General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Controversial school exam registration starts in days


Belfast Telegraph

Parents can begin registering their children for controversial new school entrance exams from next week.

The new grammar school application process gets under way on Monday and will result in pupils sitting tests in the autumn.

Almost all of the 69 grammars in both the controlled and maintained sectors have decided to set their own tests for pupils hoping to gain places in their schools in 2010 — against the advice of Education Minister Caitriona Ruane.

The Northern Ireland Commission on Catholic Education recently announced that a working group of grammar and secondary heads had agreed to work towards ending selection by 2012 — however, it also added that schools may opt to use academic testing in the short term.

An advertisement appeared in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday giving details of the 34 schools planning to offer a test compiled by English exams company GL Assessment. The test will involve two papers — one for English and the other maths — sat by pupils on November 21. There will be no fee.

The schools are mainly within the Catholic maintained sector but also include some integrated and controlled sector schools.

A registration pack can be obtained by writing to the schools concerned or downloading the pack from a school’s website.

The application process for schools catering mainly for Protestant pupils operating the Common Entrance Assessment through the Association for Quality Education also begins next week.

Pupils hoping to gain places in these schools can sit up to three tests in English and maths. The best two scores will count.

The association has announced that its 2009 entrance tests will be held at 33 grammar schools on November 14, November 28 and December 5. The cost will be £35 per pupil but free for pupils receiving free school meals.

More information on these tests can be found at The Catholic and state grammars are aiming to provide a single transfer test for P7 pupils from 2010.

Non-selective secondary schools are set to follow non-academic admissions criteria guidance set by the Education Minister.

Ms Ruane has said academic selection should not be used by any school.

Fred Brown from the NASUWT teaching union said that there is currently enormous pressure on primary head teachers.

“They are open to litigation from both sides. If head teachers do not put children in for tests their parents may say they have been disadvantaged but if they do other parents may feel their children have been subjected to undue stress,” he said.


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