Page last updated at 14:19 GMT, Tuesday, 13 May 2008 15:19 UK

Transition test may be on the way

By Maggie Taggart
BBC NI education correspondent

Caitriona Ruane
Education Minister Caitriona Ruane is to reveal her plans on Thursday

A new post-primary transfer test for school children in NI could be on the way, the BBC understands.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane may propose a form of testing continues for a transitionary period when she reveals her plans to the Executive on Thursday.

Some grammar schools plan to run their own entrance exams, and this is thought to be an attempt at conciliation.

Ms Ruane may tell grammar schools they can only take in a proportion of children under academic selection.

Assembly sources suggest that the exams would be taken in the grammar schools rather than in primary schools.

The grammar schools may be able to take in 50% of pupils under academic selection in the first instance, eventually reducing to 30% and then 20%.

Broader areas

Last December, Ms Ruane announced that the test, commonly known as the 11-plus, would come to an end in 2008.

It is believed that now, the minister could commission new tests which encompass broader educational areas than the current transfer test.

These tests would be developed and marked by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, continuing for about three more years.

However, sources in the assembly predict the minister could tell grammar schools that they can only take in a proportion of pupils under academic selection, perhaps half of their intake, reducing steadily over the next few years.

Ulster Unionist education spokesman Basil McCrea told the assembly in an education debate on Tuesday that he would not be surprised if the minister were to "cobble together a last-minute proposal" to allow the exams body to devise an acceptable test for a transitional period.

It's believed the minister may justify a change of heart by pointing to her previous acknowledgment that some schools will need time to a reconcile themselves to eventually doing without academic selection.

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