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Students check their timetable and room numbers in the Lobby area at St Caimin's in Shannon before they commence their Leaving Certificate exams on Wednesday morning. Photograph by John Kelly

Students ‘upbeat’ as exams begin after challenging year

STUDENTS began the Leaving Certificate exams on Wednesday, with this year’s group having had to endure an unprecedented level of disruption, with the last two school years pockmarked by long absences from the classroom, remote learning and uncertainty over whether the exams would even happen.
This year students are getting predicted grades as well as having the option to take the exam.
Those who do the exam will take whichever grade is better, their actual result or the predicted grade, and St Caimin’s principal Alan Cunningham said the trepidation that usually goes with the start of the Leaving Cert was absent on Wednesday morning.
”The atmosphere this morning before the exam was a lot more relaxed than normal.”
He said that a substantial number of students had opted not to sit the exam.
“We’re just going through it now, I’d say there’s someplace between 55 and 65% of them (doing it) I’d say. A small bit more than that had said that they’d do it, but when push came to shove didn’t do it.”
With no exam fees paid, students had until the last minute to decide whether they would take the exam or not.
Those who take the exam will naturally be hoping for superior grades to the predicted ones, and Mr Cunningham said it won’t be apparent until the results come out if many people outperform what was expected. “It’ll be interesting to find out, how it goes, will there be discrepancies between what was expected and what people get.”
John Burns taught at Rice College in Ennis for 26 years, finally finishing in February. Within weeks he had opened the Burns Study Centre, providing a facility for Leaving Cert students who needed a space outside of the home.
“We opened early, on March 8, because parents and students had been calling for some place where they could do a bit of study, they could have a structure to the day, that it would be strict but caring.”
While the pandemic has posed problems for almost everyone across society, he says it has been particularly difficult for the exam students.
“It has been awful, they have had two years of lockdown restrictions, remote learning and everything else. I think the hardest thing for them was the uncertainty that pervaded for a lot of the year.
“Now having said that, the Department of Education and the State Exams Commission have done the best that they can do in the situation that they’re in. They’ve given calculated grades and the sit down exam as options and that really is good.”
On the evening before the first exam, he said that the mood among the young people was quite good, and he expected it to be even better after English Paper 1 was finished.
“They’re upbeat. They know that their schools are going to look after them, they know that the Department is on their side, they do know this. Like anyone sitting an exam there is trepidation and nervousness but after the first paper is over that drops dramatically, because they know they can do it.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.