Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Schools unlikely to face sanctions for unofficial tests

Schools that prepare pupils for unregulated transfer tests are unlikely to face disciplinary action, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

The threat of being hauled before a Curriculum Complaints Tribunal — and being reported to the Department of Education by inspectors — has been hanging over the heads of Northern Ireland’s 800 primary schools.

But it has emerged that no school has ever been brought before a Curriculum Complaints Tribunal since it was enshrined in law 20 years ago.

And since the 11-plus was axed by former Education Minister Martin McGuinness in 2008, just one complaint has been received about a primary school preparing children for unregulated tests, despite tens of thousands of pupils having sat AQEs and GL Assessments. That complaint did not go beyond the school’s board of governors.

The department said it could not provide details of the sanctions schools face as no complaints have been made to the education and library boards who are responsible for tribunals.

Yesterday Education Minister John O’Dowd told BBC’s The Nolan Show no school will be “bullied” and none “threatened”.

“I have not threatened any school or any principal. What I have done is set out the law. The law clearly states that schools have to teach the curriculum.

“To teach unregulated tests would be a corruption of the curriculum and therefore the legal duty of the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) to report the matter.

“What happens after that will be a matter for the education and library boards or the managing authorities of the school.”

Education committee chair and DUP education spokesman Mervyn Storey MLA accuses the minister of trying to “end academic selection by stealth”.

Mr Storey said: “What the minister fails to realise is that academic testing follows the primary school curriculum.

“It is therefore impossible for teachers to entirely divorce what goes on in the classroom from what the contents of the test are.”

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