The announcement made on the 8th of May has impacted the Leaving Certificate class of 2020 in a way that is only understood by each individual student, as this unforeseen action has affected us all in different ways.
As I watched An tAire Oideachais, Joe McHugh, declare the cancellation of the Leaving Cert I felt my heart sink.
My immediate response to this was that the last five years that I have spent in the High School learning all this material was now only a fool's errand. I sat there, filled with anger and my head brimming with answerless questions.
All my school life so far was building up to this moment, that moment has now been taken from me and the hardest pill to swallow now is that there is no more I can do.
All of these years of education were to ‘pay off’ when I was to sit my Leaving. But now it’s no longer up to me and my hidden efforts, I no longer have the control over my own destiny and that is a fearsome thought.
This new method of grading does not allow the exhausting work and efforts that have been going on behind the scenes to be considered.
We now only rely on our performances throughout the year under the watchful eyes of our teachers.
I firmly believe that this new method may not give an accurate reading of what a student may have achieved in their Leaving Cert.
Many students would make a quick ‘turn around’ in the two to three months leading up to their Leaving Cert that will not be considered by the new system.
There was no gradual leave for the 6th years of 2020 in the same way that there was for all previous years. The rug has been pulled from beneath us and many of us lay flat on our faces.
I spoke to my Principal just hours after the announcement on a video chat and that was where the realisation of ‘this is it’ set in with me.
When she said the words ‘you are now finished school’, I felt myself sink into my chair. Usually, any student would be delighted to be finishing school but I felt that I had some unfinished business and I was not ready to close that door in my life.
I repeatedly asked her ‘so this is it? I am now finished school and there is no more I can do?’, but it was the same answer I was going to get no matter how many different ways I tried to ask the question. It was a difficult one to get my head around. Excluding home and some casual work I don’t know of anything other than school, and for it to come to such an abrupt end it felt like a delusion.
When I began to understand that I was no longer in secondary education a bigger cloud loomed over as I thought of the friends that were with me throughout my five year journey in the High School. We were all going to go our different ways one day and in many cases not see each other again, but the realisation that Friday the eighth was that day, was unfathomable for me.
Then again, it is true what they say about all good things having to come to an end.
The announcement on the 8th of May has opened my eyes to a lot of things and it has especially changed my views on the education system in Ireland and how outdated it really is. But this has also opened up my eyes to the help and support networks that are around us that we may at some stage in our lives, have taken for granted. The support network that the teachers, especially, have provided us with not just only over the last number of weeks but in the last five years is incredible and that can not go unnoticed.
It is in my final days as a student in the High School that I truly realise how lucky I was to be a part of that school community.
Every year group has left their mark in the school in some form, but the class of 2020 has left their mark in a way that will never be forgotten. We have made a great change, and started a new chapter in the history of the education system.