OST PRIMARY TRANSFER APRIL 7, 2008
1. SF is opposed to academic selection
2. The legislation which gave effect to the St. Andrews Agreement prohibited the abolition of academic selection without the consent of the Executive and Assembly.
3. Our preferred option is to reach agreement with the other parties on the definition in legislation of new regulations to govern post primary transfer arrangements. These regulations would not include academic selection.
4. In the event of not reaching agreement with the other parties we may issue new criteria to govern post primary transfer arrangements in the form of guidance. These guidelines would not be enforceable by reference to the law. We would seek to persuade the majority of grammar schools to adhere to the guidelines.
Where we are at this point
5. We are pursuing an extensive engagement with the different stakeholders to maximise support for our objective. We are approaching this on the basis of persuasion. However, there remains the possibility that the objective realities of the introduction of guidelines will play a bigger role in persuading some schools to adhere to the guidelines than any persuasive argument from ourselves. For example, schools which seek to ignore the new guidelines and retain academic selection would have to finance an untested form of academic selection and the inevitable appeals that will follow.
The grammar schools
6. There are 69 grammar schools - 17 of which are Controlled (state) Grammar Schools and the other 52 are classified as Voluntary Grammar Schools.
7. Within the Voluntary Grammar Schools sector 30 are effectively under the control of the Catholic Bishops, who have said publicly that they are opposed to academic selection.
8. Within the remaining 39 grammar schools there are a small group who are prepared to accept the ending of academic selection. The remainder want to retain academic selection but are not agreed on how it should be assessed or on the level of attainment required to access the grammar schools.
Governing Bodies Association
9. The Voluntary grammar schools are represented by the Governing Bodies Association (GBA). This group is unable to speak with one voice because of the different views within it.
10. Currently the GBA executive says that it does not want the retention of or a return to the present transfer procedure. However, they are clear that distinct academic schools should exist from 11 and that there has to be a process of selection.
They are suggesting the use of the Pupil Profile to allow post primary schools which have identified themselves as having an academic orientation to refuse to accept children who they deem to be ill-equipped to make progress in or cope with the demands made by such schools.
Association of Head Teachers of Secondary Schools
11. The AHTSS are very much in favour of the abolition of academic selection. Their main complaint is that we are pandering to the minority grammar sector.
12. Primary schools as represented by Principals are divided on the issue but are relieved that with the 11+ gone that they can get on and teach the curriculum without the disruption caused by a yearly transfer test.
The teaching unions
13. The Teacing Unions strongly favour the abolition of academic selection
14. At this point there is no sign that the DUP will agree regulations with us to abolish academic selection. We have however begun discussions with the DUP. In the initial discussions the DUP have argued for the retention of academic selection at least in a number of schools.
Grammar schools maintain themselves at the expense of secondary schools
15. Grammar schools are currently taking in over 40% of the children. This figure is projected to rise to 45% by the school year 2013/14.
16. It was initially envisaged that only those receiving Grades A and B1 would attend grammar schools.
In fact only 7 grammar schools currently restrict their intake to Grades A and B1. 26 grammar schools have an intake of at least one third coming from Grades B2, C1 & C2 and D.
17. Grammar schools are currently maintaining their numbers at the expense of secondary schools.
This is having a seriously detrimental effect on secondary schools, the morale of teachers and the children attending the schools.
Factors unfavourable to those who want to retain academic selection
18. Those opposed to the abolition of academic selection are adopting an entrenched position at present.
This is to be expected while they seek to bring about a reversal or significant dilution of the current direction.
19. They are, however, all fully aware that in the context of the introduction of new guidelines, consistent with the direction set by Caitriona, a number of factors will cause them to adopt a more pragmatic approach. These are:
- Continuing decline of children numbers entering post primary education
- The legal power to commence Entitlement Framework
- The finance required to fund alternative academic selection examination
- The Department's power to set admission and enrolment numbers