It isn’t difficult to remember the last day of school. Rushed hugs, the frantic gathering of textbooks, corridors eerily quiet as some year groups had already been told to stay at home. A last longing look at the fellow students who had been my friends for the past several years, laced with the itching uncertainty of when I would be able to see them again.

Now, my days are spent in commute between my bedroom and the kitchen, with family time being set on the back burner and Microsoft Teams my sole companion for most nights.

The software is irritatingly holistic - aside from a few infuriating technical issues, it admittedly provides a relatively smooth service. Thus, amidst all the chaos of the world, schoolwork still manages to take up a large slice of my time - and the time of many others my age.

Curious about other people’s experiences with learning from home, I set up a Google Forms survey to share around my peers. I had around 85 responses, with… very interesting results.

From Duolingo to Jamie Oliver, everywhere seems to be screaming at us to use our time in quarantine wisely. The ‘more free time’ myth seems to have been a double-edged sword for students - 43% reported getting more schoolwork than usual. What is perhaps more concerning is that when asked how they felt about upcoming exams, 45% said they felt “very worried” - perhaps clear evidence that more work does not equal better learning.

When asked about how their schools were handling things related to the pandemic, one person summed it up with “They're doing their best but not communicating enough”. A lack of consistency seems to be a theme - workload varies wildly by subject, and some find it virtually impossible to contact teachers for help.

One even suggested repeating the year - since we were “caught unprepared” by the pandemic. Many seem to be self-teaching large portions of content and are uncomfortable with the fast pace set by some teachers.

But when questioned about government plans to reopen schools - many went in all guns blazing. Phrases like “guinea pig plan”, “terrifying” and “a great way to spread the virus” were used - with the notorious threat of a second wave being mentioned. Some argued that it was understandable, as virtual lessons are clearly not as effective for most students, with one stating, “very much needed but at the same time it could kill us all”. Others seemed more cynical, stating that expecting toddlers to understand social distancing is “counter-intuitive”.

Although most responses were balanced in their critique of the government, “misguided and entirely economically focussed” was probably the kindest thing said about the Prime Minister.

Topics like UCAS and mocks were mentioned with uncertainty - many schools were experiencing a lack of guidance and wished to be back at school for their teachers’ advice. Some threatened truancy. But the overall tone feels hesitant, with one student asking bluntly, “Do they want a future in the world?”

Inevitably, mental health was also looked at, and over half admitted that the quarantine had affected them negatively. The lack of clarity from exam boards has been dubbed “selfish”, and some feel “abandoned” and “unmotivated”. It leaves a sour taste in my mouth that so many are being “bombarded” with work during what some psychologists have referred to as a ‘collectively traumatic’ period. I couldn’t help feeling a painful sort of empathy with statements like “I just want to hug my friends”.

It is clear that the quarantine has affected young people in a myriad of ways - but the future remains frustratingly foggy. We all seem to be in the same boat, but with a limited number of maps. All I can say to those trying to juggle school pressures and the grim reality of the outbreak is this - your mental health and emotional wellbeing should always take priority.

- Leila Clover

(Here is a link to the survey results:  (content warning for strong language)

My most heartfelt thanks to those that participated in the survey - and the invaluable friends who helped promote it on social media.)