As we approach the date which would have marked the start of my A-Level study leave, the impact of covid-19 on education is more apparent to me than ever. In a pandemic-free world, exam anticipation would now be at its crescendo. Every surface of my house would be covered in pastel coloured flashcards, I’d celebrate the final day of school by wearing fancy dress (and playing a prank or two) and I would be counting down the minutes until I left the exam hall for the last time and felt my stress evaporate.
These customs are a way of taking stock of your achievements and gaining closure before moving on to future pursuits. The cancellation of public exams deprived us of this sense of resolution and the chance to demonstrate our capabilities. Because I didn’t go to school for the last two days before it closed, I had already had my last ever day of school without realising it. I was shattered by the realisation that I hadn’t got to say goodbye to the peers and teachers whom I’d known for a decade. Like many students, I was in limbo – and exams are meant to be some of the most predictable cornerstones of our lives. Whether it be SATS, GCSEs, A-levels, BTECs, university finals or vocational qualifications, we all have to take tests throughout our lives. With exams being cancelled for the first time since the Second World War due to covid-19, that certainty no longer exists.
In lieu of concrete information, students have agonised over the potential disadvantage caused to us by the new system for awarding qualifications and over our prospects of getting into college or university. Education providers have found it challenging to respond to these concerns and to adapt to the changing circumstances because they too are in the dark about what the future holds. Oxford Open Learning is no exception, but is doing its utmost to support students and to address their queries as quickly as possible.
Of course, it is not just students who are struggling. I know that my anxieties surrounding exam results and university prospects, whilst valid, are comparatively minor. I recognise also that many people do not have the privilege of using this time for personal or academic enrichment and so I am very privileged to have been able to do so. This experience poses a unique challenge to all of us, and there is no right or wrong way of coping with it. All any of us can do is stay safe, be kind to ourselves and each other and look ahead to brighter times. I for one, will be seizing the first possible opportunity to put my flashcards to use.
I am one of the many A level students who are not able to take their exams this summer due to the covid-19 pandemic. These are some of my thoughts on the experience, and how it continues to affect us all.