by Q Radio News
Post-primary transfer tests in Northern Ireland are to be held two weeks later than usual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The move is designed to help students and teachers who have been out of the classroom because of covid-19.
The Association of Quality Education (AQE) has confirmed their tests will be held on 21st and 28th November and 12th December 2020.
Meanwhile, the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) GL tests will be held on 5th December.
Education Minister Peter Weir has welcomed the announcement.
He said, “I welcome this announcement which should provide pupils, parents and teachers with the clarity that they have been calling for on this important issue.
“More importantly, I hope that it will remove any stress that pupils and parents might be feeling and provide reassurance in terms of being able to plan and work towards the new dates that have been announced.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank both the Association of Quality Education (AQE) and Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) for working to make this happen in the unique circumstances that we currently face."
(Education Minister, Peter Weir at a recent coronavirus press conference)
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Young People says she feels "disappointed" the tests are still going ahead.
Koulla Yiasouma said, “This is the wrong decision for our children.
“The logic that this ‘should allow pupils extra time in school to prepare for the exams’ is not based on any sound knowledge that children will be back at school, on a full-time basis by that time.
“Regardless, we cannot think that it’s ok to make children who are 10 and 11 years old sit tests during a health pandemic when we have, rightly so, protected our GCSE and A Level students.
“I call on the same logic of predicted grades to be applied for our children due to sit the transfer test”
“I am on record as being utterly opposed to any system that so profoundly selects children at this age.
"It is unfair, and discriminates against children from poorer families, those with Special Educational Needs and those experiencing other adversities.
“These concerns predate the current situation. However, until the system is changed the process for this year cannot disadvantage these children even more.
“With the absence of formal school it is anticipated that the attainment gap between those children on living in poverty and those who do not will have widened even further."
(Children's Commissioner, Koulla Yiasouma)
Meanwhile, reflecting on the Education Minister's suggestion that schools in Northern Ireland are unlikely to open before before September for all children, the Commissioner said, “The Minister has also suggested that when schools do return it will be phased and children will still be learning at home for some of the week.
“To ask 10 and 11 year old children to prepare for tests under these conditions is simply not fair and will place them all under significant stress.
"It also presents an insurmountable challenge to those children who are still waiting for IT or have had intermittent access to education.
“If grammar schools insist on maintaining entry criteria then they must base it on another form of assessment.
"Why do we trust teachers and schools in the post primary sector to decide GCSE and A Level grades but not teachers in primary schools to use their professional judgement?
“Grammar schools must rethink this system urgently."