Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Saturday, 14 November 2009

11-plus replacement tests taken

Child taking exam
The children will sit the new transfer tests in grammar schools

More than 7,000 primary school pupils in Northern Ireland have sat new grammar school entrance tests, against the wishes of education chiefs.

The 11-plus was abolished last year but, with no political agreement on a replacement, the Association for Quality Education has set the tests.

Next Saturday, 6,700 pupils will take a different test aimed mainly at those seeking places in Catholic grammars.

The Department of Education at Stormont insists the exams should not go ahead.

More than 30 non-denominational grammar schools have signed up to the AQE exam.

It consists of three separate papers which will take place on Saturdays during the coming weeks.

The exams dates are 14 November, 28 November and 5 December and candidates will be marked on their best two papers.

Accuracy checks

The AQE is charging for its test unless children are claiming free school meals. Five per cent of the candidates have been excused fees.

Across all grammar schools, 6% of pupils currently get free school meals.

On Monday, the AQE answer papers will be collected and delivered to two examination centres in local schools.

One hundred markers have been recruited to score the papers and each one is to be checked three times for accuracy.

Caitriona Ruane
The Education Minister Caitriona Ruane has said the tests are unnecessary

Next Saturday's test has been organised by the Post Primary Transfer Consortium, which consists mostly of Catholic grammars.

'Trauma'

Neither of the two new tests are regulated by the Northern Ireland Department of Education.

They have been commissioned by grammar schools unhappy at the Stormont education minister's proposal that academic selection should end.

On Friday, Caitriona Ruane urged those setting the exams to call a halt to the process.

"Even at this stage, I would say to those grammar schools, don't be putting children through this trauma," she said.

"Join with the rest of us in the system and help build a system that meets the needs of every child.

"Stop putting your perceived interests of your institution before the needs and interests of the children."

The results of both tests will be known in February.



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