Northern Ireland news

11-plus groups to respond to cancellation calls

The independent exams are scheduled to take place over four Saturdays in November

THE two groups that run grammar school entrance exams will this week share their plans with politicians at Stormont.

There are calls for the unregulated 11-plus-style tests to be delayed or even cancelled.

Either scenario would likely have major implications for thousands of children, their parents and schools.

The independent exams are scheduled to take place over four Saturdays in November.

With schools likely to remain shut until after the summer, many parents are worried about how prepared their children will be should the tests proceed as planned.

Education Minister Peter Weir has said it is "extremely likely" there could be a phased reopening of schools in September.

It is unknown which groups of pupils would come back first. There is no guarantee every P7 would return at the same time, for example.

There has been no state involvement in transfer tests for a decade. Grammar school entrance exams are instead run by two private organisations, the Association for Quality Education (AQE) and Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC).

A small number of grammar schools operate non-academic admissions criteria only.

The two testing groups have been invited to make a formal presentation to the assembly education committee on Wednesday.

They have already delayed the start date for parents to register their children and are also working to establish if the assessment can be pushed back from November.

This would provide all pupils with "valuable additional P7 time" before being assessed.

Parents of P6 pupils have regularly shared their concerns with The Irish News saying the lockdown has meant their children will miss the entire summer term.

Since Mr Weir changed his department's policy to allow preparation, many schools have `taught to the test' in P6. This means all pupils, regardless of social background, can be prepared.

Some parents have said that if the tests go ahead as planned, there is a risk that less well-off children will be disadvantaged as their families cannot afford private tuition. Many tutors are continuing to offer one-to-one sessions online during the lockdown.

A wide-ranging survey by education charity Parentkind has also highlighted worries about the forthcoming transfer tests.

One in 10 parents polled said their biggest concern was that their child would not be be prepared. This was largely not an issue in Wales or England, the same survey found.

Mr Weir has already told the assembly that he has zero legislative authority to call a halt to 11-plus exams this year.

Neither he, nor the Department of Education, has any influence over the unregulated system of academic selection, he said.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news