General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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AQE grammar pupils tend to be from wealthy families


22/07/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Under the guidance of The Association of Quality Education (AQE), 30 schools say they are introducing new tests to continue selecting top-performing primary pupils after the 11-plus ends.

The AQE said its new Common Entrance Assessment is required because education minister Caitriona Ruane has so far "declined to produce a satisfactory alternative".

The test, to be introduced next year, will consist of three one-hour papers, similar in format to the existing 11-plus, and will focus on English and mathematics.

The papers will be taken on Saturdays in grammar schools (rather than primaries at present) and marks will be awarded on the basis of the two best scores - designed to guard against pupils under-performing on an 'off day'.

However, there are already concerns about children being awarded a score instead of a grade as this could allow individual schools to decide how the scores are used.

Some could 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 education.

The AQE says there will be no requirement for primary schools to undertake specific preparation for its assessment as it is based on the teaching pupils will receive in their normal classes.

The schools taking part tend to have pupils from wealthy backgrounds, even by overall grammar sector standards, but many are producing some of the poorest A-level results.

In addition Strabane Grammar, which is an AQE school, is already in the process of combining both a grammar and non-grammar intake.

AQE chairman Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, pictured, told The Irish News this year that his group was often portrayed "as being very selfish and all we give a damn about is our own 30 schools".

However, he said that in the absence of the minister producing "any credible criteria" his group felt obliged to develop the new test.



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