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Last Updated: Monday, 7 March 2005, 12:34 GMT
Looking at a future minus 11-plus
As Northern Ireland prepares for its final 11-plus exam in 2008, BBC NI's Education Correspondent Maggie Taggart examines a new method for assessing children.

Pupil profiling is being piloted in Northern Ireland.

However, some parents' organisations are now pushing for that to be an 11-plus substitute, with schools able to use profiling for academic selection.

Education Minister Barry Gardiner has firmly rejected that idea.

Children sitting the 11-plus
The last 11-plus transfer test will be in 2008

But what exactly is the pupil profile and could it, as one union has warned, be more time-consuming bureaucracy for teachers?

Primary seven pupils at Braniel Primary School in Belfast have done the 11-plus.

At the same time, they were part of a pilot scheme, trying out versions of the new pupil profiles.

Their school is one of 14 which have been test driving and fine tuning the process.

Teacher Frazer Bailie is leading the pilot in his school.

He said the 11-plus free curriculum offered greater flexibility in what was taught.

Mr Bailie said he believed parents, armed with years of pupil profile information, would be able to choose the best school for their children.

"I think our role as schools is to try to give parents honest feedback so that they can think and say: 'Which school is going to suit my child the best at the moment?'

"I think we have to be more optimistic about a parent's ability to make the right decision for their children.

Education Minister Barry Gardiner
Barry Gardiner ruled out using the pupil profile for academic selection.
"If you look internationally, in Germany, it does seem to work very well that parents, in consultation with the school, do tend to make the right decisions."

But some teachers' unions are concerned at an extra addition to the workload, although they agree with the idea of profiling.

Lorraine Stronge, president of the NAS/UWT in Northern Ireland, warned about additional burdens for teachers.

"As a principle, because this is what we do all of the time, it is not a major problem," she said.

"However, if you are not going to get the time within the day to complete that pupil profile, then there is a major problem."

She said it was important that teachers had the time to complete this exercise, including time for cover, if required, when they were meeting parents or filling in pupil profiles.

The whole emphasis is that we are trying to look at intelligence in a wider forum
Fraser Bailie
Braniel Primary School

At Braniel, it has meant work for teachers but CCEA, the exams council, is trying to ease the burden.

"To be fair to CCEA, they are trying to make it more teacher friendly," Mr Bailie said.

"I know that in the three years that we have been involved in the pilot, each year, it has become easier and easier."

The pro-grammar schools parents group, Concerned Parents for Education, has called for the pupil profile to be used for academic selection.

At the NAS/UWT conference over the weekend, the education minister firmly ruled that out.

Mr Bailie said profiling was not a precise enough tool for that job.

"The whole emphasis is that we are trying to look at intelligence in a wider forum and see ability as something much wider than we have thought of in the past and that the transfer procedure measured.

From 2008, primary school children will have their own profiles which will follow them through their whole school careers.

Post 11-plus test options listed
28 Jan 05 |  Northern Ireland
Minister rejects 11-plus claims
28 Aug 04 |  Northern Ireland
11-plus 'must be scrapped'
24 May 04 |  Northern Ireland
Public 'ignored over 11-plus'
19 May 04 |  Northern Ireland
Pupils receive 11-plus results
07 Feb 04 |  Northern Ireland

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