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11-plus A grade 'not vital for grammar schooling'


09/07/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: NewsLetter

Pupils do not need to get an A grade in the 11-plus to benefit from a grammar school education, a leading advocate of academic selection has said.

Sir Ken Bloomfield, who speaks for grammar schools in the grouping Association for Quality Education (AQE), was responding yesterday to claims by Sinn Fein that 30 per cent of 'elite' grammar schools accept a majority of non-grade A students.

SinnFein education spokesperson John O'Dowd was quoting figures released to him in an Assembly answer from his party colleague, Education Minister Caitriona Ruane.

Mr O'Dowd said that the minister's figures show that 30 per cent of what he described as "elite grammar schools" now take a majority of students into the first year who did not get an A Grade in the 11-plus. The new figures also identify only four grammar schools in Northern Ireland that do not accept students with C or D grades, he added.

But Sir Ken said the inference of Mr O'Dowd's comments were that only people with an A grade were suitable for a grammar school education.

"However the reality is that there is not a significant difference between a grade A and a high B2," said Sir Ken.

"People with B2 grades are more than capable of benefiting from a grammar school education."

Sir Ken said that AQE is trying to find an objective standard above which students could cope with a grammar school education.

And he said that 11-plus results are not necessarily directly comparable from year to year as the grade bands are broken down by percentage.

What AQE really wants is for a consensus to be reached among political representatives and the Assembly Executive on the way forward in post-primary transfer in schools, he added.



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