Students must not face unnecessary stress and hardship due to Level 5 restrictions during this busy time for assessment deadlines and exams, says the Union of Students in Ireland.
Policies to mitigate any possible educational disadvantage introduced by institutions last spring on the back of calls by students, local Students’ Unions and USI should be reinstated, or alternative policies introduced in their place.
USI President, Lorna Fitzpatrick said: “Like the rest of the population, students are extremely anxious about the worsening pandemic while trying to finalise important assessments and study for exams.
“In some instances, students are facing into assessments without access to the library or good internet connections, while others are isolating or restricting their movements due to the pandemic and therefore can’t access vital on-campus services, even if they are open.
“Colleges showed what they can do last year by extending deadlines, removing academic and financial penalties on repeat assessment, and providing flexibility to their boards of examiners. Their students need this support from them again now through simple mitigations such as allowing additional time for uploading assessments, given that many students continue to experience significant difficulties in accessing stable internet connections.
“The details of these policies need to be worked out within individual institutions as there are many different forms of alternative assessment and so there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach that can be applied equally across all institutions. However, Minister Harris also needs to support students by ensuring all higher institutions are doing what is needed – no students can be left behind.”
Students have faced unprecedented hardship and sacrifice over the last year, and USI is hugely concerned about the impact of these latest measures, amidst a busy assessment period.
In a SpunOut.ie and Irish Examiner study carried out in late autumn, students were offered a range of words to describe their mental health – 70% of survey respondents said they were ‘anxious’, 60% said they felt ‘uncertain’ and 34% described themselves as ‘sad’, while 28% were ‘pessimistic’ and about one-quarter ‘fearful’.
Lorna said: “In any normal year, students experience increased stress in the lead up to exams. This year, that is coupled with a global pandemic that is now at levels nobody predicted. Research has shown that the pandemic is having a huge impact on students’ and other young people’s mental health. We are particularly concerned for students who will be impacted by the decision to close schools for the majority of young people. Student parents will now face additional pressures as may students who are expected to care for younger siblings. We know nobody wants to see young people under that much pressure and stress and so everyone needs to work together to ensure that what can be done to alleviate the situation is being done.”