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Catholic schools warned to stop preparing children for 11-plus

Catholic schools have been warned to stop preparing children for 11-plus tests

CATHOLIC school chiefs have warned principals to stop supporting academic selection by preparing children for 11-plus tests.

The Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS) sent a letter to the principals and governors of its 374 primary schools.

While most grammar schools use unregulated entrance tests, Department of Education guidance instructs primary providers not to undertake any activity which could be interpreted as preparation for such exams.

Some teachers have said they are still put under pressure by parents to help prepare pupils.

In its letter, CCMS said it had been made aware that on numerous occasions, schools continued to engage in activity contrary to the department's guidance.

That guidance, the letter read, stated that the responsibility of the primary school was to deliver the Northern Ireland curriculum and not to undertake any activity, during or after school hours, which could be interpreted as preparation.

"In addition, it is being reported that at parent meetings in some primary schools, principals are encouraging parents to enrol their children for the unregulated tests as this will increase the options for their children at post-primary level," the letter continued.

"Finally, some primary principals are signing `certificate of verification' forms used by grammar schools to confirm the performance of children in the unregulated tests.

"All of the above could be interpreted as some Catholic maintained primary school principals supporting academic selection which is contrary to the department's policy position and that taken by the senior trustees."

The letter was signed by CCMS head of education standards Malachy Crudden who said he felt it was necessary to reiterate that primary school principals "should not be contributing to any teaching, administrative or promotional activity which facilitates or may be interpreted as facilitating academic selection".

"Furthermore, at the time of transition from primary to post-primary schools, principals/teachers for their own protection should concentrate solely on reporting the level of ability of pupils to parents and not be drawn into situations where they are recommending one post-primary school/sector over another," he said.

"All school leaders and teachers have a duty to support all pupils in realising their learning potential through the delivery of the Northern Ireland curriculum. School leaders, in particular, need to be aware of the implications of any action taken which is beyond this guidance, on their own school and on the Catholic maintained sector as a whole."

The Catholic Principals' Association, which represents the views of about 230 Catholic schools, is due to discuss selection at its annual conference next month.

It has said it can think of no valid moral, ethical, social, logistical, demographic or educational grounds for continued academic selection.

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