The HSC exams are a stressful time for year 12 students. Add remote learning due to the statewide regional lockdown into the mix and students have got another challenge to balance.
Yet two Nowra High School HSC students, who admit lockdown "hasn't been easy", are in high spirits about the upcoming exams that are set to begin October 19.
Liberty Thompson, 17, said she is grateful to be preparing for just one set of exams.
"We finished trials in weeks two and three which was good to get out of the way," said Liberty, who plans to study theatre or film at university.
"We had a week or two of regular classes before we went into lockdown. I'm glad we're not preparing for two sets of exams and just preparing for the HSC."
Although Liberty is feeling the stress of the HSC, she admits she feels "prepared" for what to expect with remote learning, having been through it last year.
"Of course I'm nervous about exams and I do think being separated from teachers and other students will impact performance, but I think I feel lucky in a way because I was able to practice time management in the year 11 lockdown," said Liberty.
"I'm feeling prepared because we've done it before. Academically, I think I'll be okay."
James Horner, 18, said he feels like the statewide lockdown puts students on an "even playing field" for the HSC, but admits it does impact some students more than others.
"Remote learning is pretty hard but it's just one of those things that even if you want to make a big deal out of it, there's literally nothing you can do to change it," he said.
"It's important to remember everyone's doing remote learning, so if it negatively impacts my HSC then I guess it'll be the same for everyone else.
"It does affect people differently though, some love it but others don't. I think we should have the option to sit the exams remotely because we've been preparing for the last 13 years for them."
According to the students, there are some subjects that are more difficult to do remotely than others.
"I have two major works for art coming up this week so that's adding to the stress," said Liberty.
"Because the lockdown was really sudden, I was able to get my paints and paper but I had to get it very very quickly. It's very different doing it at home because I don't have a teacher or friends around to ask for an opinion.
"There's a nice side to it though. I can sit alone and do my art while listening to music, but sometimes I miss the atmosphere."
James said studying physics remotely was a "struggle", as having complex concepts explained face-to-face makes them easier to grasp.
"The teacher posts a PowerPoint on a Monday with the weeks worth of work and that has been a big struggle without any Zoom classes," he said.
"It hasn't been easy."
Liberty said one thing that would ease the pressure of remote learning is increased "check ins".
"I think I would like more face to face check ins so I can assure teachers I'm doing some of the work," she said.
"The school has tried to provide wellbeing resources which is good but sometimes it doesn't quite hit the mark for people our age.
"For example we get meditations, turning of devices a few hours to finish work, but I feel our generation is very reliant on technology which can sometimes be a good thing, like to connect with friends when we can't see them."
Need for a plan
With the NSW regional lockdown being extended until August 28, Shadow Minister for Education Prue Car fears year 12 students are "falling through the cracks", and is calling on the government to provide a plan for the HSC.
"We are hearing reports that students are not turning in work, are being left to fend for themselves at home, and teachers who ring up to check are having their calls go unanswered. We need to know the scope of this problem, and what the plan is to fix it," Ms Car said.
"There is no clarity on the format the HSC will take, and what type of test - online, in person, or mixed - students are preparing for.
"The Premier did allude on Friday (August 20) there would be an announcement coming for what year 12 will look like, but they are cutting it close.
"Everyone knows what the government is dealing with is unprecedented. But I think it's reasonable for students and teachers and parents to want to know what the plan it."
For regional students, Ms Car said a statewide lockdown still doesn't put all students on a level playing field for the HSC.
"Not everyone has the same access to technology and internet, although online learning is a necessary evil at the moment, it does make online learning inherently not fair," she said.
"It's a tough adjustment especially for the students who are almost at the end. I think the government really does have to be clear on how they're going to support those regional students."
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