A swarm of unsettled students file into an exam hall lined by supervisors standing two by two, ready to start the clock. There’s only one clock hanging within the eye-line of each student, reminding them of how little time they have.
During the month of June, all across the country thousands of young people will sit their junior and leaving certificate examinations. Both of which require months of hard work, sacrifices and study, and one which can heavily influence the future.
In the lead up to these exams, life around these students continues to move the same way it always does. For many students this means experiencing the death of a friend of family member before or during their exams.
In May, Minister for Education and Skills, Joe McHugh announced new provisions which would be provided during the June state examinations to students who suffer a close family bereavement during their exams to allow them time to grieve. This provision has run on a pilot basis this year and allows for students in this circumstance to be absent from exams for three days up to and including the day after the funeral of their family member.
These three days do not need to be consecutive and students will sit any missed exams at a later date in July.
Students who avail of this provison will sit their exams in Athlone and will recieve their results at the same time as the rest of their classmates.
Minister McHugh said, “The death of a loved one is a deeply traumatic event for any young person, which will only be compounded if it occurs in the midst of exams.”
Six students spoke to The College View about their experience in facing bereavement during exams and their opinion on this provision.
Aoife Case’s grandmother passed away the day before she started her Leaving Certificate in 2013.
Case said her exam and results were impacted negatively because “while everyone was at home studying, I was getting ready for a funeral.”
When she opened her results in August, her points had decreased by 100 since her mock exams. Case said this meant she ended up having to pick a course in college which she hated.
Clodagh Lawlor, who sat her Leaving Certificate in 2017 told The College View that she didn’t cope with her cousin’s death until the exams were all over.
“I broke down in one of my exams…it was the day after the funeral and I was sitting in my exam thinking what was going on.”
Lawlor said that taking days off would have helped but she would prefer to have the option of repeating them all in July, so she could have time to grieve.
All of the students who spoke to The College View agreed that the new provisions were a good thing and that they would benefit students.
“It’s brilliant for state exams, you don’t know what the next day will hold…provisions like this should have been in place long before now,” said Ellen Fitzpatrick who experienced bereavement during her college examinations in 2018.
Another student, Stephanie Hood suggested that the Department of Education and Skills review how the provision worked this year and look into any improvements that could be made.
One improvement suggested by students was an increase in the number of days off.
“I’m not sure that three days is enough though as grief isn’t something that can be overcome in three days,” said Eoin Mc Dermott who thought the grieving process needed a lot more time.
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