Coronavirus: A-level students reflect on cancelled exams

Published
Media caption,
Manon wants to be a doctor and Callum was preparing for university

Teenagers across Wales were due to begin A-level and AS-level exams on Monday.

But schools are closed and exams cancelled as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

What is it like for young people whose ambitions have been put on hold?

Some who were due to start sitting their exams this week have been talking about how their lives have changed.

They talk about their pride at being able to help those less fortunate, but also anxiety at not knowing how it will effect their plans for the future.

'Rewarding' but 'frustrating'

Manon, 17, from Cardiff, is in Year 12 and has hopes of studying medicine at university.

Image caption,
Manon would have started taking her AS-level exams if schools had not closed

She studies biology, mathematics, chemistry and English literature, and would have been taking the first of several AS-level exams on Monday.

A couple of weeks after schools were closed, a friend shared a Facebook advert for a housekeeping job at the University Hospital of Wales.

It involves cleaning mainly, but also speaking to patients who "don't get much time to speak to people" without visitors.

"I really do enjoy it, it's very rewarding and fulfilling," she said.

Image source, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board
Image caption,
Manon says working in a hospital is good experience

Although she enjoys the job, Manon said she felt anxious and was looking forward to face-to-face meetings with teachers to discuss her options.

"That's been the most frustrating thing: not knowing what to do personally and not being able to speak about it personally with our teachers," she explained.

But working in healthcare at such a time is invaluable experience, she concluded.

"I have to say, the camaraderie - it's like a family. All the nurses, all the doctors, everyone's kind of in it together."

Feeling the pressure

Jenna, 18, from Blaenavon, was due to be taking A-level exams in drama, media and performing arts.

Image caption,
Jenna has not been able to take part in live auditions

She said times were "a bit strange", although she admitted feeling some relief at not having to sit exams.

Her ambition is to perform in musical theatre, but live auditions at the performing arts colleges where she hopes to study have been cancelled.

"I've had to tape myself singing, acting and dancing and send them off to the uni," Jenna said.

"I'm in the house, I take everything away, I set my camera and I film right there. It's very strange."

Image caption,
Jenna's work has helped get food to people who are not able to leave the house

At the same time, she has been writing essays for school teachers, working full time at a supermarket and helping during lambing season on the family farm.

Her work at the shop involves preparing food deliveries for customers, many of whom are shielding and have been told to stay home by the government.

"It's quite challenging because it's all under time pressure," she explained.

"Even though I know that staff on the front line in the NHS are so important, the food aspect is also important."

Jenna's grandfather is 70 years old and usually runs the family farm, but is avoiding contact with the rest of the family due to coronavirus.

Image caption,
Jenna has also been helping out on the family farm

As a result Jenna and her parents have been helping rear the lambs.

"It's quite a surreal time for me right now - it's quite a surreal time for everybody," she added.

"It's overwhelming. But right now, I'm just taking every day as it is, just going with it and hoping it will all blow over soon."