Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland transfer test entry standards for grammar schools hit record high in 2016

By Rebecca Black

Transfer test standards to gain entry to a Northern Ireland grammar school are at a record high, it can be revealed.

It took a score of 100 out of 130 in the AQE tests to gain entry to 11 selective grammars, while seven Catholic schools took only students who had achieved an A in the GL tests. The previous year, just seven selective grammars required a score of 100, while five Catholic schools asked for an A.

>>Full list of every Northern Ireland school's intake grade 2016<

Every single selective grammar school was oversubscribed for the 2016/17 academic year - and some of the most popular had twice as many applicants as they had places.

In total there were 11,961 applications for the 8,230 places at our 64 selective grammars.

The number of selective grammar schools has dropped in recent years after a number of amalgamations - such as Portora Royal and Enniskillen Grammar in 2016 and St Michael's Grammar School in Lurgan becoming part of the new St Ronan's - and two grammars choosing to drop academic selection.

Today, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal exactly what grades or scores it took to get into each of our 64 selective grammars.

This exclusive data was obtained by sending Freedom of Information Act requests to every grammar school.

There are currently no official figures provided by the Department of Education, because both the Post Primary Transfer Consortium's GL assessment and the Association of Quality Education's (AQE) Common Entrance Assessment are unofficial tests.

Negotiations to agree a single transfer test between the two test providers remain ongoing.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Education Minister Peter Weir said he is hopeful that agreement can be reached.

In November, Mr Weir appointed Professor Peter Tymms to oversee talks to agree a single transfer test for P7 pupils.

"I would however like to simplify the current transfer test arrangements and ultimately secure agreement on a single test," Mr Weir writes.

"That is why I established a review panel that will make recommendations on a common assessment tool. That work is progressing and I am hopeful that with schools' support, agreement can be found."

A number of grammar school heads have voiced a preference for a single agreed transfer test.

The principal of Rainey Endowed in Magherafelt, Mark McCullough, said: "It would be most beneficial if there could be one testing method of academic selection which would be in the best interests of the pupils who wish to participate in the transfer process."

Victoria College principal Patricia Slevin said pupils in greater Belfast - particularly in the south of the city where her school is - who wish to exercise a choice of schools must sit both the AQE and GL assessments.

"Victoria College Belfast maintains a position which allows pupils who have taken either assessment to apply and be considered for the place. The college continues to advocate that there should only be one form of entrance assessment," she said.

To date two grammars - Loreto College in Coleraine and St Patrick's College in Armagh - have voluntarily stopped using academic selection. In 2015, Loreto College in Omagh and Omagh Christian Brothers School indicated they plan to end academic selection. Both schools plan a totally non-academically selective intake by 2020.

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