Education news

Grammar school criteria `must not further entrench gaps in educational opportunity'

Paddy Kelly, Director of the Children's Law Centre

NEW admissions criteria being drawn up by grammar schools must not further entrench gaps in educational opportunity, it has been urged.

With all 11-plus-style exams cancelled, schools are devising contingency criteria.

Some are keen to retain an element of academic selection, although minister Peter Weir has cautioned there are "major problems" with this approach.

Admissions criteria are typically a matter for schools' own boards of governors.

However, 25 voluntary sector organisations have now called on Mr Weir to direct common contingency criteria for this year.

The bodies each endorsed a letter sent to the minister by Paddy Kelly, director of the Children's Law Centre.

Ms Kelly said it was critical that "any contingency admissions criteria deployed by schools do not further entrench gaps in educational opportunity".

She said the groups, therefore, requested the minister used powers available to him to "direct school boards of governors of all grammar schools on suitable contingency admissions criteria for this

academic year to ensure they do not unlawfully discriminate against any group of children".

"Such a process, conducted in line with powers of direction and in accordance with equality legislation, is likely to prevent further disruption to the transfer process this year," she added.

"We firmly believe these urgent actions are necessary and proportionate at this time to protect the best interests of our 10 and 11 year old children by ensuring their equality of access to continuity of education, including through access to the curriculum and protection of their health and wellbeing."

The INTO union said any attempt by grammar schools to request primary principals and teachers produce school-based assessments "to be used as a method of facilitating academic selection by the back door" would be resisted.

Assistant northern secretary Mark McTaggart said the record of achievement was the only profiling information that was required to be sent from a primary school to a receiving post primary when a pupil transitions.

"The decision to not test the Year 7 pupils in January and February this year, and to draw up alternative criteria for the transition of pupils is the correct one and paves the way for the necessary discussion on the way all children transition from the primary sector to the post primary sector," he added.

"INTO is up for that discussion, there is, we believe a better, fairer way to manage this process than the current system of academic selection."

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