General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Focus on Catholic grammars


Irish News

Thousands of primary school children will this week sit the first ever entirely multiple-choice 11-plus test.

Last Saturday about 7,000 pupils became the first to try new independent grammar school entrance exams. The hour-long Common Entrance Assessment paper consisted of 58 English and maths questions.

The results of these un-regulated exams will determine whether children are awarded a place at one of 34 non-Catholic grammars.

Now attention turns to a second group of schools, which are using multiple-choice papers.

The Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC), is made up of 34 schools, most of them Catholic grammars.

They are using maths and English papers drawn up by GL Assessment, an independent supplier of tests for schools in England. A total of 6,714 pupils have entered.

Some have applied to take both types of tests, meaning they face sitting exams on four successive Saturdays.

PPTC chairman Ronnie Hassard, who is principal of Ballymena Academy, said that this Saturday pupils would take a 50-minute English paper followed by 45 minutes of maths.

Responsibility for hosting the tests has passed from primary to grammar schools this year, placing an added burden on staff.

“There has been a great deal of detailed, careful planning needed. We take seriously the responsibility that we have to look after these children,” Mr Hassard said.

“Behind the politicking, it was not our decision to bring the children out of their primary schools to do this assessment.

“It was our decision to do the assessment. The alternative is not in children’s interests at this moment.”

Pupils will arrive at test centres at about 8.30am. There will be short ‘preamable’ sessions before both the maths and English papers in which practice questions will be asked. There will be a 30-minute break between papers.

As with the 11-plus, children will receive an overall grade: A, B1, B2, C1, C2 or D.

It is not yet possible to indicate exactly what mark is necessary for each grade, although they will be determined in the same way as under the previous system.

Papers will be marked externally and will have grade boundaries similar to those of the 11-plus.

While there was some multiple-choice element to the old transfer tests, pupils were often asked to provide detailed answers.

By contrast, the fact that the new English and maths tests are entirely multiple choice means that children struggling with questions have a one-in-four chance of guessing the correct answer.

Parents have been told that they “should not expect your child to be able to answer all of the questions” because the tests are designed to assess the full ability range of children.



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