Northern Ireland news

11-plus exams have social, educational and economic impact on children

Academics have said new research is needed into how academic selection contributes to poor performance

GRAMMAR school entrance tests have a social, educational and economic impact on children, a study has found.

The Centre for Research in Educational Underachievement (CREU) at Stranmillis University College said new research was needed into how academic selection contributed to poor performance.

Its report was published ahead of the issue of 11-plus results.

Children will today learn whether their grades are enough to secure their first choice post-primary school.

Thousands of P7s sat the two separate unregulated transfer tests late last year.

The CREU said addressing educational underachievement was a "significant and complex challenge".

Its paper focused on the significant relationship between underachievement, social disadvantage and "the myriad of in-school and out-of-school factors associated with achievement".

"Internationally, a long tail of underachievement belies Northern Ireland's reputation for producing academically high-achieving pupils, indicating a country level problem requiring a Northern Ireland-specific focus," the CREU found.

"A shift in policy regarding schools and communities has seen numerous studies of the impacts of shared education and extended schools provision, but academic selection remains a largely untouched element of education policy despite its determinant effects on pupils' attainment."

The last major investigation into the 11-plus, the authors said, was carried out in 2000, which "provides significant insights into the social, educational and economic consequences of selection".

"For our present purposes the area of greatest concern is the finding that the most important factor which influenced student achievement at GCSE level was whether individuals had been placed in a grammar school or not," the report said.

"This is of particular concern given that access to and performance in the transfer tests, and eventual placement in a grammar school were found to be mediated by socio-economic status."

Meanwhile, 21 primary schools across north Belfast have warned that social media is having a "significant impact" on pupils' wellbeing.

The head teachers released a joint statement warning parents that primary school children "appear to be accessing social media from a younger age without having the maturity to deal with the issues that may present".

The schools asked parents to "consider the impact of unsupervised use of mobile devices and phones and watches outside of school as well as limiting their use in school".

The statement - issued by schools from all sectors - stated that every January schools see a rise in pupils using new devices outside the classroom.

"Currently social media outside of school is having a significant impact on our pupil wellbeing," the statement read,

It added: "All our schools appreciate the necessary support of parents in ensuring their children's responsible and safe use of social media and mobile phones."

The principal of St Vincent de Paul Primary School in Ligoniel previously sent a letter to parents saying it "had been increasingly difficult" to deal with problems raised by pupils' use of social media.

Bronagh McVeigh also said she had received concerning reports that "some pupils are sending/receiving unsavoury and abusive messages, videos and texts".

In October, The Irish News reported that Belfast Royal Academy (BRA) was enforcing a new mobile phone policy to tackle bullying and stop disruption in classes.

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