School selection tests 'fail children'

Published Saturday, 01 February 2014
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A primary school principal has hit out at the continued use of the unregulated entrance exams held for pupils entering secondary level education saying they "fail" the children.

School selection tests 'fail children'
A primary school head has criticised the academic selection exams. (© Getty)

John McGrady, principal of St Mark's Primary School in Belfast, was speaking as thousands of children, including some of his own pupils, received the results of the entrance test examinations.

The final official 11-plus test was held in 2008, however, since then many secondary schools have used academic selection to determine who they admit.

Schools use either the GL assessment or the AQE exam.

It's thought around 14,000 pupils took the exams this year, believed to be a record number of entrants to sit the tests.

Mr McGrady said he held reservations about the current system.

He told UTV: "I think the system is not child-centred at all.

"I think the current system suits the schools.

Having children go to another school in November to sit a non-regulated unproven secret test is not the way to go about children's post-primary education.

John McGrady, St Mark's principal

"We really need to take a good look at ourselves and ask ourselves what are we doing.

"There has to be a better way and urgently we need to address this situation because, I Believe, we are failing our children at the minute."

UTV spent the morning with one young pupil from St Mark's who received his results.

Shea McLaughlin received a B2 in the GL examination and hopes to go on to St Mary's Christian Brothers' Grammar in west Belfast.

His mother Eileen O'Brien said: "It was better than we expected.

"We were hoping for a C, but a B2 is just brilliant."

It will be May before Shea learns which school he will be attending in September.

"Hopefully he is off to St Mary's with his brother, so we are going to celebrate tonight," his mother added.

© UTV News
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13 Comments
Confused in Belfast wrote (262 days ago):
We don't know who to believe. The English education minister says these exams are good and wants more, yet over here a few miles over the sea, the education ministers claim the opposite is true. It doesn't really matter as long as the kids can count and spell with a bit of grammar thrown in. That and know how to work a computer of course.
A fine mess the Shinners made in belfast wrote (263 days ago):
The Shinners created this mess.Why would any right thinking person scrap the 11 plus without having something better to replace it.If this was a business decision someone would be sacked but its the Shinners so its ok don't worry about it. The 11 plus might not have been perfect but it worked for years.All children are different and progress at different rates, thats life.It doesn't make sense to try and teach them at the same pace thats why the 11 plus was there.The children who are able to progress faster should be able to do so.It wouldn't be fair to hold a child back just because people think it will make the other children feel like they have failed,because they didn't pass an exam.There has to be some way to pick the children who wouldn't struggle to cope in grammar schools.The 11 plus was better than what we have now.The head teachers should decide the best way forward as they are the people who work with the children, and they will know the best way to sort it out.The Shinners haven't got a clue how to fix the mess they made.
Ray in Belfast wrote (263 days ago):
Integrated Education is the way forward to a better future, The present education system is not sustainable, Segregation of children be it on religous, or academic grounds during their formative years is not the best way to go about a fully inclusive society. Sinn Fein have proven over the years with their education policies that their ultimate goal is to keep segragation in schools with the maintained sector assured of a future at the expense of the controlled and small integrated sectors.
Barry Loans in Belfast wrote (263 days ago):
Sorry NO! The Sinn Fein education minister pursuing his marxist idelogical beliefs destroyed our Education system... it is that political party that has failed our childern, they have put politics before education. John McGrady knows this full well!
Belfast in Belfast wrote (263 days ago):
St. Mary's used to be a Grammar School in West Belfast. It is now an all-ability secondary school. How can it be called a Grammar School when over 40% of last years intake was admitted on 'D' Grade.
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