De La Salle College Cronulla's class of 2020 breathes sigh of relief as HSC exams end

School's out: De La Salle Catholic College, Cronulla, students Bailey Thomson (captain), Ethan Fowler (vice-captain), Tom Hallett (captain) and Maya Hill (vice-captain). Picture: John Veage
School's out: De La Salle Catholic College, Cronulla, students Bailey Thomson (captain), Ethan Fowler (vice-captain), Tom Hallett (captain) and Maya Hill (vice-captain). Picture: John Veage

The exams are over, the school books and bags have been disposed of, and now all there is to do is wait for the results - and enjoy the after party.

Thirteen years of schooling came to an end last week when the final HSC exams were held.

It marked the end of what had been an incredibly tough school year due to the COVID pandemic.

While the HSC is always challenging, this year's HSC students contended with school shutdowns, cancellations and uncertainty.

De La Salle Catholic College Cronulla 2020 co-captain Bailey Thomson said no one would have expected how the year would play out.

"It all started normally enough, but then we began hearing strange stories about an epidemic in Wuhan," she said.

"Before we knew it, we were heading for lockdown and afraid for the safety of our older family members and other vulnerable people."

With the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklan calling on parents to keep their children home from school, attention soon turned to the fate of HSC students as it stretched into months.

Bailey said her school offered plenty of support to HSC students during that time.

"The college gave us great support during lockdown, with regular Zoom lessons to bridge the gap and lots of online learning platforms," she said.

"The reassurances from the state government that no one would be disadvantaged by the pandemic helped settle our nerves."

Co-captain Tom Hallett said the college and the teachers went above and beyond to help them to stay on track.

"Once we got back to school, the college kept the library open until 4.30pm or later each day, and we were able to study in a safe environment without distractions," Tom said.

"The teachers were great too, always doing that bit extra to answer questions and run tutorials out of class time."

Bailey said they were upset by the initial cancellation of graduation ceremonies, formals and Schoolies.

"It would have been tough to be all the hard work with none of the fun bits allowed," she said.

"As it turned out, the college put on a socially-distanced graduation in the grounds and livestreamed it to the families.

"We had the formal last Friday and had a great time, despite the fact that dancing was socially distanced and that parents weren't allowed."

With their planned overseas trip cancelled, she said they were looking forward to "a different type of Schoolies".

"Fiji is off the agenda so most of us are heading up or down the coast for beach holidays," she said.

"As long as we are with our friends, we'll have fun.

"We are in contact with students who came here on exchange and are now back in lockdown wishing they were here. We are so lucky to be in Australia."