Over 7,000 P7 pupils will sit entrance exams set by the Association for Quality Education (AQE), it has been confirmed.
AQE said that all of its 34 member schools — which cater mainly for Protestant pupils — will be oversubscribed as a result of the higher than expected number of registrations for the group's tests.
A total of 68 schools across the province — mainly grammars — are defying the Education Minister’s advice by setting their own entrance exams.
The registration closing date for the AQE tests and the tests run by GL Assessment on behalf of the other 34 schools was last Friday.
GL Assessment — which is setting tests for schools mainly within the Catholic sector but also some integrated schools and two with a grammar stream — will not be releasing its total registration figures until later this week. Its members were expecting up to 6,000 to register for its multiple choice tests.
Billy Young, from AQE, said that registration forms have been sent in for 7,023 pupils — far exceeding the 4,600 places available at its schools.
“I am very pleased with the number of pupils who have registered for the tests. All of the schools are oversubscribed,” he said. The first AQE test will take place on November 14.
Pupils sit up to three tests in English and maths in November and December and the best two scores will count. Sitting the AQE test costs £35 — but is free for children entitled to free school meals.
The GL Assessment test involves two multiple choice papers — one for English and the other maths — sat by pupils on November 21. There will be a supplementary test on December 12. These tests are free.
Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has issued guidance which calls on all schools to use non-academic admissions criteria and to have Free School Meals Entitlement (FSME) as their first criterion.
If 20% of applicants are entitled to FSMs, then 20% of the school's places should be allocated to FSM applicants.
However, some concern has been raised about how entitlement would be verified and the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools has also said that using FSME in admissions criteria would be an attempt to “engineer social balance in admissions”.