A Message to our 6th Year Students

Sixth Years of 2020,

When Minister McHugh announced less than two weeks ago that the Leaving Certificate exams would not be going ahead this year, I’d imagine you couldn’t be anything other than shocked. While the rumour mill had been churning for a few days ahead of the decision and it wasn’t entirely unexpected, it was nevertheless surreal to hear it confirmed. You’ve probably been pinching yourself a bit over the past fortnight to check if you are in some Covid Summer Night’s Dream.

Now that the reality has sunk in, you are probably experiencing a strange cocktail of emotions and may not be fully sure how you feel about it yet.

Yes, there will be some sense of relief that any nagging doubts about whether or not exams you might have spent a full summer preparing for would actually happen have been laid to rest. Many of you will feel a bit relieved too that you won’t have to go through the arduous process of two to three weeks of intense, high–stakes examinations. But there will also be some uncertainty of a different kind. How will the process of calculating my Leaving Certificate grades happen, and will I get the results I need? Will they be the results I believe I could have achieved had my exams gone ahead? For many of you there will be a sense of powerlessness, a feeling that your fate is no longer in your control, that your destiny has been taken out of your hands. A feeling that during this final term, when most Sixth Year students put in a lot of hard work and make significant improvement in their levels of academic achievement, you can do nothing at all to improve or in any way influence the result you are likely to receive.

There is bound to be a sense of loss too, one that some educational commentators have described as a ‘grieving process for lost opportunity’. Finishing school for you guys, an important rite of passage in the life of any young adult, has been a huge anti–climax. During your final term at school, you usually have graduation ceremonies, revision crash courses, study blocks and then Leaving Certificate exams, and you go through all of this with your friends, your peers, your teachers and the countless other people who are invested daily in seeing you off safely on the next leg of your journey. Your time in secondary education tends to end with a bang and, tough as it is, it is sweetened by doing it together. The class of 2020’s final year simply fizzled out with the school closures on 12th March and since then, online interactions notwithstanding, you have been struggling through a final term in isolation on your own. That sense of loss will also include a feeling that all of your hard work has been for nothing. All of those countless hours spent reading poetry, trying to wrap your head around the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, or practicing solving trigonometric equations was wasted when you won’t have an opportunity to show how much you’ve learned.

However when the dust settles on these realisations, I hope you have a chance to reflect on all that you have accomplished in your comparatively short time with us and on the many positives you will be taking away from your time at The Academy. The old saying suggests that becoming successful involves developing the strength to change the things you can change, the pragmatism to accept the things you can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference.

A theme central to any graduation from The Academy is that our students are far, far more than the sum of their Leaving Certificate results or their CAO points score. Never has that been truer than for the graduating class of 2020. Watching you grow in confidence and almost daily revise upwards your expectations of yourself as your belief in what you are capable of rose was an absolute joy. Your newfound or newly improved skills in managing your time, meeting deadlines, critically evaluating new information and confidently articulating your opinions and ideas, making new friends and forging new working relationships with staff and peers are all things you will carry with you wherever the road takes you from here. They will give you a solid base from which to push onwards at third level or in the world of work. I am as proud of you guys as you should be of yourselves.

Amidst all of this uncertainty about the ‘calculated grades’ process that will now determine your results, I would encourage you to trust us, your teachers. The teachers and other staff at The Academy have always tried to see the best in you, to see your potential, potential that you often had difficulty seeing yourselves. It’s why most of you came to this school. Have no doubt that our concern for your wellbeing and desire to see you realise your full potential will not change in any way as we engage with this grading process. While we are not at liberty to discuss the process or likely outcomes with you, you can rest assured that we will do everything in our power to ensure that the grades you receive, after moderation by the DES to bring them in line with yearly trends and national norms, will represent as accurately as possible what we believe you would have achieved had your exams gone ahead as normal. We remain your staunchest advocates and are fully in your corner through this process.

We cannot discuss grades or possible grading procedures with you, but we remain committed to offering you support in any other way you might require. If there is anything bothering or concerning you, feel absolutely free to drop me a line. Even though the academic year is ending, you won’t be abandoned to go through this on your own.

As a staff, we feel this loss as acutely as you do. The fact that you will not have an opportunity to sit exams and so have a chance to show how good you are and how far you’ve come is as disappointing for us as it is for you. It saddens me that we won’t have an opportunity to send you off in the style you deserve. I think you know me well enough to know that I am not exaggerating when I say it has been an absolute joy working with you all this year. I would hope that at some point in the future, when public health advice permits, we will be able to get together and celebrate your time at The Academy, to look back at all the successes, the good times, the laugh–out–loud moments inside and outside the classroom. But until then, if I might be permitted an uncharacteristic moment of soppiness for a hard Northsider, let me say how proud I am to have shared the road with you on this latest part of your journey and how confident I am that wherever the road takes you next you will meet its challenges and difficulties with all the same confidence, commitment, good humour and care for one another you have shown throughout your time here at The Academy.

Look after yourselves and don’t be strangers.

Very best wishes always,

Rob

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