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Peter Weir 'heartened' by parents' support over transfer test U-turn

Published 12/09/2016

Education Minister Peter Weir said transfer exam preparation had been going on 'behind closed doors' at many schools
Education Minister Peter Weir said transfer exam preparation had been going on 'behind closed doors' at many schools

Northern Ireland's education minister has said he is "heartened" by the level of support for his controversial U-turn on transfer test preparation.

Defending the move in the Assembly, Peter Weir said it brought into the open a practise which had already been happening "behind closed doors" in many schools.

The DUP MLA said: "There is no other education issue which I can pick out on which there is a greater range of opinion, both within society as a whole and within this House (Assembly).

"I am actually quite heartened by the amount of people who have been in touch with me at different times to say 'this is actually the right way forward'. I am heartened by the number of parents who have contacted me who say they are very happy with the decision."

Last week the minister reversed a long-standing policy of his Sinn Fein predecessors and permitted school principals to use academic selection to decide where to send pupils aged 11.

While there will be no re-introduction of the common 11 Plus examination, primary schools are now free to prepare pupils for the AQE and GL assessments during class time.

"What w e have got to do is to reflect the reality of the situation," added Mr Weir. "There is a division on the issue of selection and transfer test but it is also the case that, irrespective of our own individual views, it is something which is legally allowable; it is something which is happening and it is clearly something that is here to stay.

"This is essentially a memo which is permissive in its nature. And to be perfectly honest, permissive to actually bring out into the open what has been happening in an awful lot of schools behind closed doors up until now."

The minister also told Assembly members no school would be compelled to assist pupils in transfer test preparation.

When asked by Sinn Fein's Michaela Boyle to provide reassurances that pupils who do not sit transfer tests would not be left behind, Mr Weir replied : "I have great faith in schools to actually provide sensible solutions within this."

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