General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

 


Grammars set for new transfer tests

10-11-2009

Irish News

Grammar schools are making final preparations for new entrance tests starting this week. More than 7,000 primary seven pupils are expected to sit the first of three Common Entrance Assessment (CEA) papers on Saturday.

The results of these unregulated transfer exams will determine whether children will be awarded a place at one of 34 non-Catholic grammar schools.

One week after the first CEA exam, a similar number of children will sit multiple-choice papers set by GL Assessment which are being used by another group of schools, most of them Catholic.

A total of 13,737 pupils have been entered for tests – about 1,600 fewer than for the final official 11-plus last year.

It has emerged that just five per cent of pupils taking the CEA papers are entitled to free school meals.

Free lunches are usually provided to children whose parents receive benefits or whose family income is less than £15,000.

The families of those entitled to free meals – about 350 – did not have to pay the CEA’s £35 entry fee.

This means the Association for Quality Education, which runs the CEA, raised almost a quarter of a million pounds in entry fees.

The newly published figure mirrors the socio-economic make-up of the grammar school population, where about six per cent of children are on free meals.

The average free meal entitlement in non-grammar secondary schools is about 17 per cent.

Meanwhile, with just days to go before the first test, education minister Caitriona Ruane has again been asked to commission a new state-sponsored 11-plus for use next year.

In response to an assembly question asked by Alastair Ross of the DUP, Ms Ruane said she had no plans to ask the north’s exams board to prepare a new test.

Mr Ross had said such a move would help “avoid uncertainty for P6 pupils and parents next year”.

The minister replied: “The 11-plus is gone and will not be coming back in any form. Academic selection is a failed process and there is no place for it in our education system.

“My department’s policy clearly states that post primary transfer should not involve academic testing.

“I do not therefore propose commissioning a test, as this would merely serve to perpetuate the inequalities associated with the former transfer test.”

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