These unusual times: thoughts on the pandemic, the cancellation of GCSEs and on online learning, from a Year 11 perspective

These unusual times: thoughts on the pandemic, the cancellation of GCSEs and on online learning, from a Year 11 perspective

My name is Manomay Lala-Raykar and I am a Year 11 student, going into Year 12 this September. The announcement of school closures and exam cancellations has been a significant turning point for thousands like me.

The message did not come as much of a surprise, but it gave me a sense of foreboding. And though letting off exam stress was relieving, I did feel a bit deflated that we weren’t going to experience something that has been considered a rite of passage in British culture for so long. Many other Year 11 students nationwide would likely have echoed this sentiment.

The initial lack of clarity about how our grades would be decided resulted in some anxiety among my peers, but Ofqual soon assured all students that a variety of evidence would be used to produce a teacher-assessment grade, and I am confident that QE’s meticulous approach towards keeping an up-to-date record of our progress will mean the grades we are given are indeed a true reflection of the level we were on track to achieve. It is reassuring that exams will be available later, if students wish to raise their grades even further.

Home learning has always been a part of the QE experience, originally as an important supplement to the interactive classroom environment, and now at the forefront of our learning. This is where eQE comes in. Through its user-friendly, immersive and interactive interface, our virtual learning environment has offered unrivalled support – providing easily accessible resources for students, while keeping teachers in the know about our progress. It also allows us to fit our learning around other commitments. I’m glad that I can make use of eQE to guide me during these unusual times, a fitting new home for our world-class education.

We are close to finishing and consolidating the GCSE specification content for all our subjects. The transition to A-level in the subjects we are continuing with will begin soon, and the added time provides a huge opportunity to get a head start on bridging the considerable gap between GCSE and A-level. In due course, I also plan to take part in a few free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that will help boost my transition to A-level.

Of course, with less intensive study comes extra personal time, which can be used productively to develop extra-curricular skills. To name one example, I have been pressing on with my study of the ancient Sanskrit language and its associated culture, including weekly Zoom meetings with other members of our group, and the added time has given me the capacity to take my study to an even higher level.

It’s easy to forget the vast world of independence waiting for us. I have been setting aside the time to research, and discuss with my family, information on the world of work. I am especially enjoying the discussion with my father on our daily walk: staying two meters apart doesn’t stop me from learning from, and remembering, every word of wisdom.

But before we can reap the huge benefits of such things, there is a massive hurdle to be overcome, that being self-discipline. In term-time, I have been trying to use my School timetable to support my home learning: completing work set, as well as further independent work for each subject, while also taking breaks so I don’t overwhelm myself. It also means that I have time to rest, spend time with my family and pursue my extra-curricular enrichment.

In the holiday period, I did take some time off to rest and relax, and spend time virtually with friends and extended family, but I also kept going with preparing for the changes in my life at Sixth Form and beyond.

While it’s important I remain up-to-date about the latest news and information regarding the coronavirus pandemic, I try not to spend too much time dwelling on it, so it doesn’t affect my mental health – and that would be one of my biggest recommendations.

I was recently hit hard by the news that a few people I am close to have likely been infected with coronavirus. I try to stay in contact with and take care of them through the gift of modern technology. I know they’ll be grateful, even if they can’t express it now.

I keenly await the moment I can walk back into School, greet friends and family, and go out into the wider world again. But for now, I think it’s important to rest assured that we are all in this together.