Students in NSW stressed as Covid lockdowns disrupt school and year 12 trial exams

, Students in NSW stressed as Covid lockdowns disrupt school and year 12 trial exams, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

Students and parents in locked-down parts of New South Wales are facing weeks of further disruption to schooling, particularly for year 12 students about to sit their final exams.

Trial exams for the state’s Higher School Certificate (HSC) have been altered or pushed back, and some year 12 students have returned to remote learning as part of the ongoing lockdown of greater Sydney, the Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong.

HSC trial exams are often the first time students are assessed on everything they learned in their final year. They contribute heavily to a student’s internal mark, which accounts for a large part of their eventual Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

A current year 12 student from Sydney told Guardian Australia it was stressful not knowing whether her exams would be pushed back further, or even completed at all. She said it was also adding to stress to study from home during lockdown.

“Fitting in homework, staring at Zoom all day and on the computer can be very tiring,” she said.

“I know me and a lot of my friends are finding it hard to maintain motivation. We’re trying to positive.

“I really prefer working at the library, or at somewhere else that is outside the house. A big stress of mine is to stay focused.”

She said that her exams were due to start next week, but had been pushed back by two weeks under the current lockdown, which could be extended.

“There is also a worry of whether the marks are going to be estimated if we don’t end up doing trials, or if they will be pushed back further … Everyone is worried that if trials are going to be estimated, we need to work super hard at the HSC.”

She added that many students had spent months studying for their trials, including over the school holidays, and were waiting for exams to be over rather than extended.

“I would really love it to be over,” she said. “I am quite a social person so I am finding it hard … I was looking forward to coming back and seeing all my friends.”

Schools in the Shellharbour local government area, which are included within greater Sydney, are also affected despite the area not recording a case of Covid-19 during this outbreak.

The Shellharbour mayor, Marianne Saliba, said both parents and students were struggling with the switch to remote learning.

“Those students who are doing trials and HSC later this year, they are very concerned about their opportunities to study and to learn,” Saliba said.

, Students in NSW stressed as Covid lockdowns disrupt school and year 12 trial exams, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

“That learning process usually happens when you are in groups of other students. Not having your peers around you makes that very, very difficult.

“We all know the HSC is not the be all and end all, but young people have so much pressure these days. It’s about the confidence to take those exams without being overwhelmed. Covid is overwhelming for adults. For young people, it is even more overwhelming.”

Not all schools offer HSC trials, and processes differ across public, independent and Catholic schools.

A spokesman for the NSW department of education, which manages public schools, said that schools should take students’ best interests into account when managing their HSC trial exams under lockdown.

The department said schools in greater Sydney, which includes the Shellhabour LGA, have been told not to hold trial exams before 30 July, and that NSW Health was working on “updated advice on Covid-safe exams”.

“Schools inside greater Sydney have the flexibility and support to manage the HSC trials in a way that works best for their students,” the department said.

“Schools will consider what is in their students’ best interests when making decisions about trial exams.”

The department also said the NSW Education Standards Authority, which oversees the HSC, had “made some changes to rules about school-based assessments so that schools can postpone their trial exams or develop an alternative assessment”.

“NESA have also reassured students that they will get their HSC and their hard work will be recognised.”

Saliba said schools in the Shellharbour LGA were still open for students whose parents were essential workers, and for children in foster care.

Some people in the Shellharbour community were struggling to make sense of the lockdown, Saliba said.

“There have been no positive cases in Shellharbour,” she said.

“I understand why the NSW government is concerned. But it doesn’t make sense to my community why we are in lockdown.

“It will be five weeks by the time we get to the end of this two-week period. Can you imagine having a 10-year-old, and working from home? That’s the situation that I and many parents are in.”

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