General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

 


Pupils sit new tests for transfer

23-11-2009

Irish News

A total of 6,714 pupils registered to take new English and maths tests, although the total who turned up on Saturday is thought to be lower.

Unlike the old transfer system, in which there was a period of two weeks between tests, pupils sat both papers on the same day.

Principals of primary schools had earlier claimed that the new tests were fundamentally unfair, educationally unsound and totally contrary to Catholic ethos.

GL Assessment, which designed the papers, is said to have been provided with detail about the Northern Ireland curriculum.

But principals claimed there was “no possibility” that the new tests could have been based on the revised curriculum.

They said test materials they had been shown were based on the curriculum of England and Wales rather than the north’s ‘skills-based’ version.

The head teachers added that the multiple choice format was “alien” to work carried out in P7.

They further said it was impossible for children to be accurately tested for selection purposes using two 50-minute multiple choice style tests.

Some principals have also voiced concerns that parents and teachers were being denied sight of the questions their children attempted on Saturday.

Under the old 11-plus, principals received copies of papers which they could then give to children to take home.

This let parents see exactly what was asked and gave them an idea of how well their child performed.

However, GL Assessment said that it did not permit papers to be retained or reproduced, in order to maintain the security and integrity of its tests.

Indications are that Catholic grammars will continue to defy education minister Caitriona Ruane by continuing with entrance exams next year.

Schools are already planning meetings with non-Catholic grammars about a common test for next year, suggesting they are preparing for a future with selection.

In addition, there appears to be a lack of urgency among principals and governors in responding to a Church diktat to remove selection.

While a radical shake-up will see schools eventually stripped of names and grammar status, this will not happen fast enough to wipe out testing in the short term.

Next Saturday about 7,000 children at 34 different non-Catholic schools will sit the second of three Common Entrance Assessment papers.

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