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Forty grammars to bring in entrance tests

By Lisa Smyth

A pro-selection lobby group is to meet tonight to discuss introducing a common entrance exam at Ulster grammar schools after a survey revealed that 40 schools intend to devise their own entry criteria to replace the 11-plus.

According to the research carried out by the Association for Quality Education, 40 out of 70 schools questioned - including schools from both sides of the religious divide - said they intend to devise their own qualification if the new Assembly fails to reach an agreement on the matter.

The group, which is composed of head teachers, governors, old pupil associations and parents, is due to meet tonight to discuss the findings of the survey.

Following the meeting, the group intends to present its findings to Education Minister Caitriona Ruane, who is coming under increasing pressure from politicians, teaching unions and parent groups to announce a replacement for the controversial 11-plus test which is to be scrapped in 2008.

AQE member, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, today said the issue is one that must be resolved urgently as parents, teachers and pupils are currently in limbo.

"There are members in the group who are parents and they have been telling us of the stress of not knowing what is going to replace the 11-plus, " he said.

"Our preference would be that there is some form of test other than the 11-plus within the primary school system. This is not about keeping the 11-plus but you only need to look at the results of pupils from Northern Ireland, their ability to get into university to see that the education system here works.

"We contacted a large number of grammar schools to find out their opinion on the matter and 40 out of 70 schools came back and said they would introduce a common entry exam.

"I would like to stress that the schools come from both sides of the community and another point that is quite important is that we wouldn't want to force an individual school to do anything. If they do not want to introduce the exam they should be quite entitled to do that.

"Of course, further work needs to be done and legislation would need to be looked at to allow this to happen."

Belfast Telegraph


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