March 20th is a date that will be remembered by hundreds of teenagers across Teesside; for many it marked the start of the toughest six months of their lives.
Current GCSE and A level students were affected massively by the national lockdown which saw the closure of schools and colleges for six months. Teenagers were expected to teach themselves from home with limited resources available.
Months later and students are back in schools and colleges. After missing out on most of their learning, many students feel as if it is impossible to catch up on work missed in time for their GCSE and A level exams which they are due to sit in late June 2021.
“Online learning was awful; I didn’t find it helpful one bit. During lockdown I lost two family members and a close family friend… I had a lot to deal with. online school was not helpful at all.” Izzy Duquesnay, 16
16-year-old Morgan Scotland told me that “online learning throughout lockdown was hard. This was because the teachers piled a lot more work on you than they did in normal school and you couldn’t get help easily as you had to message teachers… sometimes it would take hours to reply.”
Megan Lawson, 16, and Ruby Jones both described online learning as being “not very useful” and “ineffective”. These students and countless others are now left struggling to catch up on the learning they had missed out on.
Furthermore, A level student Sophie Thomas told me “online learning wasn’t too bad because it was mainly just assignments, but it wasn’t very helpful if I was stuck.”
The lack of help has been a common experience for many students. 17 year old Kelly*, a student who took the difficult decision to go back a year instead of continuing into year 13, explained that she “found online learning really difficult and definitely not helpful considering there was no face call lessons… it was just copying notes off a PowerPoint.”
However, for many students across Teesside, the option to redo year 10 and 12 is not a possibility. The government have announced a three week push back on exams but is that enough time compared to the six months missed?
17-year-old Ben* expressed his views on this topic telling me that “exams shouldn’t take place… I don’t think the government are giving enough thought into this because they aren’t the ones directly affected by our education.”
Katy*, 18, also said that the three week delay is “nowhere near enough time to catch up.” James*, 17, said that “three weeks is not enough. Future exams should be cancelled and based on coursework and attitude to learning.”
“Lockdown had a huge impact on my mental health, my anxiety was probably at one of the worst points it’s been… I got very depressed.” Katy, 18
Lockdown has had a negative effect on the mental health of many students. Morgan told me that not seeing her family and friends during lockdown had a “massive impact” on her mental health. Both Ben and Kelly described how they “lost motivation” and found lockdown “mentally tiring”. Kelly also explained that she felt “constant anxiety about Covid, work and the future”, the lack of support and uncertainty about the future also making it worse.
Megan feels as if the government need to realise that “they are putting us under more stress and in the long run affecting our mental health in a negative way”. This was further supported by Izzy’s view that “exams cause too much stress.” She explained that she sits mocks in a month and has already “been in tears so many times” because she is scared.
Many students also described feeling “unsafe” at college/school and being worried about getting coronavirus and passing it on to clinically vulnerable family members. Megan told me that she felt unsafe because there’s already been over 26 cases in her school since September. Morgan explained that she didn’t feel safe going into a classroom with 20+ students.
Every student I interviewed expressed a concern over their exams and explained that they felt exams should be cancelled. The impact of lockdown on their learning and their mental health is too great of an impact for it too be ignored. Clearly the government need to start listening to the opinions of the younger generation before making decisions that can massively affect their futures.
*Student names have been changed to protect their identity
Cece Jesse (Cj) Hulse-Raper is currently studying A-level psychology, English language and religious studies at sixth form. Outside of college she is a dancer and a staff writer at The Tees. Her interests are students, mental health and issues surrounding the youth.
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