Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 17:53 UK

Schools guard against test cheats

Pencil and paper
Northern Ireland grammar schools are setting their entrance tests

By Maggie Taggart
BBC NI education correspondent

Northern Ireland grammar schools planning to set their own entrance tests are taking precautions against potential exam cheats.

One group is insisting on three photographs, a birth certificate and a signed declaration from parents that they will not attempt to cheat.

There are concerns that some parents could send older children to do the exams instead of the real P7 pupils.

Catholic and Protestant grammar schools both want photographic identification.

The Association for Quality Education have commissioned a new, locally-produced, test which pupils will sit on up to three dates in November and early December.

The mostly Catholic group of schools will hold its single test on 21 November, and the two groups will now use the same dates for registering for the exam and delivering the results.

Both sectors want to make sure there is no cheating

The 11-plus was held in primary schools where staff knew the pupils, but these will be held in unfamiliar grammar schools and staff there will not be able to identify the pupils.

Schools are alert to the possibility of cheating.

Catholic grammars will ask for one photo and the non-denominational grammars will ask for three.

The mostly Catholic group of 28 grammars has now been joined by two integrated schools and four non-denominational grammars. It is calling itself the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium.

Tests for the Catholic grammars have been prepared and will be sent out when parents register for the exam. They declined to let the BBC see them on Tuesday.

The other group of mostly Protestant grammars have one sample paper and they said they would not issue any more, in line with the aim to stop schools coaching pupils.

They want them to rely on the English and maths being taught in the normal curriculum.

Meanwhile, dozens of Catholic primary school principals have branded academic selection plans totally flawed.

It is obvious that the grammars have not considered the needs of primary six children or the impacts these unvalidated tests will have on them

Education Minister
Caitríona Ruane

In a statement 37 schools in Armagh and Tyrone claimed the plans were "unfair and educationally unsound".

The school heads said there was no possibility that tests would be wholly based on the revised Northern Ireland curriculum.

They insisted materials they had been shown were founded on the curriculum for England and Wales and said it was impossible for children to be accurately tested for selection.

"The tests in format and structure are alien to work carried out in our school. Sample test material presented to us is completely inappropriate in terms of content, structure and format," they said.

Education Minister Caitríona Ruane said schools should follow her Department's guidance and not set their own tests.

"It is obvious that the grammars have not considered the needs of primary six children or the impacts these unvalidated tests will have on them, but are more interested in simply preserving the archaic system of academic selection," she said.

"I would urge all parents to carefully consider the statement from the primary principals which sets out the flaws with the proposed breakaway tests. If schools follow the Transfer 2010 guidance children need not be subjected to any tests."

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