Page last updated at 17:03 GMT, Tuesday, 7 April 2009 18:03 UK

Alternative exam details released

Pencil and paper

A group of Catholic grammar schools has released details of an alternative to the 11-plus transfer test.

Pupils will sit the tests in English and mathematics on Saturday 21 November at 28 schools across Northern Ireland.

Many state-run schools have already signed up to tests in November run by the Association of Quality Education.

Catholic Heads Association chairman Dermot Mullan said it was not just Catholic schools which had signed up for the exam.

"The schools involved are right across Northern Ireland - we are in discussion with a number of other schools as well," he said.

The tests will be set and marked by the England-based National Foundation for Education Research. Children will receive their results at the end of January.

Parents will not have to pay a fee for the tests.

Last week, the body which administers Catholic schools in Northern Ireland gave the go-ahead for its grammar schools to set entrance exams.

However, the Commission for Catholic Education also insisted that academic selection of any kind should end by 2012.

'Mixed feelings'

Mr McMullan, who is principal of Our Lady and St Patrick's College in Knock, east Belfast, said they waited until official guidance was given before releasing details of the test.

He said there were mixed feelings among the 600 people who attended an information night at his school on Monday.

"There was a sense of relief that concrete information had been given out, that parents, teachers and children in primary schools knew where our college stood with regards to admissions criteria and means of admission," he said.

"There was also a feeling, which I share, that it is regrettable that we don't have a commissioned Department of Education test, and that we have had to take this position."

He said the test, based on the Key Stage 2 curriculum, was being funded by "a variety of sources, including a number of benefactors".

Registration forms will be available from 1 May and the closing date for applications is 26 June.

A supplementary test for children who are ill on the day of the first test will be staged on 12 December.

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

More than 30 state-run schools have also said they will continue to use academic selection against the wishes of Education Minister Caitríona Ruane.

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