Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

‘Unregulated tests must not become permanent’

Unregulated school entrance tests cannot be allowed to become a permanent feature of Northern Ireland’s education system.

That was the call from the SDLP as 13,700 results from the new school transfer tests run by 68 schools were received by P7 children this morning.

The pupils — who sat up to five exams last term — will receive grades and scores which will then be used to determine if they get into the post-primary school of their choice.

Over 7,000 children sat the exams set by the Association for Quality Education (AQE) for 34 schools catering mainly for Protestant children and 6,700 young people sat the GL Assessment tests at 34 other schools, mainly Catholic grammars.

Pupils who did not sit the tests will apply to secondary schools which will use non-academic admissions criteria if they are over-subscribed.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has offered to meet with grammar schools to “discuss their pathways for the future”.

She said: “Moving from primary to post-primary school can be an anxious time for children.

“It is undoubtedly all the more anxious when some schools are persisting with the practice of selecting and rejecting 11-year-old children based on an outdated system of academic selection.

“I am encouraged by the fact that an increasing number of parents decided not to put their children through these tests.

“It is also a positive development that some grammar schools have indicated their intention to stop using entrance tests and I hope that others follow this path.”

SDLP education spokesperson Dominic Bradley said unregulated transfer tests cannot be allowed to become a permanent feature of the educational system.

He said: “We must wish the children who have been successful well, but we must also recognise that selective systems by definition reject many, many more children than they ever select.

“The current transfer situation is an educational failure, a social failure and above all a political failure by Minister Caitriona Ruane who has abandoned parents and children. She is doing nothing, absolutely nothing to achieve the sort of consensus needed to end selective education.”

For more information on AQE go to its website www.aqe.org.uk. For GL, parents should refer to the individual school’s website. The Parents’ Advice Centre can also be contacted on Monday on 0808 8010722.

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