General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Thousands switch schools in pursuit of better results


21/11/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Thousands of pupils are switching schools every year in pursuit of better education - but figures show that more are transferring to non-grammars.

Both grammar and non-grammar secondary schools are receiving an influx of new pupils preparing to undertake GCSE and A-level study.

Statistics compiled by the Department of Education show that about 3,000 are leaving one school for another by the end of Year 10 and 12.

Pupils will traditionally begin working towards GCSEs after Year 10, while most embark on AS and A-levels after Year 12.

Children change schools for many reasons. Some feel their education would benefit from being at a different sixth form, some are attracted by different combinations of subjects while others transfer when moving into a new area.

There is a perception that the majority of children who leave their schools to pursue exams transfer mostly to grammars but this is not borne out by the department's statistics.

According to the most up to date figures - for the 2006/07 academic year - a total of 766 pupils switched to a new or different non-grammar school by the end of Year 10 compared to 573 who won places at a grammar.

The majority of the 766 going on to take GCSEs or equivalent exams moved from another non-grammar school. Just 54 switched from the grammar sector.

At Year 12 the picture was different with grammar schools receiving a slightly higher number of transferees.

The figures show, however, that the numbers of pupils leaving grammar for non-grammar education ahead of sixth form is rising - jumping from 143 in 2005/06 to 157 in 2006/07.

Observers have previously suggested that some grammar school pupils may never have been prepared for the demands of academically-biased schooling.

Falling pupil numbers mean children scoring C and D grades in their 11-plus, who in the past would have been turned away, are being offered grammar places.

Many, therefore, later struggle to achieve the required standard at GCSE and A-level and move elsewhere.

The numbers remaining in a non-grammar setting beyond age 16 is also rising annually.

Many secondary schools have started A-level courses in recent years which has helped boost the number of new pupils and retain existing students beyond their GCSEs.

St Colm's High School in Draperstown began offering A-levels for the first time four years ago.

"Due to the economic climate and our success at A-level we have more opting to do the A-level exams than would have done previously," principal Roisin McKenna said.

"It is a major positive for these children as prior to this they would not have taken the leap to A-levels."



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