Northern Ireland

Transfer test: P7 pupils find out results of entrance exams

Postal worker sorting exam result envelopes
Image caption Results of the 2016/17 transfer tests are due to be delivered on Saturday

Thousands of children in Northern Ireland have received results of their post-primary school entrance exams.

Most grammar schools have been using unofficial tests to select pupils since 2008, when the 11-plus was scrapped by the Department of Education.

There are two testing systems - GL Assessment exams are mostly used by Catholic schools, while AQE exams are mostly used by controlled schools.

Primary Seven pupils can opt to sit either exam, both GL and AQE, or none.

Slight fall

However, some of Northern Ireland's 66 grammars accept results from both tests.

According to figures provided by the two testing organisations, the number of entrants fell slightly in 2016/17.

There were a total of 14,491 entrants to the tests this year, down from 14,575 in 2015/16.

A total of 7,725 pupils sat this year's AQE exam, while the final number sitting the GL Assessment test was 6,766.

It is estimated that about 2,000 pupils sit both tests.

Potential change

There have been attempts to create a single exam, with fresh talks between AQE and the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) - which runs the GL Assessment test - taking place since October 2016.

Although sources in both organisations told the BBC good progress had been made, there is no sign yet of agreement on a common transfer test.

Image caption There are currently two exam systems but efforts are under way to introduce a single transfer test

It is therefore almost certain that there will be no single test by the time this year's entrants sit the exams in November 2017.

In September 2016, Stormont's Department of Education reversed a long-standing policy by allowing primary schools to prepare pupils for the tests.

However, that policy could be changed again by whoever takes the education portfolio following the assembly election.

Although pupils will receive their test mark on Saturday, they will not know which post-primary school they will transfer to until May or June.

Image caption Ann Ferguson with her daughter Abbie who received her transfer test result on Saturday

Abbie Ferguson from Ballywalter in County Down, who sat the AQE exam, was among the children who received their test results.

She said she had "butterflies" in her stomach on Saturday morning before the post arrived, but was delighted with the outcome, gaining a score of 105.

Her mother Ann was full of praise for Abbie and said she had been preparing for the test for nearly a year.

"I am the proudest mother there ever could be, I am so, so proud of her," she added.

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