Derry Girls school drops transfer test for a year

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

  • Published
Exams in progress signImage source, PA
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Unofficial transfer tests have been used by schools since the abolition of the 11-plus in 2008

Two Catholic grammar schools in Derry have become the latest to stop using the transfer test to admit pupils in 2021.

St Columb's College and Thornhill College said they had made the move for one year only.

Nine Catholic grammars and the integrated school Lagan College had previously taken a similar decision.

The schools had used the GL Assessment test run by the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) to select pupils.

In a joint letter to parents, guardians and carers, the governors and principals of both schools said they had "reflected carefully on the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 crisis" on the local community.

"There could very well be further disruption for Primary 7 pupils during the first term of the 2020-21 academic year," they added.

In response to the exceptional circumstances, they would not use academic criteria for admissions to year 8 in September 2021, said the heads and governors.

Pupils applying to transfer to the schools next year will not, therefore, have to provide a test result.

"Each school remains committed to its own individual Catholic ethos and values and will continue to provide high quality teaching and learning, coupled with the highest standards of pastoral care", said the letter.

"All those young people who would normally apply to be admitted to each individual school are strongly encouraged to do so."

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Both schools normally use results from the GL assessment test to select pupils

They said the 2021 admissions criteria for both schools would be published in the autumn.

Thornhill College is a girls' grammar school with 1,400 pupils.

Its past pupils include the writer of Derry Girls, Lisa McGee, who set the hit series in a fictionalised version of the school.

The boys' grammar St Columb's College has a similar number of pupils.

Former pupils at the school include Seamus Heaney, John Hume, Brian Friel and Martin O'Neill.

Both schools admit about 200 pupils a year.

Bishop Donal McKeown of Derry had previously sent a letter to the area's grammar schools in his role as a trustee of Catholic schools in the diocese, asking them to consider alternative admissions arrangements for 2021.

The other Catholic grammar in the city, Lumen Christi College, has not yet announced whether it will make a similar decision.

None of the 34 schools who use the AQE transfer test have yet indicated that they will not use it to select pupils for 2021