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Academic Professor Peter Tymms appointed to lead process to find a single transfer test

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Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

Education Minister Peter Weir

The Department of Education has appointed academic Peter Tymms to lead an initiative to agree a single transfer test in Northern Ireland.

Currently around 14,000 children in Northern Ireland each year sit unofficial transfer tests.

There are two separate tests set by organisations AQE and GL. Children who sit both systems face five tests.

Most controlled grammars accept AQE grades, while most Catholic maintained schools accept GL grades, and a small number of grammars accept either.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last week that new talks had started between AQE and GL to agree a single test.

Previous talks have ended without agreement.

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Education Minister Peter Weir said he is encouraging the organisations, but will not impose an official transfer test.

"I have met with both of the bodies and we are starting to begin a process of dialogue to see what help and assistance could be there," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Given the demand, it is clear that academic selection is here to stay, there is a clear desire for that, it has not withered on the vine as maybe some would have predicted."

Mr Weir said it was clear there wouldn't be political consensus on the transfer test or academic selection.

He added: "My focus is making sure the process is as smooth as possible for those doing the test, hence the guidance I have issued, hence the work going on in discussions with the two organisations to try and facilitate whether there can be a narrowing of the gap between the two, or ideally one set of tests.

"Most children sit one test, although there is an overlap of around 2,000 who sit both ... If we had a single set it would be something that would be helpful."

This morning it emerged that the Department of Education has appointed Professor Peter Tymms, of the school of education at Durham University, to lead the initiative.

The process is entitled: "Towards a common assessment for the purposes of academic selection".

This year's tests will be taken over five Saturdays in 2016, with pupils sitting the first AQE test on 12 November.

The number of P7 pupils sitting the unofficial tests has been steadily rising each year to 14,681 this year.

Earlier this year Mr Weir relaxed rules to allow primary schools to be able to prepare their pupils to sit the tests within school hours.

 

Belfast Telegraph