Northern Ireland news

Colleges to host 'overflow' of pupils taking 11-plus

The first 11-plus test of the year will be taken by pupils on Saturday

MASSIVE entries for 11-plus-style exams will mean some children having to sit the papers at further education colleges.

Thousands are due to take the Common Entrance Assessment (CEA) on Saturday, and several will be unable to attend their first choice assessment centre.

Grammar schools remain split into two camps, using either the CEA set by the Association for Quality Education (AQE) or multiple-choice papers by GL Assessment.

Several children take both, meaning they face five papers over four consecutive Saturdays.

The AQE is operating four overflow centres to cope with high demand this year. There are 8,626 entries, down slightly from last year's 8,707.

Numbers had jumped by about 8 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

Overflow centres this year include Belfast Metropolitan College's Titanic and Castlereagh campuses, as well as the SERC campus in Lisburn.

Some parents have raised concerns about 10 and 11-year-olds, already nervous about the tests, having to take them at large colleges.

AQE Chief Executive Darrin Barr said children would be well looked after at all test centres.

Familiarisation days were held at the colleges last month.

"I offer my best wishes to all the young people who are sitting the AQE and GL tests during November. This can be a stressful time for all concerned, however, just treat the test mornings as you would any other normal school day and be kind to one another," he said.

"Each AQE centre has well trained and professional staff who will be doing everything possible to make sure the tests run smoothly and to ensure that the candidates are looked after."

The Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC), which uses the GL papers, and AQE last year agreed draft proposals for a new single test.

It would involve two papers taken on successive Saturdays with a supplementary paper for children missing one paper due to illness or other circumstances. The best score of the two tests would determine the outcome for each pupil.

The PPTC said there was overwhelming support from its schools for this model.

The AQE said it agreed in principle with a common assessment but said the proposal for two tests with one to count did not meet the standard required "to combat criticism from experts who oppose the concept of academic selection".

The GL Assessment papers will be taken on Saturday November 16 while pupils will sit papers two and three of the CEA on November 23 and 30.

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