A single AQE transfer test will be held on Saturday February 27, the test administrators have confirmed.
The AQE board said it is now planning to go ahead with a single test paper following the cancellation of transfer tests in January.
After announcing that the January tests would be cancelled, the first due to take place this Saturday, AQE hadn’t ruled out the possibility of conducting the tests at a later date.
AQE said they had now taken the decision following a meeting with schools on Tuesday afternoon.
Thirty-four grammar schools were originally planning to use the AQE test to admit pupils for 2021, with 8,000 pupils due to sit this weekend’s first test.
The organisation said it was “acutely aware of the pressure on pupils, parents and teachers as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and the decisions which the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive have had to take in light of public health requirements”.
“Following a meeting with the schools which use the Common Entrance Assessment, produced by AQE Limited, it has been agreed that to enable the assessment to take place in the current circumstances, the assessment will be reduced to a single paper to be held on Saturday 27 February, provided it can take place in public health circumstances then prevailing,” it said.
“Inevitably, the question will be asked why the assessment has been rescheduled rather than scrapped, and in response the following considerations are relevant.”
The AQE board said that in the absence of academic criteria, many schools would be likely to be even more oversubscribed than in a normal year and academic performance in a test would be replaced by other more random criteria.
They said that would include “family ties, geographical proximity to a school or some form of lottery for places.”
“It is the view of the member schools that academic selection represents the fairest way of allocating grammar school places”, the AQE statement said.
“The schools who use the assessment are encouraged by communications from parents who have stated that their children are ready and willing to sit the assessment and they want the opportunity to do so.”
“The education provided by our variety of post-primary schools offers the best choice for parents and meets the needs of pupils of all ability levels much better than the postcode comprehensive system which operates elsewhere.”
AQE also said that they did not have enough information from primary schools which could be used to match pupils to schools in the absence of a test.
Northern Ireland’s other private examining body used by schools, the PPTC have not issued any follow up statement following their announcement that the transfer test scheduled to take place on January 30 would be cancelled.