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Exams board 'needs more time to prepare tests'


16/05/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

The body tasked with designing a new exam to replace the 11-plus says it needs more money to have the test ready in time.

Education minister Caitriona Ruane yesterday told the executive that some form of academic selection could remain in the short-term.

Under her plan, grammar schools would be able to admit half of first year pupils in 2010 using a new test which will be drawn up by the north's exams board, the CCEA.

However, in the following two years this would be reduced to 30 per cent and 20 per cent - roughly the same percentage awarded A grades under the present system.

All other pupils would be selected on non-academic criteria such as family members at schools and geographical proximity.

After three years, it is planned that selection by ability would be forbidden.

CCEA had previously warned, however, that work on an 11-plus alternative would have had to begin by January 2008.

In a paper presented to the education committee, CCEA said adapting the transfer test for use beyond 2008 would require a "test development cycle of considerably longer than the normal 16 months".

It would be necessary to undertake a process of research and development to create an adapted test, the board said.

This period of research and development would have to be "as long as possible" and should begin "no later than January 2008".

Given that amended tests would relate to revised curriculum content there would be a requirement for a new specification, exemplar material and guidance for teachers and invigilators.

CCEA's paper, however, was based on its existing resources and 11-plus time scales.

If the minister's new tests were moved further back into the school year - to February or March instead of November - this would buy the exams board more time.

In addition, if extra resources were provided then a test could be developed in a shorter space of time.

CCEA chief executive Neil Anderson last night said he had received notice from the Department of Education that the minister was presenting proposals related to transfer to the executive.

"Only when we have had the opportunity to examine the minister's proposals in detail will we be able to determine the full operational implications for CCEA," Mr Anderson said.

"However, any request for CCEA to develop interim testing arrangements for first use in 2009/10, is likely to require significant re-prioritisation of our current work programme and additional funding."



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