Will there be another Christmas lockdown? The reintroduction of mandatory facemasks has caused rumours, panics and hysteria amongst those who are concerned about increased restrictions. Right now we don’t know much for certain, following Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier today they have labelled another lockdown as “extremely unlikely”, but will continue to monitor the situation. As we all await more news,  I can’t help but reminisce over my last lockdown experience. 


From March 23rd, 2020, I went into lockdown amongst every other person in the UK. All my friends and peers were confined to our homes trying to get our heads around home learning - our teachers doing the same . However, while the majority of my peers returned to school in jUNE 2020, I was left behind. This was My own choice, though; to shield my brother and my father, at the cost of my lockdown feeling endless. . 


Following all of the restrictions meticulously, it also meant that my summer social life was subsequently non-existent. My spirits worsened seeing all of the news stories, and social media, with many people breaking lockdown rules; seemingly without any care for COVID, or the wellbeing of others, especially those who are vulnerable or less fortunate. Frankly, this highlighted the ignorance some of us have. The fact that so many could be blasé about a devastating global pandemic which had killed millions is - in a generous term -… disappointing. 


Having had my vaccine alongside my family, my return to classroom learning began in September 2021; meaning I had to go through all of my GCSEs in an arduous process. Completing exams at home would raise obvious concerns of plagiarism and cheating, thus I had to physically participate in each one at my school. Isolated, sitting by myself in an adjacent office until my time was up, I completed all 36 of my GCSE exams. This was the process that contributed the majority of my lockdown stress - not the pandemic, nor the safety of my family. The insanity and constant reversal of COVID exam plans. 


At the beginning of the pandemic, the original plan was  to interpolate GCSE grades from a teacher-assessed portfolio of work and tests we had completed across lockdown and the previous years. However, as COVID restrictions loosened, it was announced that we would be sitting  mock exams in December, 2020. Since this was done without the intention of having actual GCSEs, I was left wondering how they could be considered “mock exams” if they were the only exams we were graded on. 


Alas, even the mocks weren’t enough. As restrictions loosened further, it became apparent that despite spending the past year being told that our portfolios were of paramount importance, it was predominantly actual GCSE examinations on which our grades were resting.


It doesn’t stop there. Of course it doesn’t. As if students hadn’t suffered enough, the exams we had missed by being at home meant there were holes in our overall grades. Therefore, the government response was to do more exams to fill these gaps. Across the space of two months, I had gone from zero exams to more exams than any other year had done for GCSE. Thirty-six separate tests. I’m still stressed just thinking about it. 


Suffice to say, it was a struggle, but we had no choice. My school was incredibly accommodating to the fact that I had to shield. It continued to help me home-learn, and maintain the COVID guidelines around me even though they weren’t mandatory. But the exam period was undeniably heinous, with as much focus as I can type into one word. 


This year, as the gossip of another lockdown spreads like wildfire, my worry isn’t with missing Christmas (after all, I’m fortunate enough to live with my family). My worry comes from how it will harm my education once more. It was brutally evident that the government had been backed into a corner that they’d never been in before when it came to the 2020-2021 exam season. I can only hope that they’ve learned from that and - in the worst case scenario - if schools were to be momentarily shut down again, they’d make the assessments far more humane… unlike last time. 


My message to everyone is as follows; look after each other, follow what the government says, and we need to try our hardest to think about the struggles that some people might be going through. Shielding was immensely tough on my mental health - a topic that’s gained a lot more vocal support recently - and is invisible to the eye. To anyone who would have to undergo that in a sudden lockdown, or may still be shielding, know that you are not alone, and you do have support. Do not hesitate to find your local NHS mental health helpline if you need it. Be kind to one another, everyone.