Our Lady’s Bower students reflect upon surreal conclusion to Leaving Certificate exam year

Anna Byrne, Clodagh Tiernan and Moya Earls

Anna Byrne, Clodagh Tiernan and Moya Earls

The Leaving Certificate class of 2020 will be forever synonymous with COVID-19 and its detrimental impact on matters education.

From the initial closure of second level schools within the local environs on March 12, to the cancellation and rescheduling of the state examination and now, in recent times, the formal cancellation of end of academic year sitting, sixth year students have endured a myriad of emotional feelings not knowing how their remaining second level weeks were to conclude.

This week, three students from Our Lady’s Bower Athlone, spoke with the Athlone Advertiser, and detailed their thoughts pertaining to the ultimate cancellation of this year’s Leaving Certificate examination.

Noting that the decision to formally cancel this year’s state examinations took time to digest Anna Byrne, stated that despite the mid-March school closure she was certain that the state examination would proceed.

“While the cancellation news took some days to digest, I was of the belief that we would be able to return to school and sit our Leaving Certificate. It has been our sole focus for the past two years and during the period of lockdown studying was my source of normality.

“I was very much eager to sit my Leaving Certificate as it is the fairest manner in which to assess a student’s education attributes,” Anna commented.

While acknowledging that the Department of Education had arrived at the “best decision possible” allowing for the prevalent circumstances, Anna, who aspires to study Psychology and English at Maynooth University, stated that she and her peers were uncertain as to what eventuality would arise.

“Thankfully, we have received much support and encouragement from our teachers and regularly informed with regard to matters Leaving Certificate and in the days following the cancellation both the school principal and deputy principal were in touch to ensure we were in good stead with the decision taken,” Anna added.

Noting a pervading “anti-climactic” feeling following the formal Leaving Certificate cancellation announcement, fellow Kiltoom resident, Clodagh Tiernan, remarked that the sustaining of study motivation proved problematic as thoughts that the state examination might not take place initially emanated.

“Personally, maintaining motivation levels while not knowing if the Leaving Certificate would take place was an issue from time to time. I adhered to the prescribed school timetable as best I could during the week and when the rescheduled July 29 date was announced there was a focus.

“I did think I would have the opportunity to sit the exam, but allowing for the persistent COVID-19 crisis, it appears that the decision now taken is the best eventuality,” Clodagh asserted.

Akin to her student colleague Anna, Clodagh, who aspires to study primary school teaching in Mary Immaculate College Limerick, lauded the support afforded to her by the teaching community within Our Lady’s Bower during what has been a turbulent period of time for all sixth year students.

“To think that I will not return to Our Lady’s Bower to experience a normal school day is surreal, but hopefully the opportunity will arise in the future to say a formal farewell to my peers and teachers,” Clodagh concluded.

Meanwhile, Ballinasloe native, Moya Earls, stated that it was a “wholly surreal” realisation that she would not be sitting the Leaving Certificate at the end of the academic year.

“The Leaving Certificate examination is your ultimate goal during your secondary school years, but I feel that the decision taken by the Department of Education is the correct one allowing for the present circumstances.

“The predictive grades process is not an ideal scenario for the student but I am certain our results will be reflective of our hard work during the year,” Moya reiterated.

Aspiring to study Law and History in UCD, Moya afforded the highest of praise to the Our Lady’s Bower teaching staff who made her feel most welcome from the inaugural day in which she crossed the school threshold in first year.

“There’s a welcoming ambience very much evident in Our Lady’s Bower and during these recent weeks, the teaching staff have been most supportive of all the sixth year students, hosting regular Zoom calls and emailing to ensure we were maintaining a positive outlook.

“With school now at an end, hopefully sixth year students and teaching staff will be afforded the opportunity to meet for a formal farewell prior to the start of college,” Moya enthused.

 

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