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Schools with new AQE test have north’s richest pupils


18/12/2007 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Schools planning to keep their own entrance tests after the 11-plus is abolished have the richest pupils in the north, government figures show.

Only a small group at the breakaway schools planning to continue using academic ability to select top students are receiving free school meals (FSM).

FSM entitlement is the simplest and most common measure of social disadvantage in schools.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane has said the 11-plus will end next year, with pupils themselves to make important choices about post-primary paths at the age of 14.

The Association for Quality Education (AQE) has named 25 schools it claims have now signed up to a new test. There are 69 grammars in the north.

Missing from the list were every Catholic grammar as well as one of the largest and most prestigious schools, Methodist College Belfast.

Official statistics show that just 3.7 per cent of pupils at the AQE 25 - which include the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Royal School Armagh and Royal School Dungannon - are entitled to free dinners.

This compares to 7.8 per cent in the grammars that are opting out.

The non-grammar schools, who cannot select pupils on academic ability, have more than one quarter of all pupils receiving free meals.

It is thought parents will be charged a fee if they wish their children to take the new AQE test, although the relatively small number of low-income families will not have to pay.

Some supporters of retaining academic selection, meanwhile, are arguing that if is to remain then it should be "real academic selection" with a cap placed on grammar entry.

A quota was last set in the late 1980s. Then about the top 27 per cent of 11-plus candidates were awarded grammar places.

If grammar schools are only entitled to admit A and B1 pupils now - about 30 per cent - some of the AQE 25 members would have dozens of empty desks.

With pupil numbers continuing to fall, many schools have been admitting children who previously would not have achieved the 11-plus grade necessary.

Two of the schools that signed up to the AQE test - Cambridge House in Ballymena and Coleraine Academical Institution - both admitted at least 20 children with Ds last year.



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