Behind the Mask
Changes — Britain
Lockdown in the UK began on the 16th of March, however, it was the 18th that, as a student, was the most directly impactful day of the whole pandemic as it was announced that the GCSE and A-Level exams would not be administered due to the amount of people in the exam room. Being in year eleven this meant that I wouldn’t be taking my GCSEs (A-Levels are for year 13), and this was a scary prospect as it was taking important grades out of my control. The 19th of March was a very strange day as everyone still went to school as normal even though there was little chance that the work we were doing was necessary as we weren’t doing any exams. None of the teachers had any idea what was going to happen yet so we continued with normal lessons. That evening, it was announced that schools were going to close at the end of Friday, the 20th of March, and would stay closed until further notice. Many schools didn’t bother running on that Friday but my headmaster has always been determined to keep the school open, due to the school’s record of never closing, not even during the world wars. That day was even weirder because at this point everyone knew that any work was fairly useless, so the day was used doing meaningless tasks that were either un-educational or were going to have no use due to postponed exams.
The following weeks consisted of doing work virtually and having painfully boring video call lessons. The aim was to finish off the courses we were doing as everyone who was going to school before the lockdown was still legally obliged to continue with education, and finishing the courses was the most sensible thing to do. After the Easter break (about 2 weeks from the 2nd of April to Sunday the 19th of April), we were given a bunch of exams to complete with the idea was that the grades we got in these exams could be used as evidence for our actual grades. The way our grades are being decided is based on our performance through the entire GCSE/A-Level course for all of the subjects. So any grade’s piece of work could be used as evidence. Our exams finished in the week beginning with Monday, the 11th of May, as this would have been when we were allowed to go on study leave (where you don’t have any lessons, and only come into school when you have an exam). Since then, the only work I have had to do is an EPQ, which is worth about half an A-Level, is done independently, and you can choose any topic you like to do it on (It stands for Extended Project Qualification). However, the motivation to do work during lockdown does not exist so I have only done a little of the project.
My social life also became fairly non-existent after schools closed. For a few weeks a group of friends and I had a weekly video call, however, this died down and stopped. I didn’t go and meet anyone/see any of my friends from when school closed to the 28th of May (over two months), and even then it was only one person and it was only because our cricket club allowed people to book a net with one other person for a bit of practice. Over the next few weeks from that the lockdown in the UK was beginning to ease and for me that basically meant that I was playing cricket with a whopping three other people. Though the end of June and into July the lockdown restrictions were lessened to a point where football training has resumed almost two months ago, with the last two sessions allowing contact, and I have also played 2 cricket matches as of writing this. However, with my only source of exercise during lockdown being a daily hour or two walk, I definitely felt more tired than I would have wanted after doing this sport, but oh well.
The final way in which the lockdown has affected me is that, as a result of the increased stress on the NHS (national healthcare system), people have been advised to not go to hospital or book appointments unless they think they have the coronavirus or are in serious need of treatment. This is a problem for me as I was planning to see a doctor about my snapping hip syndrome which I’ve had since October as the physio that I saw privately was a bit useless. My hip syndrome prevents me from doing any moderate to longer distance running which is how I used to keep my fitness up. Things such as football are fine because it’s a multi-directional sport, but because of lockdown I have played very little sports and have therefore been bored out of my mind walking just so I don’t get too unfit. I’m hoping that soon I can see a doctor but that’s probably still going to take a couple more weeks.
Overall, other than a bit of panic when it was first announced that I wasn’t going to be doing exams, I haven’t really been that bothered mentally. While not seeing my friends is also a bit painful, I haven’t been that badly affected on the social side of things because I’m quite a solitary person anyway. What I can take away from this is that while the media is focusing on all the negative things that have happened, for the most part it has brought people together through our shared struggle.
— Edward Lynch, 16