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All schools to get our transfer petition

By Kathryn Torney

Copies of the Belfast Telegraph’s transfer petition are being sent out to every school in Northern Ireland this week.

We are asking principals to bring the campaign to the attention of their parents.

The petition, launched last week, calls for Executive talks to resolve the ongoing school transfer crisis. It does not call for academic selection to be retained or scrapped — that will be up to the politicians to decide.

The DUP, SDLP, Alliance Party and Ulster Unionist Party have already backed the campaign.

Today we are taking the petition to Parliament Buildings and have contacted all of the 108 Assembly members to invite them to add their names. The letter to over 1,200 schools will be accompanied by copies of the petition.

A covering letter from Belfast Telegraph editor Mike Gilson says: “Following our extensive coverage of the transfer procedure for 2010, we have been overwhelmed by the response from anxious parents who want the transfer system sorted out.

“This groundswell of concern has inspired us to launch a petition calling on our politicians in Stormont to finally agree a way forward, beginning with those children who will transfer in 2011.

“We have no preferred outcome, rather our message is simple — provide parents, pupils and teachers with a transparent, agreed pathway for transferring our children from primary education to that at second level.

“We feel this is a matter of great urgency and must be dealt with at Executive level so that the distress of the transfer system of 2010 will not be repeated in the years to come.”

A total of 68 schools across the province — mainly grammars — are defying the Education Minister’s advice by setting their own entrance exams. Over 13,700 registrations have been received for the new tests.

The massive number is very close to the 15,000 pupils who sat the 11-plus test annually in recent years — however some pupils may have registered for both exams, which means sitting up to five exam papers this autumn.

The Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) — which represents 34 schools, mainly within the Catholic sector — announced that 6,714 pupils have signed up for their multiple choice tests.

And 7,023 P7s will sit entrance exams set by the Association for Quality Education (AQE) — far exceeding the 4,600 places available at its 34 schools.

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