Northern Ireland news

City grammar schools to press ahead with 11-plus exams

Several grammar schools have confirmed their entrance tests will go ahead

Catholic grammar schools in Belfast and Derry have, as expected, confirmed they will ask children to sit entrance tests this winter.

Amid calls for clarity from parents, several schools said they would operate the unregulated system of academic selection.

Children will face different papers over consecutive weekends in November and December.

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A dozen schools, most of them Catholic grammars, had earlier agreed to cancel their exams for one year. They will use non-academic entrance criteria instead.

Parents said they feared that their children would not be ready for the 11-plus-style tests having been out of schools since March.

The Irish News had asked every Catholic school what its plans were for transfer 2020/21 - just one replied. This paper reported this week that the schools were planning to go ahead with their exams.

The Catholic grammar schools in Belfast have now confirmed their position in a joint statement.

Lumen Christi College in Derry also said "academic selection is, and remains, a key component of the admissions criteria".

"The college will continue to use the GL Entrance Assessment method," it added.

Two other Catholic grammar schools in Derry - Thornhill and St Columb's - had already said tests would not take place.

However, parents are encouraged to, and typically list several schools on children's transfer forms. The decision by Lumen means pupils who also apply for Thornhill or St Columb's will still take exams.

There has been no state involvement in the 11-plus for more than a decade. The entrance exams are instead run by private organisations, the Association for Quality Education (AQE) and Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC).

Schools are usually in one or other of these two camps, but a small number accept results from both.

The AQE said its 34 member schools were all committed to hosting assessments this winter.

All Catholic grammars who operate entrance exams are members of the PPTC.

The non-Catholic Rainey Endowed in Magherafelt, which is also a PPTC member, has indicated it will proceed with papers, and has produced a detailed online video guide for pupils and parents.

PPTC said it was taking "mitigating measures" to make its papers as accessible as possible for pupils.

Additional time will be afforded this year to the pupils to complete each of the two papers. There will also be a similar proportion of A, B1, B2, C1, C2 and D grades allocated as in previous years.

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