Northern Ireland news

Two Derry grammar schools cancel entrance exams

St Columb's College and Thornhill College in Derry will not use academic selection this year

TWO more Catholic grammars have joined the ever-increasing list of schools opting out of winter transfer tests.

St Columb's College and Thornhill College in Derry will not use academic selection this year.

All exams were cancelled for P7 children due to disruption to their education.

There have been calls to abandon them for a second year because P6s have faced significant upheaval.

They only returned to classrooms on Monday for the first time since December.

Some governors have told The Irish News that there is a need to make decisions now to avoid causing anxiety.

They pointed out that there had been considerable disruption to learning and the pandemic had not yet gone away.

It is understood that the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) wants its member schools to state their positions by the end of the month.

Thornhill and St Columb's are PPTC members.

In a joint statement, they said they had reflected carefully upon the continuing impact of the Covid-19 crisis and the considerable disruption it had on the education of P6 pupils.

"These young people have faced a year of unprecedented challenge which has undoubtedly had a significant impact on mental and emotional well-being," the schools said.

"There is also no guarantee that disruption might not continue into the first term of the 2021-2022 school year when these pupils are in Primary 7.

"In response to these exceptional circumstances, and with a desire to provide a degree of certainty to those young people who would wish to attend our schools, the boards of governors and principals of both schools have agreed that they will not use academic criteria for admission to Year 8 in September 2022."

Neither school will use outcomes from the GL Entrance Assessment as part of their admissions criteria for the 2022/23 academic year.

"Each school remains committed to their own individual Catholic ethos and values and will continue to provide high quality teaching and learning, coupled with the highest standards of pastoral care. All

those young people who would normally apply to be admitted to each individual school are strongly encouraged to continue to do so," they added.

"We believe that this is the right decision for our schools and local communities and we hope that this decision provides much needed clarity for those Primary 6 pupils and their parents/guardians/carers who would like to apply for admission to our schools.

St Mary's Christian Brothers' Grammar School and Lagan College, both in Belfast, have already abandoned academic selection for a second year.

Other PPTC schools are considering a discussion paper that suggests using aptitude-based instead of English and maths assessments.

They are expected to say soon whether they will stick with English and maths, switch to `reasoning' papers, or cancel exams again.

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