Transfer test: No academic criteria for most grammar schools' selection

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

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image captionPreviously, transfer tests were used to select pupils by the majority of NI grammar schools

The vast majority of grammar schools will not use academic criteria to admit pupils in 2021, the BBC understands.

On Friday Banbridge Academy, which had used the Association for Quality Education (AQE) transfer test, published admissions criteria without using any academic criteria.

The school, which has more than 1,300 pupils, made public the details of how it would admit pupils in September.

It is believed the majority of grammar schools will use a similar approach.

However, a small number are believed to be considering if they can use information about a pupil's past academic attainment as part of their criteria.

The transfer tests run by the AQE and the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) were cancelled in early 2021.

As a result, grammar schools - which are attended by about 45% of post-primary pupils in Northern Ireland - are having to draw up new criteria for how they will select pupils in 2021.

In Banbridge Academy's criteria, children seeking to go the school will have had to have entered the AQE test even though it was cancelled.

Children who want to go to the school but who did not enter the test as they have only recently moved to Northern Ireland or have received more than half of their primary education outside the country will also be considered for a place.

However, they will have to apply under a "special provisions" process.

Banbridge Academy will then prioritise children who have a brother or sister at the school, followed by primary seven pupils who will be the first in their family to transfer to a post-primary school.

They will then prioritise children from a number of primary schools "from which pupils have been admitted to Banbridge Academy in three out of the past five years".

The admissions criteria lists the names of those primary schools.

In previous years, Banbridge Academy has been oversubscribed - in 2020 it had 276 applications for 184 places.

A number of other grammar school principals whose schools would have used the AQE transfer test to select pupils in previous years have also confirmed to BBC News NI that they too will not use academic criteria for admissions in 2021.

Most are expected to publish their criteria next week ahead of the publication of all post-primary admissions details by the Education Authority on 2 February.

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