Pupils’ distress at exam results mix-up

Sandra Overend with her son Joshua
Sandra Overend with her son Joshua

Ulster Unionist MLA Sandra Overend has told of her son’s distress after discovering he initially received the wrong results for his grammar school entrance test.

The mix-up affected 30 pupils who had taken the GL test at the Rainey Endowed School in Magherafelt, Co Londonderry, and a technical issue with the GL assessment has been blamed.

The 11-year-old Bellaghy Primary School pupil had travelled with his parents to get his results early on Saturday from a sorting office in Ballymena as they “just couldn’t wait until our postman arrived at around 3pm”.

Mrs Overend said: “So when we got the first letter we were delighted and told family and friends.

“I did notice on the letter that they had his date of birth wrong, but I thought that was my fault and I had made a mistake on the form when we were applying.

“So then we left him to a birthday party, and I rang his school principal to tell him how he had got on. But then he told they had got everyone’s details wrong.

“So then I rang the principal of the Rainey and he told me there had been a major mix-up for 30 out of the 185 entrants.

“He said he was trying to phone around to tell everyone who was affected.”

Mrs Overend said results day turned “into the stuff of nightmares for us”.

“The first result Joshua got was higher than the second he received – and he was absolutely devastated,” she said.

“After having his mark come down in a matter of hours he now feels he did not do well enough. He has still done well of course, but what happened has put a dampener on it for him.

“And now he has to wait until the end of May to see what school he will be accepted into.

“Thankfully all secondary schools in the Magherafelt area are of a very high standard.”

Mrs Overend said the principal of the Rainey “moved swiftly to fix the problem, but nothing takes that trauma away”.

“We try to not put additional pressure on our children going through the transfer process, but this has not been nice at the end of it all.”

Rainey Endowed principal Mark McCullough told the BBC that the “vast majority” of the pupils who received incorrect scores had their marks increased.

“Some stayed as normal but unfortunately there were six or seven pupils who were impacted, and we’re working closely with them and their parents to ensure that it’s sorted,” he said.

Around 14,000 children in Northern Ireland received the results of the entrance tests to grammar schools on Saturday.

The final official 11-plus transfer test in Northern Ireland was held at the end of 2008, but grammar schools still use academic selection.

Since then many secondary schools use either the GL assessment or the AQE exam to determine who they admit.

A letter telling parents which school has accepted their child will arrive on May 24.

Parents who are unhappy with the test result can ask for a remark.