Minister names panel on streamlining academic selection in Northern Ireland

Education Minister Peter Weir.
Education Minister Peter Weir.

The team of educational professionals appointed to seek progress on a single school transfer test has been named by the education minister.

Peter Weir hopes the team can find a way forward towards a “common assessment” rather than two separate tests provided by AQE and the PPTC.

The tests are used by the vast majority of grammar schools to decide which pupils are admitted.

The panel members to engage with existing transfer test providers are: Professor Peter Tymms, Head of Department and Chair of the Board of Studies and Professor David Galloway, Emeritus Professor both based in the School of Education, Durham University and Paul Latham, an independent education consultant.

Mr Weir said: “My views on academic selection are well known. I believe it has the potential to change people’s lives for the better and I fully support the rights of schools to select pupils on the basis of academic ability.

“I recently made it clear to schools, parents and children that teachers can prepare children for the transfer test if they so wish.

“The issue remains, however, that we have two distinct transfer tests which place pressures on primary schools and in particular our young people. I want to improve the process, where possible, for everyone involved.”

The minister added: “I have asked Professor Tymms and colleagues to engage with the current transfer test providers to see what progress can be made towards a common assessment for academic selection. This will be dependent on the two main providers, namely AQE and PPTC, as well as the contribution of other key stakeholders including schools.

“The process is at a very early stage, and any agreed change will not impact on pupils who are currently in Year 6 or 7.

“My aim is to strengthen and protect the academic selection process to enable it to deliver high quality assessment for everyone. Ultimately, I would like there to be a new test for children to sit in the autumn term of 2018 with parents being advised of changes to the testing arrangements, at the latest, by autumn 2017.”