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Last Updated: Monday, 26 January, 2004, 09:03 GMT
Majority 'favour academic selection'

Maggie Taggart
BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent

A major survey for BBC Newsline has indicated that most people in Northern Ireland want to keep selection for grammar schools, but the majority think that the decision should be delayed past the age of 11.

The opinion poll is revealed as the Department of Education publishes details of the Costello Report which was set up to suggest alternatives to the current 11-plus transfer tests.

More than 1,000 people were surveyed and asked a wider range of questions than either of two family surveys which followed the controversial Burns report.

The report reviewed post primary education in the province.

Should the 11-plus be abolished?
55% Yes 41% No
Should academic selection be abolished?
31% Yes 67% No

Of those questioned, 56% believe the current method of using the 11-plus tests to select children for grammar school is fair.

But a majority of teachers, 53%, say it is not fair.

The aim of the MORI/MRC survey was to look behind the answers to find out what makes people take the stance they do on the 11-plus.

What social class do they belong to, what areas do they live in and did their children get into the school of first choice?

The survey suggests that despite complaints that the 11-plus rules out the popular grammar schools for many children, a massive 88% of respondents' children got into the school of first choice.

Thousands of children are sitting the exam
The future of the transfer test is uncertain

It seems to suggest that families are being realistic about making those choices and only apply for those schools which the child had a reasonable chance of getting into.

Two questions were central to the survey.

To the first, "should the 11-plus be abolished?" - 55% said yes, while 41% said no.

While 31% of people agreed that "all academic selection for grammar school be abolished?" - a large majority, 67% said it should stay in some form.

The survey also found that 43% of people thought the transfer tests were not a good way to select pupils, while 39% believed it was a good method.

While most people feel the 11-plus treats everyone the same way and, in that respect, is "fair" there are clearly opposing views on whether it is a good system.


According to the survey, the areas people live in has an effect on the answers they give.

People in Fermanagh were most opposed to the current system.

A majority 63% said doing the test was not a positive experience whereas in Antrim, only 42% felt the same.

When asked if the 11-plus was fair, 42% of people in Fermanagh said it was, but, in Antrim, 62% of respondents felt it was a fair system.

The Burns Review of Northern Ireland's education system recommended an end to the test.

Grammar schools opposed the Burns proposal and argued for the retention of some sort of academic selection.

They wanted the right to choose pupils of the highest ability, while others felt the plans were not radical enough.

BBC Newsline will present a series of reports on the transfer system throughout this week, beginning on Monday 26 January at 1830 GMT.

BBC NI's Maggie Taggart reports:
"Most people surveyed wanted to keep selection for grammar schools..."

Minister receives 11-plus report
01 Dec 03  |  Northern Ireland
Children face final 11-plus paper
21 Nov 03  |  Northern Ireland
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

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