Northern Ireland news

End of transfer tests in Omagh grammars could open floodgates

 There have been just two Catholic grammar schools in the north that have willingly given up testing in the last seven years

Since the Catholic Church decided it was serious about ending academic selection, there has been nothing more than a slow trickle of schools falling into line.

The cities are still proving tough nuts to crack. Even when every other post-primary school is preparing to change around them, as is the case in north Belfast, the grammars plan to continue as they are.

There have been just two Catholic grammar schools in the north that have willingly given up testing in the last seven years.

Others have made noises about it, but either changed their minds or never followed through. Others again only stopped testing because they were merged with non-grammar schools.

Now that two big-hitters have made their intention clear, there is potential for the floodgates to open.

Omagh is a town with good grammar tradition and its schools cater for a huge area of west Tyrone.

Other large towns are already moving in a similar direction but their plans are not as far advanced. Meetings have been taking place in Enniskillen about creating two non-selective grammar schools in the Catholic sector.

Others elsewhere have hinted that they would, perhaps, move away from testing in tandem with other schools but no-one, so far, has been willing to show their hand.

But, while there may be a deluge in rural areas soon, it is likely to be some years before top-performing schools in Derry, Newry and Belfast change their minds.

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Northern Ireland news