Northern Ireland

'Significantly modified' transfer tests to go ahead in November

Pupils will sit the assessments in November
Pupils will sit the assessments in November

GRAMMAR school entrance exams to be taken in November will be "significantly modified" due to the massive disruption faced by pupils.

The Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC), representing mostly Catholic grammars, has confirmed its assessments will be held on Saturday November 13.

Several member schools in Belfast, Fermanagh, Derry, Tyrone and Down have opted out.

There have been calls for all schools to drop academic selection for a second year due to long periods of lockdown affecting children's education.

The PPTC has also confirmed that it has abandoned plans to resurrect IQ-style verbal reasoning tests.

Its entrance assessment will, as in past years, consist of an English paper and a maths paper.

But it said these will be "significantly modified to take account of the disruption to formal education experienced by pupils and the desire expressed by parents and teachers that the assessment be held around November time rather than in January 2022".

Children will take the tests in grammar schools as in previous years.

Specification guides will soon be made available on the PPTC website and will set out specific steps that have been taken to reduce the overall demand.

In English, the number of comprehension passages will be reduced from three to two, while in maths the specification will show that the overall demand has also been reduced - for example, by limiting both the topic areas to be assessed and the content within some topic areas.

"Over the past weeks and months PPTC has engaged with parents, primary school principals, its own members, its test provider GL Assessment and other stakeholders to help shape and finalise plans for the entrance assessment," a spokesman said.

"PPTC confirmed that parents and teachers were very strongly of the view that the tests should be based on English and mathematics, should be held during the normal time period after Halloween and before the Christmas break and should be adapted to reflect the disruption to schooling experienced by pupils who will sit the assessment.

"A number of ways in which the traditional entrance assessment might be adapted to suit the 2021/22 situation have been suggested. PPTC has been working closely with GL Assessment to incorporate key changes."

He added that many parents would prefer the assessments to be held in the pupils' own primary schools. However, there was an equally clearly articulated view from primary principals and from a teaching union that they should continue to be held in PPTC schools.

"To ensure that all pupils have the same experience, the entrance assessment will continue to be held in PPTC centres, with appropriate Covid safeguards in place," he said.

PPTC will run entrance tests for 21 schools this autumn, 14 of them Catholic grammars. A further 15 Catholic grammars have decided not to select on the basis of test scores next year.

For further details and a full list of PPTC schools see