56 NI high schools register for the single transfer test
The majority of high schools in Northern Ireland have agreed to do a single post-primary transfer test from 2023.
The move will involve the creation of a new company – the Schools’ Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG) – to run the test, which will be on behalf of 56 high schools that have signed up for the process.
The single test will replace the double tests, organized by the AQE and the PPTC since the completion of the Eleven Plus exam in 2008.
Although transfer tests were canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands of P7 students are expected to take place next month.
2022 will be the last year of the separate processes, with most Catholic grammars using the PPTC exams and primarily Protestant schools using the AQE format.
About 60 high schools and several integrated schools continuously used transfer tests to select student admission for grade 8.
While plans to introduce the single test were revealed two weeks ago, high school principals had until September 29 to confirm whether they wanted to be part of the new process.
The document âTowards a single assessmentâ, which had been drafted by a group of directors, had been handed to the director earlier in September.
Although many have welcomed the standardization of the transfer testing system, there remains opposition to the academic selection of all Unionist parties in Stormont, with a warning that the new format must not be a return of the old Eleven Plus.
“It does not serve our students, our teachers, or our schools and it is high time that a level playing field was created,” said SDLP Education spokesperson Daniel McCrossan.
âAnything that improves the experience for our students is positive, but it is deeply regrettable that transfer tests remain in use long after they have proven to be archaic and inadequate. The idea that we can classify our children in a way that has a significant impact on their lives by the age of 11 is appalling.
âThis new one-time transfer test can’t just be a throwback to the 11 plus,â he said.
Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said the plan was nothing more than a tinkering around the edges of an education system in need of a complete overhaul.
“I am formally opposed to any system that selects our 10 and 11 year old children so deeply,” she said.
âFor some children, these plans will reduce the number of tests they would take, which in itself is welcome. However, this does very little to eliminate the deep inequalities that academic selection perpetuates in our society, and could be seen as a sign of desperation following last year’s debacle.
“Our education system needs a major reform, not a new bandage and tinkering around.”
The SEAG document revealed that the new assessment will consist of two tests that include elements of English and math.
âThe tests will take place on different dates – likely two weeks apart,â the company revealed.
âThere will be a mix of multiple choice and open-ended (supply) items. “
Irish language versions of the transfer test will also be provided, with parents asked to pay an entrance fee of Â£ 20, although there is no charge for pupils who are entitled to free school meals.
In a statement, the group of directors behind the plans – the AQE / PPTC implementation team – revealed the number of schools that have decided to join the new organization.
âWe are pleased to announce that 56 schools have agreed to join the new school entrance assessment group and we are awaiting final responses from a few more schools,â they said.
âHeads of member schools have been invited to indicate their interest in joining the SEAG Board of Directors and we look forward to the first meeting of member schools in November 2021.
â25 schools which had previously used the AQE tests agreed to join the new group, 27 which had used the PPTC tests and four which had used both tests to select students.
âEighteen of the schools are located in the greater Belfast area; the other 38 are spread across Northern Ireland, âthey said.
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