Page last updated at 08:45 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Churches make transfer test call

Transfer arrangements for pupils now in primary six remain unclear

A temporary 11-plus examination should be sat by primary sevens this autumn, according to the three main Protestant churches in Northern Ireland.

The final 11-plus post-primary school transfer test was held last November.

The churches warned unregulated testing by grammar schools was unacceptable to most people in Northern Ireland.

The Department of Education said that the minister wanted "a non-selective and inclusive process", not one that "identifies children as failures".

Education representatives for the Methodist, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches said in a statement that the current uncertainty "represents a failure in good governance".

The Reverend Trevor Gribben of the Presbyterian Church said he believed their views represented a "huge unease" felt by many.

"It's amongst principals, governors and teachers in primary schools, who are being put under huge pressure," he said.

'Potential chaos'

"It's unease amongst parents of year six pupils and the pupils themselves, who do not want the potential chaos of an unregulated system.

"People who are setting tests are trying their very best to get rid of that confusion, but nonetheless it exists.

"Government have a responsibility to do something about it and we are calling, even at this late stage, on the minister of education to sit down with the political parties to try and find interim agreed arrangements for transfer."

The final 11-plus was held in Northern Ireland schools last November, and the way in which children currently in primary six will transfer to second-level education remains unclear.

Many Catholic grammar schools have announced they will set independent tests, while more than 30 state schools say they will continue to use academic selection against Education Minister Caitríona Ruane's wishes.

The Catholic Church, which administers schools in the Catholic education sector, is to reveal its thinking on the post-primary transfer system next week.

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