LISTEN: Transfer tests to be delayed because of COVID-19

By Peter Moor.

This year's post-primary transfer tests by two tweeks due to pupils missing out on education during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The changes will affect tests run by the Association of Quality Education (AQE) and the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC).

This alteration means that the first transfer tests this  year will now take place on Saturday 21st November.

In a statement, AQE said, "The Board of AQE Limited has been closely monitoring the coronavirus situation and the real difficulties and uncertainty it has posed for parents, pupils and schools alike over recent weeks, particularly in relation to home schooling and pressures of work.

"To allow this year’s cohort of P6 pupils the opportunity to catch up with direct curriculum teaching, and after consultation with Primary and Post Primary Principals, the Board wrote to the Minister of Education on 17th April proposing to postpone the usual November AQE assessment until January 2021.

"The Chairman and Joint CEO of AQE engaged with officials of the Department to explore the possibility of accommodating such a delay within the time frame of the official Transfer process. AQE acknowledges the Minister’s firm support for academic selection and both parties examined in good faith a number of differing options.

"However, for logistical reasons, it was reluctantly recognised that such an accommodation would not be possible and the Department was unable to accede to AQE’s proposal.

"Having considered all of the available dates and taking into account the Post-Primary Transfer Timetable, the Board has decided that the dates for the 2020/21 assessments will be on Saturday 21st November, Saturday 28th November and Saturday 12th December 2020. PPTC will host their assessment on Saturday 5th December.  Results will be issued on Saturday 30th January 2021."

The PPTC said,  "PPTC has been able to delay the Entrance Assessment date by three weeks to allow pupils extra P7 time and yet also to ensure that outcomes will be available to be posted to parents ahead of Transfer Form Completion."

In response to the decision, Peter Weir, the Education Minister 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."

Also responding to the announcement, Alliance Education spokesperson Chris Lyttle MLA has said a two-week postponement of transfer tests will not make up for several months of missed learning in classrooms.

Mr Lyttle was speaking after AQE announced their tests will be held on November 21, 28 and December 12, while the PPTC tests will be on December 5.

“A two-week delay on these tests will not make up for the several months pupils are absent from school. There are serious concerns about how pupils of all ages will make up for lost time due to this crisis and this has not resolved those worries,” he said.

“The Education Minister has claimed this will provide clarity for parents and pupils. That is not the case and an already uneven playing field has been made even more unfair thanks to this pandemic, with pupils having different capacity to learn and prepare in terms of internet and computer resources, online tutoring access and parent/guardian availability.

“This is surely the time to find a different way to transfer pupils from primary to post-primary, so we can leave the unfair and unnecessary transfer tests in the past where they belong.”

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