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Teachers union rails at grammar transfer testing

By Kathryn Torney

Primary schools should have nothing to do with the P7 transfer process if grammars continue with unregulated testing, a teaching union has claimed.

The Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) will debate a motion at its annual conference tomorrow which demands that steps are taken to remove primaries from the process if academic selection continues to be used by schools.

And it includes a call for primary principals to have no involvement in the preparation and administration of Transfer Forms — the application form for all post-primary schools — if testing continues.

Principals normally help P7 parents to fill in the Transfer Forms so if the INTO motion is agreed, this will add to the chaos and confusion parents and P7 children faced this year.

The motion also calls on the union to continue to campaign for the removal of selection — which it condemns as being “outdated, discredited and |socially divisive”. Brendan Harron, INTO senior official, said: “I have no doubt that this motion will be carried.

“From this year principals no longer have to sign the Transfer Form so we are questioning why they need to be involved at all.

“Transfer tests officially have gone and so our principals did not want to be seen to be putting their names to anything that was part of the unregulated process.

“Most principals want to help and advise parents and we are happy to under a regulated system.

“The unregulated tests have led to tension between primary principals and their grammar counterparts and in some areas there has been unbearable pressure put on them to prepare children for tests.

“We are watching to see what the outcome is of the tests this year and if there are legal challenges. This will largely determine what happens next year if the politicians do not get round the table and sort it out.

“They should have had this sorted out long ago and it is a shame on all of them that they haven’t.”

Meanwhile, the Catholic Principals Association (CPA) is holding a conference in Cookstown today and tomorrow.

The event is due to be opened by Cardinal Sean Brady and Education Minister Catriona Ruane and will be attended by bishops and members of the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education (NICCE).

NICCE has already stated that all schools in the Catholic sector should stop using academic selection by no later than 2012.

Dr Seamus Quinn, principal of St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon and chair of the CPA, said: “Our association believes that there should be fair and open access to all schools using a transparent admissions process without recourse to testing or selection. We want to promote an inclusive Catholic ethos.”

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