Northern Ireland news

'Let children sit 11-plus in primary classrooms' parents say

Thousands of children received their 11-plus results on Saturday

CHILDREN should be allowed to sit 11-plus tests in their own primary school classrooms, parents have said.

A new campaign is calling on education minister Peter Weir to review the current transfer test process ahead of next year.

There has been no state-involvement in the 11-plus since 2008, when P7 pupils took papers in their own schools.

Grammar schools have been operating two different styles of unregulated exams since then.

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

Children must sit these entrance tests in grammar schools while some even have to attend further education colleges which operate as overflow centres.

The #bringitbacktoprimary campaign is now urging Mr Weir to intervene.

Campaign organiser Naomi McBurney, a mother of two from Bangor, said children should take the tests in a more familiar and comfortable setting.

"I have two primary school aged children who will eventually be facing academic selection in P7," she said.

"When I considered how I felt taking the exam during the former transfer test system and talking with children and families going through the new system I knew I had to act.

"This is an extremely stressful time for children and their families, and I believe, along with many others, we have a duty to reduce that stress as much as possible. By enabling children to sit the exam in the familiar surroundings of the primary school they currently attend, we can help reduce the pressure they are feeling. We can create an environment that is better suited to the emotional needs of 10 and 11-year-old children."

Grammar schools remain largely split into two camps, using either the Common Entrance Assessment set by the Association for Quality Education or multiple-choice papers by GL Assessment.

The two groups have held discussions about a single test but are yet to agree plans.

Several children take both, meaning they face five papers over four consecutive Saturdays.

Ms McBurney added that such children widening their options often had to attend two different testing centres.

"With over 1,200 signatures already supporting the petition for change, it is evident this is an issue facing many children and families across Northern Ireland and there is a demand for a better way," she added.

"As grammar schools continue to enforce academic selection, the campaign calls for the education minister Peter Weir to step in, put children first and bring it back to primary schools."

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