Two hundred Catholic school principals in Northern Ireland have written an open letter calling for transfer tests to abandoned in 2020 due to the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Letter was published in The Irish News under the auspices of the Catholic Principals’ Association, urging Education Minister, Peter Weir to intervene and call a halt to tests.
The principals pointed to the emotional toll on primary school children during the pandemic and the break they have experienced in education since March.
The group also asked all grammar schools to suspend the tests. Already, eleven Catholic grammar schools are admitting pupils on criteria other than test results.
The Official 11+ test was abandoned in 2008 but since then unofficial transfer tests have been used by schools run by private test providers – Association for Quality Education (AQE) and the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC), which runs the GL Assessment preferred by Catholic schools.
Kieran O’Neill, chair of the Catholic Principals’ Association, told the BBC this week that he wanted other grammar schools to follow their lead. “The grammar schools that have already made the decision to suspend the use for this year have led the way,” he said.
Mr O’Neill has also called for the removal of test permanently going forward. The Principals’ Association wants a complete end to academic selection, and has called for the tests to be cancelled in future years due to the impact of the coronavirus.
“The current Year 5 children have just had four months out of school. Next year, following the formula suggested by Education Minister Peter Weir, they may have two days in school and two days off school and, depending how long this continues, they will receive 50% of their education for their whole P6 year.”
Archbishop Eamon Martin, has already called for Catholic grammar schools to suspend academic selection in 2020.
That request was rejected by Minister Peter Weir who said there was no “viable alternative” to put in the place of the transfer test. This despite a number of schools using alternative criteria.
If the exams do not go ahead, the schools would be required to use different criteria to select pupils.
In its letter, the Principals note that by the end of this month, Year 6 children will have missed out on four months of school and face-to-face teaching. Also, children in their final year of primary school before moving to secondary school this autumn will have significantly less face-to-face teaching.