Academic selection: “The plan for a new transfer test cannot be an overhaul of the archaic 11-plus”
The high schools were told that any plans to hold a one-time transfer test “can’t just be a throwback to the old 11-plus.”
Two unofficial testing systems have been run by two private companies since the abolition of the state over 11 exam over 10 years ago.
Currently, children can take up to five tests if they fit into both systems, defined by the PPTC for predominantly Catholic grammars and the AQE for other grammars.
SDLP education spokesman Daniel McCrossan said he hoped the move would be a step towards ending academic selection once and for all, while the Children’s Commissioner has said the proposal “smacks of desperation after last year’s debacle.”
While the proposal – which would see the current tests replaced in 2023 – has not yet been accepted by all high schools, the education ministry said it would welcome any initiative to streamline the process.
âAny development that facilitates the transfer process for children and their families is to be welcomed,â he said.
But although he welcomed the proposal, Mr McCrossan said the SDLP’s position remains that academic selection must go.
âThis does not serve our students, our teachers, nor our schools and it is high time that a level playing field was created.
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. “It is cruel that our children are forced to take these tests and that has to change.”
Plans would see a new business – the School Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG) – set up to take the test, with proposals developed by 15 current and former grammar directors.
The majority of high schools are believed to have endorsed the proposal, which would see two tests in English and math, although a minority still oppose it.
The deadline for schools to sign up for the plan is supposed to be September 29 at 3 p.m. ET.
“There will be a mix of multiple-choice and free-answer items,” the document revealed.
It is suggested that there would be an administrative payment by parents of Â£ 20 per pupil, pupils who can claim a right to a free school meal are not charged.
Children’s Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said the plan is nothing more than a tinkering around the edges of a 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, that does little to eliminate the deep inequalities that academic selection perpetuates 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.”
Jayne Thompson, head of Parentkind in Northern Ireland, said the confusion parents face must be ended.
âClear communication for parents is necessary,â she said. âParents have repeatedly told us about their concerns about their child’s preparation for the transfer tests. This is why we call on this new body to give clarity to parents. “
Sinn Fein MP Pat Sheehan said he was concerned about the report, adding that the transfer test should be removed and not combined.
His point of view has been echoed by the Irish National Teachers’ Organization. âINTO remains totally opposed to academic selection by any means offered by high schools and their allies,â Northern Secretary Gerry Murphy said.