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'Test' schools accept D grade pupils

By Lisa Smyth

Only six of the 25 grammar schools planning to introduce a common entry test in 2009 accepted all their pupils with a B grade or above in their 11-plus last year, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.

Department of Education figures show that out of the 19 schools that gave a place to pupils who failed to achieve an A or B in their 11-plus, nine of them accepted pupils with a grade D.

Coleraine Academical Institute even accepted all the pupils who applied for a place in September last year and subsequently achieved a D grade in the 11-plus.

Last week, the Association for Quality Education (AQE) - a pro-academic selection lobby group - named the 25 breakaway grammars which it says will utilise a common entry test after the 11-plus is axed next year.

It is feared that plans by the Education Minister to scrap the 11-plus and replace it with a system where pupils make their own academic choices at the age of 14, without academic selection, will spell the end of grammar schools in Northern Ireland.

The AQE has argued strongly that schools should be allowed to retain academic selection as entrance criteria once the 11-plus goes.

It has already devised an alternative test to the 11-plus which is based on the Revised Curriculum and work is under way to ensure a system can be put in place to allow schools to use the test.

However, out of the schools signed up for the test, only Grosvenor Grammar, Omagh Academy, Ballyclare High, Down High and Wallace High School accepted applicants with a B grade or above for the 2006-07 academic year.

Joining Coleraine Academical Institute in giving places to pupils with grade Ds were Cambridge House which gave 77% of applicants with a grade D a place and Royal School Dungannon which gave places to half of applicants that achieved a grade D.

Other schools which gave places to D grade applicants include Foyle and Londonderry College, Limavady Grammar, Royal School Armagh, Larne Grammar, Belfast Royal Academy and Hunterhouse College.

In total, 55 applicants with a grade D were accepted by the grammar schools signing up to the AQE's test, while overall, 367 applicants with a grade C or less were awarded a place at the same schools.

Speaking at a meeting of the Education and Library Boards, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said: "There is a small but vocal group lobbying to retain not only academic selection but a system which does not meet the needs of our young people in the 21st century.

"But when you look at the pupil intake profile you will see that to keep their classrooms filled and their budgets intact, they are admitting an increasing number of pupils who did not get a grade A in their cherished 11-plus."

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