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Many parents across Northern Ireland will move their children to a different primary school at the start of the new term if their teachers refuse to prepare them for new grammar tests, it has been warned.
Ulster Unionist education spokesman Basil McCrea said that parents will want to ensure that their children are as well prepared as possible for the new exams.
More than 5,000 children are already registered to sit the entrance papers set by the Association for Quality Education, which represents 34 grammars.
Thousands more are thought to have signed up for tests set by GL Assessment in England for a further 34 schools. The closing date for registration is September 18.
Mr McCrea also predicts that children in classes below P7 may also be moved by anxious parents thinking ahead to their final primary year.
Northern Ireland’s teaching unions have cautioned teachers against providing tuition for the tests and Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has also spoken out about potential legal challenges schools could face.
Some schools are following this advice but others are planning to help children with their test preparation and some are even holding summer classes for incoming P7 pupils.
Mr McCrea said: “I am quite sure that more parents will move their children early in the new school year.
“They know that children who are not prepared for the tests will be disadvantaged when it comes to competing against others who have been supported by their primary school.
“I think the Minister is hoping that legal challenges will be made and that this will be left to the courts to sort out. However, in the meantime teachers, parents and pupils are all stressed and confused about what is happening.”
In a statement to the Assembly in June, Ms Ruane said: “Primary schools are assured that they cannot be pressured into serving the admissions process of post-primary schools — and many already understand that.
“The role of a primary school, a vital and precious role, is to deliver primary education to children — nothing else.”
Harry Greer is principal of Harmony Hill Primary School in Lisburn and a member of the National Association of Head Teachers’ Northern Ireland committee. He said: “We have assured parents that their children will follow the revised curriculum and that we are confident that they will be able to sit whatever tests are put in front of them.
“Teachers are stuck in the middle of a very confused situation where parents are very anxious.
“I know that our parents are happy with what we intend to do and I do not envisage a lot of movement of children to other schools — unless parents are deeply unhappy with what their principal is telling them.
“I have heard about principals of some schools coming under pressure from both sides — with some parents saying they want their children prepared for tests and others demanding that their children are not disadvantaged by exam preparation. This needs to be sorted out politically as soon as possible.”