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Children to sit one paper in new test


24/10/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Primary seven pupils will sit just one test paper next winter under education minister Caitriona Ruane's plans for a temporary new transfer system.

Ms Ruane has said grammar schools will be able to admit half of first-years in 2010 using a new test being designed by the north's exams board, the CCEA.

Children entering the last ever 11-plus this year must sit separate papers, covering English, mathematics and science, on November 7 and 21.

But under the minister's plan, children will sit just one paper next year which will include questions on maths and English only.

Doubts have been expressed that the new test will be ready in time.

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

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

It said this should be as long as possible and begin no later than January 2008.

Ms Ruane only announced in May that an entirely new test was to be designed.

The Department of Education last night said that upon receipt of the minister's commission of May 14, work began immediately.

"A detailed specification and programme of work in relation to the development of an assessment mechanism has been drawn up, to proceed then to the development of suitable questions and test items," a spokesman said.

"These will be extensively trialled and will be subject

to the same rigorous development process as the transfer test."

Ms Ruane's commission was for one paper supported by a supplementary paper for those who who are ill or absent for other reasons.

The timetable will be similar to that used for the existing transfer test.

"Detailed costings for this development work, which will span the 2008-09 and 2009-10 financial years, are currently being prepared," the spokes- man said.

"Development costs will be reflected in CCEA's budget for these years when their amount and phasing between years has been confirmed and agreed by the department."

Ms Ruane proposes that her new test will stay in place for three years only. After that she plans that selection by ability will be forbidden.

Despite unionist opposition, Ms Ruane says she is pressing ahead and has requested a slot in the assembly's legislative programme.



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