Education news

Primary schools need urgent clarity on transfer test plans

Primary schools need urgent clarity on transfer test plans

A CAMPAIGN group is demanding "absolute clarity" around an appeal to primary schools to host transfer tests.

Thousands of pupils are due to sit 11-plus-style exams in grammar schools next month.

There are concerns about allowing so many young people to gather together at a time when the north is under a strict lockdown.

When many schools had finished for the holidays, education minister Peter Weir urged primary principals to host the tests.

Unions are angry and have accused Mr Weir of laying the groundwork to blame principals should the exams still have to be scrapped.

The AQE test provider has pointed out that, as a private company, it has no remit or authority over primary schools.

Its papers will be held in existing venues, as planned.

Naomi McBurney launched #bringitbacktoprimary in January this year. Her campaign argues that children should take exams in more familiar and comfortable settings.

Following Mr Weir's last-ditch statement, Ms McBurney called on the minister "to provide absolute clarity".

"Whether people support academic selection or not, many are united on one fact - if tests continue, they must be brought back to the child's home primary school, this is the best course of action for every child," she said.

"Of course, Covid-19 has made it crucial due to the need for protective bubbles and the risk associated with large indoor cluster groups. If minster Weir is serious about primary schools hosting transfer tests, he needs to go one step further and provide clarity to principals and boards of governors about what this means for them.

"His statement did not go far enough and has caused much speculation that the administration of unregulated transfer tests will fall to already stretched primary school staff. This doesn't need to be the case and direction and leadership should come from minister Weir."

The papers were originally due to take place in November. They were pushed back by a few weeks before a legal challenge saw them further postponed until January.

There are now two separate legal challenges being prepared against the arrangements for the forthcoming tests.

A child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and who has significant underlying health conditions, is bringing forward one of these. Her family believes the arrangements, which will see bubbles being forced to mix, is dangerous.

The second argues that during the pandemic "testing at primary school age should be abandoned in favour of safer methods of selection".

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