AQE transfer test cancelled due to lockdown uncertainty

Teachers face 'toughest challenge' of their careers predicting grades
Michael Scott


Michael Scott


AQE have announced that the transfer test for P7 pupils has been cancelled and that no test will take place this year.

The test, which had been originally scheduled to take place over three weeks in January, was last week rescheduled for a single test on February 27.

A number of schools had pulled out of the rescheduled exam, however the Royal School, Armagh confirmed that it would go ahead with the test.

Speaking to the Ulster Gazette, the school's Headmaster, Mr Graham Montgomery, said that children who had been preparing for the exam should get their chance to sit it.

“The young people were ready for the test in November. They are certainly ready for the test in January and we want to get on and get the test done,” he said.

However, today the board of AQE Ltd said they had recommended to grammar schools who use their test that there should be no assessment in this academic year “due to the ongoing uncertainty about the potential for an extended period of lockdown”.

Their statement said, “The test scheduled for Saturday 27 February will therefore not take place.

“The health and safety of the children due to sit the exams is our top priority.

“As we cannot guarantee that the Executive will not extend the lockdown period at this stage, we do not want to cause any distress to the children and their parents by extending this period of uncertainty.

“We know these are anxious times for many.

“We will be writing to parents individually over the coming days to confirm these arrangements.

“We hope this will end the period of uncertainty for the children who have been working so hard for these assessments.

“We wish to thank the Minister for Education, his officials and the Education Authority for their support.”

Responding to the news, Education Minister Peter Weir said he was disappointed by AQE's decision.

He added: “This will also be very disappointing for many pupils and parents.

“Today’s decision by AQE makes it an impossibility for any such test to happen. It is clear that public health and the wider Covid-19 situation has prevented the transfer test taking place this year.

“Transfer tests have never been compulsory for any school nor any student, but what they have provided for many has been parental choice and opportunity for children to gain a place at a post primary school of their choosing. Today’s announcement diminishes that choice significantly.

“In view of the ongoing public health situation, I had recommended to Boards of Governors that they should prepare contingency criteria in the event the transfer tests did not go ahead.

“These criteria should be finalised soon by schools and will be published by the Education Authority on 2 February. However, in light of the changes today, we are extending the date for schools to submit final admissions criteria to the Education Authority, until 22 January. My officials will issue further correspondence to schools.

“Schools still have the opportunity to use either non-academically selective criteria or alternative data as a proxy for academic selection, but neither route is without its difficulties, and our previous guidance that they seek clear advice before they determine their course of action remains.

“Along with my Department, I stand ready to continue to work with all schools in the difficult circumstances created by the current health situation.”

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