A rise in the number of primary seven pupils taking transfer tests across Northern Ireland is causing pressures in schools leading to some pupils facing long journeys to sit thir exams.
Pupils hoping to go to one of Northern Ireland’s grammar schools can opt to sit a test accepted by their school of choice with either of two examination bodies, GL and AQE, and in some cases both.
One school, Wallace High School, say they have made additional places available in light of increased pressures.
Earlier this week, Lisburn mum Lisa Pauley had said she was told there was no room for for her son to sit the test at Friends or Wallace High School and that he would have to travel to Dungannon on November 11.
“Dungannon is an hour away, give or take time to find the place, the test starts at 10 o’clock, my son’s ten,” she said. “The AQE process is stressful enough without having to go to a school you’re not familiar in the back and beyond into the bargain.”
However, eleven additional places have now been provided by Wallace High School to accommadate epupils taking the AQE test.
Wallace High School Principal Mrs O’Hare said: “Wallace accommodates 300 pupils for AQE tests in individual classrooms. The pastoral care of those who sit AQE tests in Wallace is important to us and the provision of individual classrooms, we believe, is an important supportive measure.”
Mrs O’Hare continued: “Once the 300 candidates’ information has been received by the school and it is clear which, if any of the 300 candidates, have been assigned ‘extra time’ under AQE’s Access Arrangements, then this frees up spaces in the rooms. It is then normal for the school, if AQE has any candidates on a waiting list for Lisburn, to offer places freed up by those who need to be in extra-time rooms.”
She added: “The information pertaining to extra time was sent by AQE to the school on October 10. Room plans were drawn up yesterday, October 11 and AQE was informed this morning, October 12 that 11 additional places were available. The school has asked AQE to ensure that these places are allocated to children from the Lisburn (or surrounding area) Primary Schools.”
AQE joint Chief Executive Stephen Connolly had said there was little the examinations body could do to “ameliorate” the situation, given the increased numbers.
He said: “This year has been exceptional in that the total application has increased by 400 on last year. We have asked all our members to absorb additional numbers where they can do so safely and within their staffing resources. To help schools we are supplying or funding addition supervisors or invigilators. We have also established an additional centre, administered by AQE, in Bangor, which has had the effect of releasing further spaces in the greater Belfast area.”
Mr Connolly added: “All centres have waiting lists and where spaces become available, we place children on the waiting list in strict order. We can only work within the constraints imposed by the limited resources of schools and the fair use of existing waiting lists. It does not lie within our power to allocate places in any school unilaterally, i.e. without ascertaining whether places are indeed possible and without recourse to the existing waiting list.”