Northern Ireland

Thousands of NI children get school transfer news

School transfer

Thousands of children across Northern Ireland will find out today what post-primary school they will transfer to in September.

It is the first time that grammar schools set in place their own independent exams to determine which pupils would get places.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane said nine out of 10 children should get into the school of their first choice.

But she said testing was "socially unjust" and "educationally unsound".

"I am very sympathetic to those parents who feel that their child has been rejected on the basis of breakaway tests," she said.

"No parent should have to tolerate their child being rejected in this manner and no child should suffer such a rejection. I will continue to do all within my powers to bring to an end a transfer process that does this to children and parents.

"The policy of the Department of Education is for a non-selective system. That is not going to change. The new transfer procedures are in place and they will remain in place. We have moved on and will continue to move."

The Labour government, under direct rule, had planned to abolish academic selection altogether but a deal under the St Andrew's Agreement won it a reprieve.

It was then left it up to the local politicians to find a solution to what should replace the official 11-plus.

However, they cannot agree and so Northern Ireland is without a regulated test, although grammar schools are still permitted to use academic selection.

After giving up on the prospect of politicians finding a compromise, the grammar schools decided to set their own tests, but they split into two camps running totally different exams.