Tipperary Leaving Cert student speaks about devastation at postponement of exams

“Very wrong” and “unfair” is how a Tipperary Leaving Cert student has described the postponing of the state exams until July 29th.

Dylan McLaughlin says he thinks the majority of sixth years would much prefer to receive predicted grades based on the work they’d already done rather than prolonging their stress.

The CBS Thurles student has now begun petitioning his local politicians to get the decision reversed.

He told Tipp Today earlier that students like him have had enough stress on their shoulders at this stage.

He says, “Look, 25,000 students have signed a petition to get the Leaving Cert called off. I don’t know why they don’t listen.

“Even a survey by the Students’ Union – 49% of students wanted predicted grades. We’re nearly all 18 years of age – we’re all nearly adults.

“We’re not silly. We have a voice. Why should it not be heard?”

Continuing, Dylan told Fran he and other Leaving Certs are now facing into two months of added stress:

“It’s just not fair, Fran. It’s wrong and I feel that we’re all suffering. A lot of my friends are suffering.

“It was eating away at me. And even if I get nowhere with this [petitioning], it’s off my conscience. I know I’ve tried to do something to make a change.

“I can see with some of my friends, they’re really suffering because of this. No matter what, there’s no easy way of doing this.

“The Department have done so much work and I understand that. But I just feel that for some students a predictive grade system will ease the stress and pressure.

“Like, waking up every day during COVID-19 is enough pressure, never mind having the pressure of the biggest exam of your life on top of you.”

You can read Dylan’s full letter below and listen back to his interview on Tipp Today here.


A Chara,

I hope to find you and your family well in this unprecedented time.

My name is Dylan McLaughlin and I am a 6th year student in CBS Thurles. I hope to be studying Physical Education and Irish next September in the University of Limerick. As you know by now the Minister for Education Mr. Joe McHugh and his staff have decided to postpone the Leaving Cert until the 29th of July. I along with many other sixth year students right across the country feel let down and outraged by this decision.

We were told on the 12th of March that schools would be closing for approximately two weeks until the virus passed. Most thought ‘great an extra-long Easter holidays’, but we didn’t know we would be facing into some of the hardest and most stressful weeks we would put down as students. Instantly panic set in for me personally. I knew my Irish orals were to be in three weeks, but it would be ok because we would be back in time for them, but still there was a sense of panic. What happens if we weren’t back in two weeks? Would the hours upon hours of grinds, mock orals with teachers, hours of watching TG4, hours of studying the dreaded ‘Sraith Pictiur’ be gone to waste? We didn’t know, and that uncertainty scared me. As the first few days went by things became to get serious. I along with a group of friends were out socializing to celebrating a friends 18th birthday the Saturday night after the government had closed the schools, and then the following morning it hit. This thing is serious. As social distancing measures started to be introduced and rumours started to fly about how long this dreaded virus would be here the ever-growing fear of the Leaving Cert being altered arose. First to go was the Irish Orals. Personally, this was the first mistake they made why couldn’t these examinations have taken place behind some sort of a screen/glass etc. Students could have been allocated times to be in schools and leave immediately afterwards. But that’s gone now, and I can’t dwell on it. I love my native language and I was very disappointed that I would not be able to show my ability and the work I put in the real oral.

As the days went by this new way of learning came into play. Teachers began emailing us work and we would email it back to them. I was desperately missing being in a class room situation with my friends and teachers around me. It took some getting used too. Sadly, I was not given any online classes in the first couple of weeks, but after a couple of weeks teachers began to get more familiar with the new ‘Microsoft Teams’ system. I can’t blame them for this as it took us all some getting used too. All was well and good for me I had gotten used to this new system of working from home and I was quite liking it as I didn’t have to be up for the bus at 7:30 each morning. I also had gotten back all my mock results at this stage. My dream of breaking the 500 points barrier was well on the right road as I got 530 points. I was all set to go. I was managing to do school work from 9-4, do my run, have my dinner, tie up any loose ends study wise after dinner and then get ready for the next day.  The countdown was on 8 weeks to go and I couldn’t wait. I was ready to take on this huge obstacle. The summer was going to be amazing. I had so much to look forward too, all the rights of passage for a Leaving Cert student; graduation, concerts, festivals, my beloved running races, debs, etc. It was going great for me.

But then on the 10th of April Mr. Joe McHugh broke the news to us that our Leaving Cert exams would now be but back to July/August. It broke my heart to tell you the truth. I was doing a hill session on the hill beside my house as I do most Thursdays and my younger brother (who is a 3rd year student) ran up the road to me and broke the news to me. I was distraught. I didn’t know what to do. I just lay in my bed and cried. That is not like me I am usually a strong, brave individual. Mr. Joe McHugh didn’t even have the decency to give us a proper date which also outraged me and many other 6th years. So, to break this into simpler terms: imagine you’re running a marathon, you’re on your 41st km and you turn the final bend to do that last km. You have put in months of training and then the race organizer turns around and says I’m sorry, but the race has now been extended to 50km. This is very similar. I for one have worked my hardest every day for the past 6 years in CBS Thurles. I have never put a foot wrong. Check all my diaries from the years, I haven’t even gotten a bad note sent home. I go in and work with my teachers and friends as hard as I possibly can every day. I have always tried my best with homework, study and tests. Do I along with every other 6th year in Ireland deserve to be treated this way by the Department of Education?

Every day we wake up is stressful. No matter how hard we try we cannot hide from the stories developing about Covid 19. Now imagine the stress of the biggest exam of your life on top of that. We don’t need this. There is more to life than the Leaving Cert. Lots of people are dying each day, there are hundreds of new cases per day, people are risking their lives to help us stay safe. Mr. Joe McHugh, teachers unions and the various stakeholders need to listen to us the Leaving Certificate class of 2020. As of today, 25,200 students have signed the petition to cancel the Leaving Cert. As I sit here now that figure is rising. In another survey carried out by a student’s union 49% of students wanted predicted grades. Do they not realize what we the ones sitting the exams want? Surely, we should have our say in how our exams go? The world and the way in which we live our life is changing rapidly, we cannot see loved ones, we cannot go to school, we cannot leave our homes only for essential journeys, so I think this would be the correct time to change the way the Leaving Cert is done (it is completely wrong in my opinion the way the Leaving Cert is done it is not preparing us for college life at all. Continuous assessment needs to be introduced for future years). The ideal solution for me would be some sort of predicted grades system with the option of sitting an exam in August if you wanted to appeal your grades. Those who did poorly throughout the year due to other commitments can redeem themselves. Those happy with predictions won’t be forced to do the Leaving Cert. Less people will now need to show up to exams if the vast majority have gotten their grades predicted making it an even safer environment for students and examiners. Yes, I agree this system isn’t ideal, none of this is though. But the stress we are under right now making us stay working all the way through the summer is not one bit fair either. Surely teachers, unions, members of the department, scientists, mathematicians, could come up with some solution to produce some sort of a formula to predict our grades. Yes, there is the whole area of teachers being biased, not liking one student, liking the other, being neighbours of another, being related to another, etc. Waking up every day during this pandemic is stressful enough, not seeing your family, your friends, your teachers, hearing all the rumours about lock down and if and when it will be extended, how many people died today, how many new cases there will be, even today I didn’t get my accommodation for UL. All adding more stress. These unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures.

Trust me when I say this I am not the only one suffering. In today’s world there is so much out there about mental health and well being. From what I can see the people making the decisions about the Leaving Cert do not care about our mental health and well being. I am so glad today they finally woke up about the Junior Cycle. My brother who I have already mentioned was really beginning to stress out about all of this. “This decision has been made with the health and well-being of students, parents and teachers at the forefront of our thinking’. This is what Mr. Joe McHugh said today. What about the health and well being of us, the Leaving Certificate students? Do they expect us to sit in the exam halls in July/August with face masks on, or temperatures being taken as we go in and out? How will we get to the exams if we are still in lock down? Will it be safe to be in the exam halls? What happens if there is a spike in cases once lock down ends? Will we have to do the exams in December then? When will we start college then?  How are we meant to sit the biggest exams of our life after being out of school for nearly 5 months? What is the plan B? Is there even a plan B? A whole extra level of stress and problems. Stress, stress and more stress.

I am pleading with you to do all you possibly can for us the Leaving Cert class of 2020. Anything at all you could do to try and put our views forward to the Department of Education and make them actually listen to us because I am speaking for the vast majority of people I know, and it would be greatly appreciated. I understand you might have different views on this but as an 18-year-old 6th year student this is mine. I have never spoken out like this, but I feel so strongly about this. I can see myself and my friends suffering because of this. It is just not fair, and something needs to be done to stop this prolonged stress and worry. It is very difficult to find any positives from this situation, but I am so lucky to have supportive parents, friends and teachers.


Thank you so much for your time in reading this,

Fan Sábháilte,

Dylan McLaughlin.