Year 12 is bittersweet. There’s stress, late nights and a lot of cramming. But there are also those highly anticipated events like the final athletics carnival, school formal and graduation.
For many, these events along the way are what motivate students to push through and cheer at the finish line. But what happens when those celebrations are taken away?
The final year of school is the most challenging, and that’s without the additional stress of a global health pandemic forcing students into isolation and online learning.
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador, Brian Lee, is a Year 12 student from Victoria. He says so far, his school has been forced to cancel the athletics carnival and Year 12 graduation ceremony because of COVID-19.
“We are disappointed that this has happened and that we don’t get to experience a lot of what we expected from Year 12,” Brian says. “There is definitely a sense of frustration but there is no one really to direct that to or at.”
"It's been hard to think that this is our final year at school ... and we may have like three weeks left before we never get to spend time with these people again."
This sense of disappointment has been mirrored by some Year 12 students during UNICEF-run consultations to understand the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on young people. The consultations are part of the Young Ambassador Program’s national research into the views of young people in Australia.
“It's been hard to think that this is our final year at school and after this whole thing is over we may have like three weeks left before we never get to spend time with these people again. I think it's hitting Year 12s quite hard especially around here. And I see on Facebook everyone saying how rough it is that we don't get to do all of our last sort of things. So our athletics carnival got cancelled, our formal will probably get cancelled - all of these special things that we're meant to get.” - Student from regional NSW.
“I think the social factor is really important because you know every single day is lost - all those different events that are so important in your last year of school and also the social part of it. I think that's really important.” - Student from regional NSW.
Brian says the school social events aren’t only an opportunity for Year 12 students to celebrate and socialise together, but are where students find a sense of belonging and camaraderie.
“In Year 12, the social aspects often get suppressed by study. These events are where students are able to be social and have a sense of belonging. That’s why they are so important,” Brian says.
“Year 12 is a pretty difficult year for most students and graduation is the moment they get to celebrate that they have made it through those challenging times.”
Throughout the consultations students also spoke of their concern for the future, with many unsure what their final exams would look like or how COVID-19 would impact their tertiary study applications or future employment.
Specifically, two thirds of the more than 1,000 young people surveyed by UNICEF were worried about their education being disrupted or held back as a result of the changes being made to schooling as part of the government’s COVID-19 response.
“This limbo that we're living in feels like it's going to go on for the rest of the year. And I know there were concerns about making Year 12s repeat next year... I don't think I could do it for another year. I don't have any aspirations at the moment. I just get up and I do what's asked of me and then email and end my day with a walk. It's really, really disheartening at the moment. It's a lot different to the attitude I had at the beginning of the year when we were talking about going to Hobart and doing you know law studies. We're just missing out too much.” - Female, Devonport, Tasmania.
“It's kind of scary to think that after this there may not be kind of like job security moving forward - like being in Year 12 and wondering how the HSC is going to pan out, and how university offers are going to pan out. And then adding onto that fact, there may not even be like a workforce to join after all of this happens.” - Female, regional NSW.
COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of young people’s lives, putting strain on their ability to cope. While many young people are particularly concerned about their education, our research shows that COVID-19 is also having far wider impacts on young people’s lives.
"This limbo that we're living in feels like it's going to go on for the rest of the year."
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