General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

 


More details of new grammar tests revealed

11-02-2009

Irish News

Further details have been revealed of new entrance tests primary pupils are expected to have to sit to win places at grammar schools next year.

There will be no 11-plus for pupils this autumn but some are likely to face a number of new exams instead.

About 40 grammars look like they will ignore guidance from education minister Caitriona Ruane that asks them to operate non-academic admissions criteria only.

Grammar schools, as well as two ‘bilateral’ all-abilities colleges, are dividing themselves into two camps – those using a new English and

maths-based Common Entrance

Assessment (CEA), and those operating a verbal reasoning test.

The verbal reasoning papers planned so far by 10 schools are being devised by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which sets entrance tests in England.

Schools opting for this say such testing has been used for 15 years in England and not yet been subjected to legal action.

Children will be given answer sheets which will be marked electronically, with visual rechecks available. NFER will provide all marking and remarking.

There will be two papers – one in the morning and one in the afternoon of Saturday November 7.

By contrast, the CEA will consist

of three separate papers taken on November 14 and 21 and December 5. Pupils can opt to sit two or three papers. All will be marked and the best two will be used to produce the final mark.

The CEA has been set in the same way as GCSE and A-level papers, with a chief examiner and a team of

revisers. The Association of Quality Education, which commissioned the CEA, said in keeping with normal practice “we will not be releasing the names of those involved”.

Marking will be carried out independently.

In two areas of the north at least, children who apply for more than one grammar school – as is the norm – could be forced to sit tests on four Saturdays within a five-week period.

In Derry, Lumen Christi College and Thornhill College are offering the aptitude test but Foyle and Londonderry College is in the CEA camp.

Similarly in Ballymena, while two schools – Ballymena Academy and St Louis’ Grammar – have come together to offer the NFER option, Cambridge House has opted instead for the CEA.

Of the 28 grammars yet to make their position known, 22 are Catholic.

They are expected to wait for the findings of a working group set up by the Commission for Catholic Education. As with the 11-plus system, not every grammar will operate academic tests.

Lurgan College and Portadown College will continue with the non-selective Dickson Plan at 11 and only separate children from the age of 14.

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