Northern Ireland

Academic selection: AQE says single test 'would take three years to develop'

Pupil taking exam
Image caption There are currently two testing systems - GL Assessment exams are mostly used by Catholic schools, while AQE exams are mostly used by controlled schools

The chief executive of the Association of Quality Education (AQE) has said a single transfer test will not be possible for "at least three years".

Stephen Connolly was speaking to BBC Northern Ireland's The View programme about the academic selection process.

Last week, Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster said she thought that a single test for secondary schools could be developed this year.

However, Mr Connolly said that would be "impossible."

"The registration process has been going on for the last month," he said.

"The schools have been preparing their children, so to turn around and say that 'we're now going to have a single test and it'll be different' would simply be impossible."

"We couldn't do that."

Image caption Stephen Connolly, chief executive of the Association of Quality Education (AQE), told The View that the timetable suggested by the first minister for a single, agreed exam was too tight

Most grammar schools have been using unregulated tests to select pupils since 2008, when the 11-plus exam was scrapped by the Department of Education.

There are two testing systems - GL Assessment exams are mostly used by Catholic schools, while AQE exams are mostly used by controlled schools.

Attempts by AQE and the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC), which runs the GL tests, to create a common transfer test have so far failed.

The two bodies have not been able to find agreement on how the test should be paid for and what format it should take.

Mr Connolly said that, even if those differences could be overcome, it would take at least three years to create a common test.

"If we work hard to reach agreement on those important issues, particularly the issue of funding, then we've got to put together a test which is agreeable to both of us," he said.

"Then we're going to have to trial it in some way, provide past papers, give information to schools.

"Two years would be too tight a timetable, so I think we're looking at least - and I stress at least - three years.

"It's not going to be straightforward," Mr Connolly added.

The View will be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland at 22:45 BST on Thursday 2 June.

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