General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Top grammar plans own '11-plus'


19/03/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Belfast Telegraph

A top grammar school has broken ranks by unveiling plans to set its own alternative to the doomed 11-plus.

Lumen Christi - named as the top post-primary school in Northern Ireland in the Sunday Times' 2007 academic league tables - has reassured parents that they will not have to foot the bill for the two papers it will introduce in 2009.

The school appears to have broken ranks to become the first Catholic grammar school to design its own entrance exam for primary leavers.

The 11-plus will be axed later this year.

A statement from Lumen Christi said it would then introduce a two-part aptitude test because of the lack of guidance from the Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane.

It said: "The Board of Governors of Lumen Christi College firmly believe that pupils and their parents should have the option of academic selection. From its inception, the stated aim of Lumen Christi College has been . . . to enable children to realise their fullest academic potential."

The Board of Governors, in keeping with the vision and aims of the College, has decided that, in the absence of any specific guidance from DENI (Department of Education) on selection for places in grammar schools after September 2009, it will introduce an academic aptitude test.

"This alternative to the non-selective model currently proposed by the Minister of Education provides a pathway within the Catholic school system to an academic education.

"As of March 2008, the parents of pupils currently in Primary 5 have been given no information from DENI on the admissions criteria to be applied to their children for transfer to secondary school at the end of their primary education.

"In the absence of a robust, standardised and objective pupil profile from primary schools made available to the secondary school and discussed with parents in advance of parental choice of schools, the Governors of Lumen Christi have decided that the only viable option by which to identify those applicants most suited to an academic-type education is by means of an aptitude test."

The statement said that the Board of Governors believes that parents need to know well in advance about the process by which transition to the college will be effected.

It added: "Accordingly, the Board has decided to publish details regarding its aptitude test at this time in order to allay parental anxieties. They wish to ensure that accurate information is given to parents who may want their child to sit the test.

"The aptitude test will consist of two standardised Reasoning papers to be taken in the college in October of the final primary school year.

"The papers will be marked independently of the college.

"The Board of Governors of the college is confident that the aptitude test, professionally administered and independently marked, will provide the most objective evidence of ability. All pupils who wish to sit the aptitude test will have the opportunity to do so at no financial cost to themselves or their parents."

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education said that a process was under way to determine the way forward for Catholic education, and it would be inappropriate at this stage to comment on Lumen Christi's stance.



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