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Few primary schools plan transfer tests

29-09-2009

Irish News

Fewer primary school pupils than ever will take transfer tests this autumn, with parents said to be put off by the chaos of multiple exams.

There will be no state-sponsored 11-plus this year but all grammars will operate unregulated entrance exams in November.

Grammar schools have split into two groups, using either a Common Entrance Assessment (CEA) or a different style of papers set by GL Assessment.

A total of 13,737 pupils have been entered – about 1,600 fewer than for the final official transfer test last year.

The Post-Primary Transfer Consortium, which includes 34 schools, most of them Catholic, has said 6,714 pupils will take its GL Assessment papers.

A total of 7,023 children have applied to take the Common Entrance Assessment, which is being used by 34 non-Catholic schools.

However, entries are expected to fall.

Some children will have applied to take both but will not sit both, while others will withdraw for reasons including illness or moving home.

In 2007 just 14,944 children took the transfer test, the lowest number since the north’s exams board began setting and marking the papers in the mid-1990s.

In the last decade the number of pupils sitting the 11-plus has fallen by more than 3,000.

The number of grammar school places, however, has remained roughly the same.

Frank Bunting, northern secretary of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, said he believed many were put off by the prospect of children taking different tests on different days.

He added that parents accepted that there were alternatives to grammar schools.

“We have very successful non-selective post-primary schools like St Patrick’s High School in Keady,” Mr Bunting said.

Education minister CaitrÌona Ruane claimed the figures suggested that parents are abandoning academic selection.

“If there are 13,737 entrants for the two tests, that figure will include a significant double count of children entered for both tests,’’ she said.

“The entrance test figures are likely to mean that whilst the transfer test attracted two-thirds of children last year, entrance tests this year may have failed to attract the majority of children.

“Parents are clearly suspicious of unregulation and independent tests not sanctioned or approved by my department.

“Grammar schools should abolish these tests.”

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