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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 11:22 GMT
Children face final 11-plus paper
Thousands of children are sitting the exam
The future of the transfer test is uncertain

Pupils throughout Northern Ireland have sat the second and final part of the 11-plus tests on Friday.

For the first time in its history, the number of pupils taking the examination has dropped below 16,000.

The test comes ahead of a report next week by a government-appointed working body which has been investigating alternative ways of transferring pupils from primary to post-primary schools.

The Costello Group was due to report at the end of October, but has until 30 November to deliver its findings.

Northern Ireland's Education Minister Jane Kennedy said the transfer test would definitely take place next year but she has made no decision on future years.

The first part of this year's test took place on 7 November with 10 and 11-year-olds questioned on English, mathematics and science.

About two-thirds of the 24,000 eligible primary seven pupils sat the examination.

Assembly collapsed

Former education minister Martin McGuinness had moved to abolish the current secondary level education selection system hours before he left office last October.

The Sinn Fein MP said the final 11-plus tests should be in 2004.

Ms Kennedy, who assumed the education portfolio when the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed, had said she intended to follow the course of action set out by Mr McGuinness.

So far, no alternative has been found and no decision taken on whether academic selection should remain.

Mr McGuinness did not recommend a system to replace the 11-plus.

A previous report recommending the scrapping of the 11-plus was shelved in 2001 because the then-devolved assembly was suspended.

The Burns Review of Northern Ireland's education system, set up by Mr McGuinness, recommended an end to the test.

Grammar schools are against the Burns proposal and have argued for the retention of some sort of academic selection.

They want the right to choose pupils of the highest ability, while others feel the plans are not radical enough.

Last year, more than 16,500 pupils sat the transfer test and for the third year running, a higher proportion of boys than girls achieved A grades.

Fewer boys were entered for the exam, but those who were performed slightly better than the girls.

Kennedy 'will abolish 11-plus'
29 Oct 02  |  Northern Ireland
Education proposals 'not enough'
17 May 02  |  Northern Ireland
Consensus needed over Burns Report
02 May 02  |  Northern Ireland
Children give views on 11-plus
22 May 01  |  Northern Ireland
Report calls for end of 11-plus
24 Oct 01  |  Northern Ireland

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