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POSTED 16.4.2020

Students sharply divided over Leaving Cert exam plan

Leaving Certificate students are heavily divided over the decision to hold this year’s State Exams in July or August, with more than 50% of students saying the exams should have been cancelled and predictive grades awarded, a major new survey shows.

Leaving Certificate students are heavily divided over the decision to hold this year’s State Exams in July or August, with more than 50% of students saying the exams should have been cancelled and predictive grades awarded, a major new survey shows.

However, 49% believe the exams should go ahead in some form: 30% said the move to delay the exams until late summer was the right call, with 19% saying the exams should have gone ahead in June – with social distancing measures in place.

The sharp polarisation of views in the annual Studyclix.ie 2020 Student Survey is further highlighted in a question where students were asked to name a word that best described their reaction to the news of the postponement – the top three reactions were ‘disappointed’, ‘angry’ and ‘relieved’.

In a sign of lingering concern about the third-level entry process, 35% of students said they were not sure about their prospects of entering third-level education in 2020 while 10pc said they were not at all confident of going onto third-level in 2020.

Studyclix surveyed 2,044 6th Year students in every county in Ireland between April 12 and 14, asking about their hopes and fears and their own handling of the COVID-19 lockdown.

The findings show that while there have been some positive impacts, many students are struggling to balance the demands of schoolwork and studying with home life. Some of the findings include:
• 72% of students feel the lockdown is emotionally harder for them than their parents.
• 35% of students felt their relationship with their parents has improved because of the lockdown
• 12% saying it has got worse and a further 53% reporting no change.

When it comes to studying, it appears Leaving Cert students are pulling their weight. Results show:
• 34% are studying for between four and six hours per day
• 28% have their heads in the books for between two and four hours.

However, a majority of students (81%) believe teachers could be providing more support while one in five students don’t have a dedicated study space at home.

Patchy broadband and connectivity is also a major issue for students who are grappling with online learning.
• One in eight have a poor internet connection
• This figure rises in rural areas with 28% of Co. Kerry students reporting poor broadband; 23% in Co. Offaly and 16% in Co. Mayo.

A more worrying finding is that 62% of students are spending more than FOUR hours a day on their smartphones. This is compared to last year’s survey when just 30% reporting spending more than four hours a day on smartphones.

A total of 39% reported that they spent more than SIX hours per day on their phone, according to data recording on the Screen Time app.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, geography teacher and Studyclix.ie co-founder Luke Saunders, said:

“Every Irish adult knows what it’s like to prepare for the Leaving Cert but only the current 6th years know what it’s like to prepare for the Leaving Cert during a global pandemic. I think it is, therefore, important for us adults to hold back on being too judgemental on telling these teenagers how they should feel.

“What really struck me in this year’s survey was just how polarised the opinions were around the decision to postpone the Leaving Cert. There is a significant cohort out there who are quietly relieved that the exams are scheduled to go ahead. Many students have invested huge amounts of work into the last two years preparing for this exam and so these were the students who had the most to lose by the exams being cancelled outright.

“Obviously, this was also going to leave a lot of students unhappy. I strongly feel that the idea of using predicted grades was never really a feasible option on the table. One of the real strong points of our, by no means perfect, education system is the fact that students are assessed in an unbiased way. Predicted grades is something we are simply not set up to implement.”

Luke added that many second-level teachers are finding the prep time in delivering remote lessons to be very time consuming.

“The general consensus I am hearing is that they would much rather be back in the classroom with their students. Many teachers have embraced technology and are using tools like Zoom, Loom and Studyclix and their school’s learning management system to deliver online learning. But there will also be those that feel they are not properly trained to deliver remote lessons.

“In response, we have added resources to Studyclix.ie to walk teachers through the delivery of remote lessons and creating online work for their students. One of the few positives that I feel will come out of the COVID-19 experience is that when we do return to the classroom, whenever that may be, we will be a much more tech-literate education system.”

Studyclix.ie is Ireland’s largest study website with 210,000 registered secondary school users and 29,000 registered secondary school teachers. Studyclix.ie sorts all the past junior and leaving certificate exams into topics and, for each question, gives students access to the marking schemes and sample answers to help them understand how they can improve their answering technique. See: www.studyclix.ie

As part of its response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Studyclix.ie is offering a €10 discount (25pc) to all students using the HOMESTUDY discount code. School principals can get an 85pc reduction on a school license covering all students. 10% of sales are be donated to selected charities Alone, St James Hospital Foundation, Temple St. Foundation, Childline and the Irish Cancer Society.