyes “to the thousands of students pleading for your help”.
Addressing his fellow students, Jake says, “I am so sorry for everything you’ve had to endure this past year. I am with each and every one of you. I know it’s been extremely difficult, but I can promise you that an end will come to the anxieties of both the pandemic, and the leaving certificate. I urge each and every one of you to keep working as hard as you have been because, as I’m sure you all know by now, there is very little certain. I am truly proud to say that I am a part of the 2021 cohort of leaving certificate students; the students that stood up for themselves, the students that let their voices be heard! We will be listened to eventually! We deserve clarity! We deserve a choice!”

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