Standard guidance for transfer test could avoid hefty tuition costs: UUP MLA
A UUP MLA has hit out at Northern Ireland's privatised transfer test system, calling for standardised guidance to be introduced to level the playing field.
Broadcast this week, BBC Two documentary series 'Grammar Schools: Who Will Get In?' examined the pressure on primary school students in the UK attempting to pass their 11+ examination, and showed the parents forking out hefty sums for tuition - despite not always securing a pass.
And according to one school principal featured in the series, children who get hours of extra tuition to pass the 11-Plus entrance exam for grammar schools are more likely to fail the exam.
Desmond Deehan, head of Townley Grammar School in Bexley, London, said tuition makes pupils more 'anxious and nervous' causing them to under perform in the test.
Northern Ireland primary pupils face similar pressures when taking transfer test to grammar schools.
Reflecting on issues raised in the programme, Ulster Unionist education spokesperson Rosemary Barton said there should be greater fairness for students taking the transfer tests.
“Of course not all parents can afford private tuition for their children, so for their sake, as well as all others I believe the playing field should be levelled and there should be standardised guidance for all primary schools," she said.
"That would ensure all children could receive the same support during class hours in order to prepare for the exam, regardless of what school they go to."
The BBC Two programme followed four students attempting to pass the selection process and gain entry to the grammar school system., focusing on the pressure it placed on the children.
One child featured in the programme was Joanita, whose mother paid £300 a month on extra tuition for her daughter while working in Poundland.
The 11+ exam was last used in Northern Ireland in 2002, and has since been replaced by a system of transfer tests, carried out by AQE and Post-Primary Transfer Consortium.
Mrs Barton said the removal of the 11+ exam had created a "policy vacuum".
“Instead of the Government deciding how to handle the transfer of our young people, it is two private companies and that just makes me very uneasy," she said.
“I will never criticise any parent who tries to do what they think is best for their child.
"Grammar schools remain very popular, so it is little wonder that the number of parents sending their children for additional tutoring remains so high – especially as so many schools are unsure what they can and cannot do in the absence of any firm guidance by the Department of Education."