Northern Ireland

Transfer test: Thousands of P7 pupils sit exams

Primary school children in a classroom
Image caption Unofficial transfer tests have been used by schools since the abolition of the 11-plus in 2008

Thousands of P7 pupils have taken the first of this year's transfer tests.

The annual tests are not run by the Department of Education (DE) but are used by the vast majority of grammar schools to admit pupils.

About 7,700 entrants are taking the first Association of Quality Education (AQE) test on 12 November.

AQE and GL Assessment tests, run by the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC), take place on five successive Saturdays until mid-December.

There are three AQE tests and one GL Assessment test on 26 November, although a supplementary GL Assessment test takes place on 10 December.

Primary school children aged 10 and 11 can choose to sit either test, both tests, or decide not to take any of the tests.

Image caption Primary schools in Northern Ireland are now free to prepare pupils for unregulated transfer tests

The GL Assessment test is used mainly by Catholic grammars, while the AQE test is used mainly by other grammars.

However, some grammars in the Catholic maintained sector have recently announced that they will no longer decide their intake by academic selection.

Figures provided to the BBC by the two organisations indicate a slight rise in the number of entrants sitting the tests in 2016.

As well as 7,700 entrants for the AQE test, there are 6,981 for the GL Assessment test.

That makes a total of 14,681, a rise from 14,575 in 2015.

About 2,000 children are expected to enter both tests.

Image caption Peter Weir recently changed long-standing DE policy by allowing primary schools to prepare their pupils to sit the tests

Most grammar schools have been using one or both to select pupils since 2008, when the 11-plus exam was abolished.

Yet, DUP Education Minister Peter Weir's position on academic selection differs from his Sinn Féin predecessor John O'Dowd.

In September, Mr Weir changed long-standing DE policy by allowing primary schools to prepare their pupils to sit the tests.

DE also recently convened talks between AQE and PPTC to try to find a common test.

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