Education news

Single transfer test is not the answer to post-primary education

UTU General Secretary Jacquie White

A TEACHERS' leader has urged the north to "re-think its attitude" around children's transition to post-primary education.

Almost 1,300 more pupils are transferring from P7 to secondary schools this year compared to last across the north.

Close to 24,000 have been informed about the schools they will attend in September.

A total of 115 remain without a place, although several more are appealing after missing out on their first choice.

The latest figures from the Education Authority show that east Derry is now an area where those unplaced are struggling to find a school.

There were 18 unplaced on the day letters were sent out, and 14 remain without a place.

Other under-pressure areas include Strangford, south Antrim and east Belfast.

More than 9,000 - almost 40 per cent of P7s - will transfer to grammar schools based on the grades of two different unofficial 11-plus exams.

Work by rival testing groups to agree a common assessment is continuing although the Association for Quality Education said the proposals were "not fit for purpose".

UTU General Secretary Jacquie White said the issue should not be how many tests children sit "but the fact they sit any at all".

"This is an iniquitous test which traumatises some children," she said.

"Instead of arguing over what test format to use, we need to embrace what's best for the child and that is to make what is already a huge step for them from primary school to the post primary sector, as stress-free as possible.

"Why should one, two, three or even four tests apparently legislate for the next up to seven years education in that child's life?"

Ms White added that children matured at different stages and 10 or 11 was "probably one of the least appropriate times in a child's life upon which to base any major event".

"Given that all post primary student follow the same curriculum and sit the same GCSEs and A-levels why do we even need some schools classified as grammar, others as non-grammar?

"Looking at the bigger picture in terms of our society in Northern Ireland, the system is equally objectionable.

"Instead of engendering a future of possibilities, our politicians allow children to drown in a system which sees too many turned off education by the time they're just nine or 10. Our future lies in the hands of the next generation and education must be a positive force in nurturing prosperity and inclusion for everyone in that future. The alternative is a more deeply divided society which breeds discontent and a disturbingly grim outlook."

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