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Last Updated: Thursday November 06 2008 05:48 GMT

What is the 11 plus exam?

Maddy talking to Dr Karen Kerr

Kids in Northern Ireland are taking the 11 plus exam, which determines which secondary school they'll go to, for the last time.

Maddy spoke to education expert Dr Karen Kerr, who explained what it is, and what might be brought in to replace it.

Can you explain a little bit about what it is?

Kids in a classroom
The 11 plus is made up of two exams, and in those exams there will be a mixture of some questions for English, some questions for maths, and some questions for science.

There are two one hour papers and they happen in school, and then those papers are marked and kids are given a grade, and then based on your grade that decides whether or not you can go to grammar school, or if you go to another school which isn't a grammar school.

What's the difference between grammar school and other kinds of secondary schools?

Well, the majority of grammar schools will take kids who get an A or a B in their 11 plus, and some people think that some of the grammar schools are better because some children tend to do a little bit better in their GCSEs and further on, from grammar schools.

But some other people would disagree and say that the secondary schools are just as good, and everyone there works just as hard, so it depends on what you think yourself.

In other parts of the UK children don't always take the 11 plus. It doesn't happen in Scotland, or in Wales, and only in some parts of England, so how big a deal is it in Northern Ireland?

For some children it's a really big deal, for a number of different reasons.

Sometimes it's because older brothers and sisters have gone to a grammar school, and they really like it, and they've done really well there.

I suppose for other kids it's not as important because there is the option that you can decide with your parents and your teacher that you would prefer not to take it, so that option is there as well.

Why's it being scrapped?

It's the last year because lots of people have been debating about this for quite some time and some people feel that it's a little bit unfair a decision is made when you are 11 about the type of school that you go to.

People think that maybe you're too young for that decision to be made, and for such a big, important test, and obviously because some kids get so nervous about it.

Some people also say that we should be entitled to go to a school that offers exactly the same type of education, so it'll be a fairer system.

Others are cross and want it to be kept - what are their arguments?

Some of these people say it's fair because everyone gets to take the test and the decision is made and then you can go to the school that the test will determine.

I think some people would like to keep it because it's going to be a huge change for lots of schools if it goes completely.

The 11 plus as it stands is going to be scrapped, but what's going to happen to children in the years below?

Nothing has been completely decided by the government because they're still talking about it, and they still have to take a vote to decide whether they want to go with this or not.

But for next year's children there will be, we think, some sort of test that the kids will do, but the people in government are being very careful in saying it won't be like the current one, that there should be less pressure, and then some schools can put in an application form where they can choose half of the children that will come to school in two year's time based on the result of the test.