Northern Ireland news

11-year old child launches legal challenge to January transfer tests

A legal challenge is being brought forward on behalf of an 11-year-old

AN 11-year-old child and her parents have issued a legal challenge against the arrangements for the forthcoming transfer tests.

Thousands of pupils are due to sit 11-plus-style exams in grammar schools in early January.

There are concerns about allowing so many young people to gather together at a time when the north is under a strict lockdown.

Late last Friday, when many had finished for the holidays, education minister Peter Weir urged primary principals to host the tests.

Unions are angry and have accused Mr Weir of laying the groundwork to blame principals should the exams still have to be scrapped.

The AQE test provider quickly pointed out that, as a private company, it had no remit or authority over primary schools.

It said its papers would be held in existing venues, as planned.

Now, a child, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and who has significant underlying health conditions, is bringing forward a challenge.

Her family believes the arrangements, which will see bubbles being forced to mix, is dangerous.

Current rules dictate that test centres should take all reasonable steps to assure the safety of children.

Phoenix Law said it was the view of its client that this had not happened and could not be guaranteed.

Alternatives including tests being carried out at home primary schools had been dismissed out of hand without proper justification, the firm said.

Ciaran Moynagh of Phoenix Law said the child and her family were keen that the transfer tests were concluded as soon as possible, but only if it was safe to do so.

The girl has been preparing all year like her classmates. However she, and her family, find it hard to accept the risks being posed by the current arrangements - especially in light of the new Covid-19 variant.

"As keen as families are to get the transfer tests over with, those with underlying health problems are being forced into impossible positions. This is a Hobson's Choice over their children's education and futures," he said.

"With the forthcoming tighter restrictions, it defies logic that hundreds of children should be forced to mix in this way. Everybody knows it feels wrong, but for this family the stakes are too high to ignore."

A separate potential challenge is being considered by KRW Law.

Its client is arguing that non-academic selection should instead be used by grammar schools for children who have applied to sit tests.

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Northern Ireland news