Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Special circumstances could help in decisions

The two testing regimes have called on primary school principals to support pupils' claims of special circumstances if their exam performance was affected by illness or another event, for example a family bereavement.

Northern Ireland’s five main teaching unions have sought legal advice about the information grammar schools will be looking for in these cases.

For both GL Assessment and AQE, a special circumstances form should be submitted with children's application to schools. This should ideally contain information for the grammar school principals on the child’s past academic performance.

Northern Ireland Teaching Council chair Avril Hall Callaghan said schools are expected to produce evidence of a child’s performance in standardised tests if a parent requests it in writing — but are under no obligation to generate special reports.

Billy Young, from AQE, said: “We are not demanding anything from the grammar schools but hope that they will provide information to parents in special circumstances for the children's sake and to assist grammar heads in making the right decisions.”

Ronnie Hassard is principal of Ballymena Academy and chairman of the Post Primary Transfer Consortium. His school and the 33 other consortium member schools have signed up for the GL Assessment test.

He said: “We are just asking parents to find out from their primary school their child's standardised scores in other tests they have taken during Key Stage 2 for special circumstances situations. Parents are entitled to that information. I understand that the number of special circumstances cases we will have to deal with are very small.”

Harry Greer, of Harmony Hill Primary in Lisburn, said: “Major problems will only occur if grammar schools ask for unreasonable amounts of information but to date that has not been my experience.”

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