Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School, Our Lady’s Grammar School, Sacred Heart Grammar School and St Colman’s College in Newry and St Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel abandon academic selection for 2022.
Pressure is mounting on the independent companies which run transfer tests between primary and post-primary schools after a further five schools announced they would not be using the tests in November this year.
Last week four schools in Londonderry and Belfast said they would not be using the PPTC run tests, and now five more Catholic grammar schools in South Down said they would be abandoning academic selection for the 2022 intake of pupils.
The decision, taken by Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School, Our Lady’s Grammar School, Sacred Heart Grammar School and St Colman’s College in Newry and St Louis Grammar School in Kilkeel, means that almost one third of the schools who normally use the PPTC tests have no decided to use different selection criteria instead of the normal exams sat by P7 pupils.
Both PPTC and AQE still intend to run the tests in November.
In a joint letter to parents the schools said the move was due to “the impact of school closure on the current P6 pupils”.
It will be the second successive year the transfer tests have not been used by the schools and comes two weeks after the PPTC said it would be consulting with schools and relevant stakeholders over whether to move away from Maths and English assessments towards verbal reasoning tests.
The PPTC said it would mean a “radical change” to this November’s proposed transfer tests but the discussion paper also recommended that the autumn tests continue to be held in central grammar locations rather than allowing pupils to sit the tests in their own primary schools.
The five schools in Newry and Kilkeel would usually admit around 600 pupils between them each September, and follow the five schools making a similar decision last year ahead of the full cancellation of tests due to Covid disruption.
The joint letter to parents said the schools’ governors had considered the impact of school closures on the local community.
“They recognise that there has been significant disruption to the education of pupils since March 2020 and understand that there may be further disruption for children throughout the remainder of the 2021-22 academic year and beyond,” it said.
“The respective boards of governors are particularly aware of the impact of school closure on the current P6 pupils who were also affected by school closure as P5 pupils.”
The governors said they had reached their decision as a result of pupils only returning to school learning last week.
“Pupils applying to these schools will not be required to provide a GL Entrance Assessment result,” the schools said.
“Each school remains committed to its own ethos and academic focus on high quality teaching and learning.
“Those who would normally apply to be admitted to each individual school are encouraged to continue to do so.
“It is hoped that both the decision to temporarily amend admissions criteria and the timing of this notification will provide clarity in the local area for P6 pupils and their parents/carers.”
AQE, who run transfer tests for 34 mainly Protestant grammar schools in Northern Ireland, has indicated it still plans to run the tests this November. No schools which normally use the AQE tests have opted out of academic selection for 2022 yet.