‘Let’s get that final bit of learning done’: Testing times for year 12s as they dream of schoolies

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Like tens of thousands of year 12 students, Joseph Folwell returned to school on Tuesday for a test and plenty of elbow bumps.

Joseph said he had done so much remote learning, he’d almost forgotten what it was like to be at school.

“Seeing my best friends today was the best thing,” the fully vaccinated 17-year-old said. “It felt so good to have some normality back in my life, even if it was just a test.”

Glen Eira Secondary College year 12 students Alex Leathley, Aimee Harris, Joseph Folwell and Alannah De Jesus as they return to school to sit their General Achievement Test. Credit:Joe Armao

Fellow Glen Eira Secondary College student Aimee Harris said while record high COVID-19 cases were concerning, she hoped to get through a final fortnight of classes and even experience schoolies.

“While there is a bit of worry that comes with COVID, I’m on the other side of that now,” said Aimee, who is double-jabbed. “It’s only two weeks, let’s get that final bit of learning done.”

Victoria’s year 12 students became the first year level to return to school this term for the General Achievement Test, which will be important in assessing how each student’s education has been disadvantaged by COVID-19.

While year 12s and their teachers were recently given priority vaccine access to facilitate final exams, at least 33 students were unable to sit the three-hour test because they had COVID-19.

Vaccination is mandatory for all school staff but not students. Just over half of 12- to 15-year-olds have had one jab.

Year 12 student Katie, who is vaccinated and attends an inner-northern high school, said she knew many students whose parents were anti-vaccination, and she was nervous about being forced into isolation due to contact with an infected peer.

“Why do I have to sit next to an unvaccinated person and then go into isolation for two weeks and ruin whatever time I have left?” she said.

“I’ve already lost everything else. Why isn’t this mandatory? Why don’t I get a choice?”

Students have lost more than 150 days of face-to-face learning during the coronavirus pandemic, including the last seven weeks of term three.

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