The education minister said that although his department does not have control over the private sector organised tests, he has instructed both the host schools and test providers to ensure all exams are carried out in a manner that is compatible with public health guidance.
“The hosting of selection tests in the pupil’s own primary school is clearly my preferred option for this year and in fact every year,” Mr Weir said.
“Indeed, when previously minister, I lifted the longstanding ban on primary schools hosting the test. This would however require the consent of all host primary schools.
What are the best secondary schools in Northern Ireland 2021? Sunday Times School Guide reveals Parent Power results
Drag queen storytime – VIDEO: Libraries Northern Ireland praises practice of drag performers reading to children
Northern Ireland school holidays 2022: full list of term holiday dates - including Easter and Platinum Jubilee
Alliance leader Naomi Long speaks up in defence of drag performers reading transgender-themed books to children
Big interview: Katy Feeney on being a principal, mum of four and a footballer’s wife
“Whilst I am sure some principals and boards of governors would be willing to compromise to allow this to take place in the pupil’s home school, it has become clear to me over this year that others will not. This is also the position of the teachers unions.”
Mr Weir said he did not want to see a situation where some primary schools were hosting the tests and others being unwilling to do so.
“The outworking of this would mean that some pupils will have a ‘home school advantage’, leaving others forced to sit their tests in hosting grammar schools,” he said.
“I have engaged with stakeholders over the course of this year but finding agreement has proved difficult. It is my firm belief that these tests should be conducted in the pupil’s own primary school and within their existing ‘bubble’.
“I urge the providers and principals, given the current position regarding the Covid pandemic, to work to reach an urgent agreement to make this a reality.”
Mr Weir went on to say: “A wide range of protective measures are being put in place for the tests, including an acknowledgement from the two test providers that, within the host schools, ‘existing primary school bubbles must be maintained within rooms’ (AQE) and ‘our plans include maintaining bubbles including more than one bubble from the same primary school’ (PPTC).
“There cannot and will not be any compromise with ensuring the safety of our children and families.”