Northern Ireland

Union urges suspension of this winter's 11-plus

Children will sit 11-plus-style exams on four consecutive Saturdays
Children will sit 11-plus-style exams on four consecutive Saturdays

A LEADING teachers union has urged grammar schools to suspend entrance tests due to take place this winter.

The INTO said pupils currently in P6 should be spared suffering any mental anguish.

The union debated a motion on academic selection at its annual northern conference yesterday.

All exams were cancelled for P7 pupils due to considerable 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 in March for the first time since December.

However, children will sit 11-plus-style exams on four consecutive Saturdays.

The Association for Quality Education has confirmed the dates of its three papers - November 20 and 27 and December 4.

Separate assessments used by members of the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) will be held on Saturday November 13.

Several PPTC schools in Belfast, Fermanagh, Derry, Tyrone and Down have opted out this year.

INTO assistant northern secretary Mark McTaggart told the conference that academic assessments should not be used for the selection of incoming Year 8s to post-primary schools.

"In 2020, had boards of governors made the sensible decision with regard to the criteria to be applied for selecting pupils for post primary school, then children as young as nine, their parents and school staff, would not have had to endure the unnecessary mental anguish they were put through for nine months," he said.

"INTO calls on boards of governors to make decisions on this before the beginning of the summer holiday.

"The decision that would allow time to draw up alternative criteria for the transition of pupils is a correct one and could pave the way for the necessary discussion on the manner in which all children transition from the primary sector to the post primary sector."

He added that primary school leaders should not be asked to facilitate the administration of unregulated tests in their own classrooms.

"Rather than trying to find ways to prioritise the process over the children, INTO simply asserts that boards of governors should use the Department of Education criteria, as most have this year.

"If children and parents are informed that this will be the arrangement now, before children invest heavily in an academic process, timescales can be reasonably maintained and fairness for children can be ensured," he said.

"INTO believes there is a better, fairer way than the current system of academic selection."