‘Nothing agreed until everything is agreed’ on single transfer test

The two main bodies who organise the transfer test have stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” when it comes to organising a common test for all pupils.

Currently, pupils hoping to gain entry to a grammar school must sit exams organised by one of the two bodies, and in some cases, both.

On Monday, both the Association for Quality Education (AQE) and the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) announced, in a joint statement, that they had made “encouraging progress” in the “development of a single assessment”.

Yesterday, however, the CEOs of both organisations stressed that it could be years before a single test is officially agreed upon, and that final agreement had still to be reached.

“This was very much an interim report, and it is very important to stress that nothing will be agreed until everything is agreed,” Stephen Connolly, the AQE CEO said.

His PPTC counterpart, Carol McCann, expressed a similar view.

“While it has been welcomed that we’ve got some ideas together on paper for the first time, there is still a long way to go,” she said.

“We have reached this agreement, and it is probably further than we’ve got before with these proposals, this is going to all our schools and all the principals are answerable to a board of governors.”

Mr Connolly continued: “We are putting forward provisional, broad areas of agreement in our discussions which might form a potential basis for further progress.”

Mr Connolly said that it would be “years rather than months” before any single test for all pupils hoping to attend a grammar school can be agreed and implemented.

There had been a single test, administered by the state, until 2008.

Currently, a group of 27 schools use a test organised by the PPTC, while 29 use a test from the AQE. A further seven schools use results from both tests. This means pupils hoping to keep their options open, of whom there are an estimated 2,500, must sit a total of five examinations — the two PPTC exams and the three AQE exams.

On Monday, the two organisations responsible for the exams used by grammar schools to select pupils issued a joint statement announcing their progress.

“AQE and PPTC report that encouraging progress has been made in the development of a single assessment to replace the existing two platforms which provide member grammar schools with the means to select their Year 8 intakes on the basis of their perceived academic ability,” the statement read.

“Provisional agreements on the financial model which could support an assessment offering access to all grammar schools, the style of test paper and the number of separate tests were presented by the negotiating teams in the last fortnight to the groups’ respective AGMs.”

It added: “Schools have been asked to reflect upon the direction of travel and to report, where necessary, to their boards of governors.”

The “general feeling” at the AGMs of both bodies was that negotiations should continue.