Looking back upon the final years of my time at school will, as for many others, leave a feeling of ambivalence.
On the one hand, I arrived at the end of a long road, paved with endless assessments, assignments, and everything in between, but which ultimately led me to the destination I had been in pursuit of since the beginning: university.
However, rather than being characterised solely by that, I will undoubtedly remember this period not for the time I spent in school, but the duration away from it; stuck in the house, in the midst of a global pandemic.
School always presented a range of challenges, and at times this could be a source of anxiety, but these feelings were only amplified by the sudden uncertainty of everything we once thought to be steady and unchanging. The challenges of adapting to home learning and having the exams cancelled not once, but twice, were in themselves demanding but above all else there was the constant sense of uncertainty of what was coming next, and seldom were there answers to be found.
The anxiety became somewhat overwhelming and in the face of this, many students reached decisions which were premature. This was particularly the case after so many experienced a disheartening, and plainly unjust, set of results.
Owing to the fact that results were based almost entirely on prelims, for those who did not stake the same effort or time into revising for these prelims were punished upon the cancellation of the exams. At the time, the story was of the greatly increased proportion of students receiving As, and while this was the case, what was a less frequently expressed sentiment was that of those who received grades far beneath their true capability. Left deflated by this many took the decision to leave school. Consequently, they were effectively knocked into a different life on account of circumstances over which they had very little control.
For those who took the decision to stay on for another year, we were met once again by the same indecision and lack of clarity which had led to the innumerable worries of the year prior. With another lockdown, came another dreaded bout of home learning; trying to remain focused while surrounded by all of the home comforts was just as much of an undertaking as the studying itself.
As the months grinded on, the question of whether exams would take place remained at the back of my mind, but not for long as the decision was taken once again to cancel them. Despite being provided with a definitive answer for the time being, the decision gave rise to only more incertitude. It made for a change as the teachers were learning along with the pupils, as neither they nor us had the answers to the same questions that we both were asking. Ultimately, the very reasons why exams were cancelled – to relieve stress and make it fairer on the students who missed time in class due to having to isolate – were largely neglected anyway because what resulted rather than one singular exam, was several weeks of tests, all of which demanding the full effort and attention one would give to their final exam.
With another results day having now passed, the focus moves to university. Under ordinary circumstances, there would have been opportunities to go and see the universities in person and explore the different options for courses that they offer, but having had very little chance to do so, choosing a course and a place at which to study it has too been a different experience for us than for others in the past. But what hopefully will not change is the experience of being a student of these different universities – the part we have been anticipating for so long.
Notwithstanding, up and down the country, students and teachers alike, have made huge sacrifices over the last year and a half and in spite of all the unprecedented circumstances, many of us are now taking the next step of our lives towards university, doubtless to be met with a whole new variety of challenges. Having missed out on so many different opportunities that previous school leavers have experienced, and all the different obstacles there were along the way, it may be easy to look back with an element of bitterness about those final two years and yet, with all that being said, coming out the other side as so many others have has shown what we are capable of when pushed to the limits, and that is not something to feel aggrieved over, but something to take pride in.
I am, and always will be, grateful for the help and support I was given during what was a difficult period and had it not been for the hardworking and dedicated teachers, it is fair to say that many of us would not be where we are today and despite all the mixed feelings the final years at school brought, there is a definite sense of melancholy that it is over, but I feel optimistic for a future that delivers on everything we all hoped it would.
Brodie Marr, 18, lives in Dumfries and is a former student of St Joseph’s College. He will now study Politics and Law at Edinburgh University.
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