Belfast Telegraph

Home Opinion Letters

Grammar schools are solely responsible for tests

I WOULD like to respond to the Rev Donaghy's open letter (Write Back, February 19) regarding Special Circumstances Procedures. Could I suggest that, if he is indeed as confused as he claims, he should contact either myself or my department rather than the Press?

I, and many others, consider academic selection to be a breach of social justice which divides communities and families.

Indeed, the Catholic Bishops' statement of June 2009 considered that "the current system of academic selection at age 11 is no longer an appropriate way for children to transfer to post-primary education".

There is no justification for continuation of a process which has distorted the teaching of the curriculum and which has no proven educational benefit for the individual or for society.

Transfer 2010, the Department of Education's policy on post-primary transfer arrangements, strongly advised schools not to use unregulated entrance tests. The vast majority of post-primary schools did not use such tests and continue to function successfully.

Transfer 2010 made clear that, if schools did set unregulated tests, they should not ascribe any role to primary schools. Disregarding this clear advice, some grammar schools are attempting to involve primary schools.

Once again, they ignored guidance and proceeded without any consultation with those same primary schools, or the department.

The duty rests with those schools using breakaway tests to ensure they have robust procedures in place, not with the primary principals, nor the parents.

My Department's guidance of February 9, 2010 stated that: "A primary school should not, in law, provide performance information relating to any of its pupils to any other schools." This would require the passing of the personal data of at least one child.

The pre-2010 Special Circumstances Procedure systematically built in parents' informed consent to the release of such personal data. Without such consent, the release of personal data is a breach of the Data Protection Act.


Minister of Education


From Belfast Telegraph