Education news

Grammar schools considering IQ-style entrance exams

It has been reported that the PPTC is considering bringing back verbal reasoning

SCHOOLS are considering re-introducing IQ-style assessments that had been scrapped amid criticisms that children spent their time learning exam tricks.

The Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) has asked grammar schools if verbal reasoning tests should decide which pupils win places next year.

The PPTC is one of two groups that run unregulated transfer tests for P7s, catering mainly for Catholic grammars.

These were cancelled for pupils due to move from primary to post-primary this September.

There have already been suggestions that the exams should be called off again due to upheaval to children's education.

It has been reported that the PPTC is suggesting bringing back verbal reasoning to replace English and maths papers, due to continuing Covid-19 disruption.

Such tests were scrapped in the early 1990s. Reasoning was later combined with English and maths to make the old state-sponsored 11-plus tests more relevant.

However, these exams were replaced with tests in English, maths and science.

Verbal reasoning aims to provide an assessment of a child's ability to think and solve problems in different ways.

After the old 11-plus ended, schools that went on to form the PPTC initially considered using this model.

At that time, the Department of Education said this would be a "significant and retrograde step".

The schools later abandoned that plan in favour of English and maths assessments.

The option to bring the tests back is contained in a PPTC discussion paper, according to the BBC.

"Serious consideration should be given to moving away from an entrance assessment which is attainment based to one which is aptitude based," this paper said.

Aptitude based assessments, it added, included verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests.

It noted that some grammar schools in England used verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests to select young people.

Non-verbal reasoning involves no reading and can provide insight into the abilities of pupils who think more easily in images than words.

It also measures the potential of those with limited reading skills including dyslexia as well as poorly motivated pupils and those for whom English is not their first language.

In "an exceptional year", PPTC said, aptitude tests would be "much fairer". It also said primary school pupils already had experience in using such assessments.

GL Assessment, which provides the English and maths papers for PPTC schools, also produces reasoning tests.

It says these can "pinpoint gifted and talented pupils and underachievers".

Asked about the report, the PPTC told The Irish News that the discussion paper was "private and confidential" and formed part of an ongoing consultation being carried out by individual member schools and their boards of governors.

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