General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Rebel schools unveil test to replace 11-plus


18/06/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Belfast Telegraph

Thirty grammar schools today released detailed information on the new common entrance tests which will be used to select pupils after the 11-plus is consigned to history later this year.

Every primary school in Northern Ireland was today due to receive packs from the Association for Quality Education (AQE) relating to the exams which will be taken for the first time in the autumn of 2009 by pupils currently in P5.

The grammar schools have decided to plough ahead with developing the Common Entrance Assessment (CEA) because they say the Department of Education has not brought forward any satisfactory alternative.

The CEA will consist of three one-hour papers, similar in format to the current 11-plus. Pupils will sit the tests in grammar schools on Saturdays.

They will assess only English and Mathematics and marks will be awarded on the basis of the best two scores.

If funding is not provided by the department, the schools hope to keep the cost of the test to under £30 per pupil.

There will be no charge for young people who receive free school meals.

The CEA information pack for primary schools includes information on the expected timetable, a guide for parents, sample test questions, a draft registration form and details on how special educational needs will be dealt with.

In response to questions from the Belfast Telegraph, AQE confirmed that pupils sitting the tests will be awarded a score rather than a grade and it will then be up to individual schools to decide how these are used. Some may allocate places in rank order while others may decide to use different criteria to allocate places among pupils they judge to be suited to a grammar school place.

Writing for today's Telegraph, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, chair of the AQE, said: "It is not elitist but logical to recognise that children have different talents and aptitudes, some mainly academic and some mainly vocational, but all of them essential and to be valued in a successful society."

An agreed new school transfer system for the whole of Northern Ireland is hanging in the balance as politicians have failed so far to agree on any proposal put forward.

Education Minister Caitriona Rune is moving ahead with her plan to phase out academic selection over three years - however, this proposal has already been criticised by the DUP, Ulster Unionists and the SDLP.

Despite this, the minister has already commissioned exams body CCEA to work on a temporary transfer test to enable grammars to select 50% of their pupils based on their academic ability in 2010, 30% for the intake in 2011 and 20% in 2012. In 2013, Ms Ruane says that all admissions would be based on non-academic criteria.

The minister has yet to follow through on commitments to send out information to schools, parents and every household in the province.

She said earlier this year: "Schools considering a breakaway entrance exam should be aware of the considerable legal and financial risks they may face if they decide to proceed.

"There is the potential for multiple appeals and litigation aimed at overturning admissions decisions.

"I have made clear that the Department of Education will not fund or support any such entrance exam."



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