This time of year always sets the nervous systems of year 12s on edge.
As thirteen years of schooling come to an end, the final exams they’ve prepared for all year seem to approach at breakneck speed.
The HSC is stressful enough without having to simultaneously endure the most significant global health crisis in living memory, which upended life as we knew it for almost two years – and created the craziest school conditions in more than a century.
How it started vs how it’s going
For year 12s, the beginning of the school year tends to be characterised by nervous excitement about the ‘best year of their lives’.
It’s a year of lasts, milestones and celebrations to look forward to.
But following a year of lockdowns and restrictions – and the realisation that the coronavirus pandemic clearly wasn’t going anywhere – the Coronavirus Class of 2021 entered their final year of schooling anxious and apprehensive about the year ahead.
Their fears were realised as lockdown after lockdown was announced (and extended), shuttering schools and forcing students back home – many into inappropriate learning environments that lacked the resources required to study remotely.
Internet connectivity and technology were common problems, as well as finding the peace and quiet students needed to stay focused on video calls.
Getting the study and life balance right was also a challenge – as was staying motivated to study for exams that were constantly rescheduled.
The year took a toll on educators, too, who were well and truly thrown in the deep end when the world first locked down almost two years ago.
Teachers who had only ever taught their classes face-to-face were forced to convert to remote learning – often experiencing the same challenges at home as their students – and who often lacked the resources to keep students engaged and motivated.
This all took a heavy toll on year 12s: Of the 96% of students we surveyed who were forced into remote learning, two in three of them said learning from home had worsened their school performance and 80% said the coronavirus pandemic made their experience studying for final exams harder.
For many, though, the social isolation and the disappointment of cancelled milestones – Year 12 retreats, final sporting events, formals and graduation ceremonies – hit the hardest.
Ninety-four percent of students said they missed out on these events, which 66% said negatively affected their schoolwork. Seventy-eight per cent said it negatively impacted their mental health.
As a 17-year-old female from Victoria told us: “A year which I have been dreaming about and looking forward to for my entire school career has been stripped of the positives and I am left only with the stress of exams and usual teenage difficulties.”
“When in a usual year 12 the stress of studying and working is broken up by partying, formals and graduation dinners, there is nothing to break up the time and my and my friends mental health has struggled significantly.”
To put it lightly, the Coronavirus Class of 2021 has had it rough.
But as Australia becomes vaccinated and the world around us begins to reopen, the hope of a bright future returns.
“We have grabbed every opportunity with both hands and squeezed it dry until nothing was left to gain from the minimal experiences we could have,” an 18-year-old male from Queensland said.
“We have left our legacy, not as the sad grade that missed out, but as a cohort that tackled the year with ambition and an unparalleled attitude. I can confidently say that we have come out of those situations as greater people. Future years are going to miss us and remember us individually as the leaders who could think and overcome.”