General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Exam to replace 11-plus in doubt


23/10/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

There were major doubts last night that the academic test being drawn up to replace the 11-plus would be ready in time for its planned introduction next year.

Under education minister Caitriona Ruane's plans, grammar schools could admit half of first-year pupils in 2010 using a test being designed by the north's exams board, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

The Catholic Heads Association, which represents the principals of 31 grammars, proposed on Tuesday that schools use this test rather than set their own entrance exams.

However, The Irish News understands that, although work has begun on the new exam, no trials have taken place and insiders fear it will not be ready for Primary 7 pupils in winter next year.

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

The CCEA said it would be necessary to undertake a process of research and development to create an adapted test.

It said this period of research and development should be as long as possible and would need to have begun no later than January this year.

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.

The process of selecting test developers to produce new test materials would need to have taken place prior to January this year, the CCEA said.

It was not until May that Ms Ruane announced that an entirely new test was to be designed.

Observers have claimed this could take considerably longer than the traditional test development cycle.

It is not yet known whether the new tests will be similar to the existing 11-plus - two papers sat in November with results issued the following February.

The new papers could be taken later in the academic year to give the developers more time but this would put more pressure on parents and schools.

The Department of Education last night said it was working closely with the CCEA and was "still on track".

Also yesterday Ms Ruane met the Catholic Heads Association to discuss the group's concerns.

The association blamed "limited leadership" for forcing it to suggest schools retain academic selection.

After the meeting Ms Ruane said: "I am convinced that academic selection is both wrong and immoral and I am determined to continue to pursue a course of action to end it.

"I agree that the education sector needs breathing space to prepare for the change.

"That is why my compromise proposals include a three-year transition period."



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