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Angry parents want sight of new school test

08-12-2008

08/12/2008  ::  Northern Ireland  ::  News Letter

Parents have hit out at an educational group charged with preparing the test to replace the 11-plus after the body said "it is not in the public interest" to reveal details of the paper.

The concerned parents want information about the forthcoming test or tests for P6/7 pupils, so that guardians and teachers can prepare for the test, and judge the test's quality.

A parents' group asked the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to provide a copy of the specification of any such tests, so that "parents, teachers and the general public would understand what needed to be taught for the tests".

Stephen Elliott, chairman of Parental Alliance for Choice in Education (PACE) chairman, said: "We are hoping that any test will contain a robust measure of numeracy and literacy attainment – as the 11-plus did."

CCEA told the News Letter that the test is being developed: "to the same high standards as the current transfer test using the same rigorous and robust processes".

But Mr Elliott does not believe the test will meet international standards for so-called "high stakes testing" and a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from him failed to achieve clarification on the test details.

In their response a spokesman for the CCEA said it has been "custom and practice" to publish a specification of the transfer test early in the calendar year and that the specification for the proposed test will be published early in 2009.

The spokesman said he was applying for exemption from being required to answer the FOI request, and in doing so he had considered public interest grounds.

The spokesman added that some information such as the format and length of the replacement test for the 11-plus is already in the public domain.

"Publication of the specification at this stage would not further public understanding of the issue. We have concluded, therefore, that the balance remains in favour of withholding the information."

Last night, Mr Elliott said he believed it was an "insult to parents throughout Northern Ireland that the Department of Education for Northern Ireland (DENI) and the CCEA have told anxious parents and children that revealing the specification for minister Ruane's promised CCEA test is 'not in the public interest'."

He asked: "Has she not heard of her duty of care responsibilities?"

Mr Elliott said he was appealing the FOI response he received to the Information Commissioner.

A CCEA spokesman told the News Letter in May 2008 they received a letter from DENI which commissioned the development of a test which may be used in the transfer process for pupils entering post primary education in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

He said the CCEA is working closely with the department in developing the test which will be available for use in advance of pupils transferring to post primary education in 2010.

He said the trialling of questions has not yet taken place and the CCEA is working with an external agency specialising in test development and with an "international reputation in this field".

"As part of the test development process, questions are trialled outside of Northern Ireland.

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