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Top Catholic grammar to introduce own selection test


20/03/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Northern Ireland's top Catholic grammar school is to introduce its own entrance tests - having earlier dismissed the suggestion out of hand.

Lumen Christi College is planning an aptitude test, having denied considering the idea just weeks ago.

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

It is understood that the Derry school was considering, for some time, finding a way to retain academic selection.

In December, the Association for Quality Education (AQE) listed 25 schools it claimed had signed up to an alternative test but no Catholic grammar was on the list.

Well-informed sources told The Irish News that Lumen Christi was preparing to follow suit but this was denied by principal Pat O'Doherty.

The school now appears to have changed its mind. Rather than offer the same test as the AQE schools, it will instead draw up its own exam.

Mr O'Doherty last night said the school had been left with no option, adding that parents would not face any charge for entering their children for the new test.

"It is a matter of principle for us. We have made no secret that we are in favour of academic selection. We believe that it works," he said.

"We have been inundated with calls from parents asking how they are going to access Lumen Christi from 2010. This is the way we will go if we are forced to go it alone."

It is understood that the exam will be devised and marked by one of the private exam boards in England.

A specialist science school and one of the north's newest grammars, founded in 1997, Lumen Christi topped an Irish News list of the best-performing schools last year. Almost all its pupils - 97 per cent - achieved three or more grades A to C.

With around 850 students, it is the smallest of Derry city's grammars and its principal attributes much of its success to its size.

Ms Ruane last night said that at a time when she was working with the post-primary sector on new arrangements, it was disappointing that an individual school "set out to frustrate much needed reforms".

"The board of governors of Lumen Christi should be in no doubt, the Department of Education will not fund, facilitate or in any way support a breakaway entrance exam," she said.

"Any school opting for this route should have full knowledge of the risks involved, including the potential for multiple appeals and litigation aimed at overturning what are bound to be highly contentious admission decisions."



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