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Post-primary transfer tests set to be delayed to January 2021

The tests, set by independent bodies, were due to take place in November but that timetable is to be pushed back following a legal challenge.

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Post primary transfer tests are set to be delayed (PA)

Post primary transfer tests are set to be delayed (PA)

Post primary transfer tests are set to be delayed (PA)

Post-primary school transfer tests are expected to be delayed until January.

The tests, set by independent bodies AQE and PPTC, had been due to take place in November.

But this is likely to be pushed back to early January following a legal challenge by two parents of children due to sit the tests.

Lawyers representing the two pupils contended at the High Court on Wednesday that a decision to delay the tests by two weeks following the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was unlawful.

In response, counsel for Education Minister Peter Weir and the test providers said that they would accommodate tests now occurring in January 2021 with the Education Authority operating a compressed timetable for the appeals and admission process.

The mother of one of the children said her family is “delighted with the result we achieved today”.

“We hope that this will go some way to address the educational disadvantages experienced by some children during lockdown.

This case was never about the rights and wrongs of academic selection.Ciaran Moynagh

“We are both frustrated and disappointed that it took to the very last minute for this decision to be made and that we had to take legal action in the first place.

“This decision demonstrates that those involved could have taken action on this sooner and showing that all children are at the heart of the decisions made.”

Ciaran Moynagh, partner of Phoenix Law, added: “The global pandemic has brought about unprecedented change to the way of living.

“Such unprecedented change must be mirrored by the Department of Education in ensuring children’s interests are protected.

“Making children undertake life-changing exams during such turbulent times would be most unfair. The right decision has been made this morning. Sitting exams in November or December certainly would not have been in their best interests.

“This case was never about the rights and wrongs of academic selection.

“My client achieved a postponement of the tests and that postponement will allow some of the disadvantaged children who did not have access to private tuition/resources or remote technology during lockdown to be back at their desk learning from experts for a reasonable period of time before they sit exams in the new year.

“We now await confirmation of test dates and will continue to monitor the viability of examinations in light of the current global pandemic.”

In a statement the department said its focus is on “ensuring that post primary transfer is delivered in a timely fashion for every pupil in Northern Ireland”.

“As the tests are set by private organisations we do not have control over the timing of any transfer test, but need to ensure the process of transfer is deliverable,” they said.

“The department notes that AQE Ltd and PPTC Ltd have now indicated their decision to move the dates for their respective assessments until January 2021.

“Once a final decision is announced by the providers, the minister has indicated that he is prepared to ask the Education Authority to adjust its timetable for the 2020/21 post-primary transfer process.”

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan welcomed clarity around the timing of the tests.

“The SDLP called for clarity on the transfer test, as far back as April. The minister should have acted more decisively, without requiring legal action to get to this point,” he said.

“However belated, this is the right call from Minister Weir and it will provide huge relief for children, parents and teachers.

“The minister must prioritise ensuring that children, particularly those from areas of deprivation, do not lose out as a result of Covid-19.”

Meanwhile Sinn Fein MLA Karen Mullan has called for the tests to be scrapped.

“The continuation of transfer tests is in complete contradiction to the overwhelming majority of evidence into academic selection and they should be scrapped altogether,” she said.

“This evidence has shown that academic selection perpetuates inequality, damages the education system and has a hugely negative impact on our children.

“Sinn Fein will continue to work for a just education system which is underpinned by the right of all students to have equal opportunities.”

PA