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New guidance published as Minister heralds support for academic selection

Schools which continue to use transfer tests as a selection tool are to be allowed to support pupils’ preparations for the exams.

And they can do so without any fear of any “perceived threat”, with Education Minister Peter Weir saying that he supports the use of academic selection.

Armagh city only has only one school – the Royal – which continues to accept admissions based on the transfer system.

Two years ago St Patrick’s moved to a non-selective voluntary grammar system, meaning it no longer bases pupil enrolment on the outcome of tests.

But today (Wednesday), Education Minister Weir issued new guidance to schools which do endorse the use of academic selection for grammar schools.

The guidance explains that primary schools can support their pupils by supplying support materials, carry out preparation for tests during core teaching hours, coach in exam technique, and familiarise pupils with the testing environment.

Mr Weir said: “This week marks 100 days into my term as Education Minister. I have been clear from the outset that I support academic selection and wanted to reflect the widespread public support for its retention and for the process to be improved.

“The guidance which has been sent to schools today allows primary schools to respond to parental demand to prepare children for the transfer tests.

“Importantly, it removes any perceived threat to primary schools involved in supporting children through the process of transfer.

“This is a significant change to an area where no progress or agreement had been made for a significant period of time.”

Mr Weir said that every child, regardless of background, postcode, social group, religion or ethnicity has the opportunity to get into a grammar school.

He said: “Grammar schools can, by setting demanding standards and offering rich educational opportunities, secure impressive outcomes for those who will derive the greatest benefit from them.

“This in no way diminishes the excellent work being carried out in our non-selective post primary schools.  Those who did not attend grammar schools have likewise gone on to make a very significant contribution to the social and economic life of our country.”

Mr Weir said parents of children in P7 and P6 will transfer under the current arrangements.

He said: “Today’s guidance will support both primary and post-primary schools to make this transition as seamless as possible for these pupils.

“This, I believe, is in the best interests of children and supports the positive intentions behind the use of academic selection to post-primary school.”

Two guidance documents have been published on the Department’s website.

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