Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
There are a couple of aspects to that. Obviously, an announcement was made on guidance to primary schools for preparation. That gave primary schools a permissive environment in which to prepare children for issues with practice tests, a level of coaching for tests, a familiarisation with the facilities and, if there is agreement, to have the tests hosted in primary schools. I accept that, realistically, there will not be agreement on selection between the two Government parties, indeed there is a fairly great chasm within the Chamber on the issue. I am realistic enough to know that there is not going to be agreement, and I am not going to look for some sort of short-term fix for it for the next couple of years. As such, there will be efforts to see what can be done to make life easier for the children going through transfer. One aspect of that is to try to see whether we can reach an agreement on whether the two sets of tests that are there at present — the PPTC and AQE — can be a single agreed set of tests. To that extent, I have appointed an independent expert from outside Northern Ireland, who, therefore, maybe does not have the same connections with Northern Ireland, to see whether he can facilitate discussions, but those are at a very early stage.
A considerable number of pupils are entering for the transfer test. I think people can debate the merits of that, but it is very much a fact of life. It is also a fact of life that, clearly, given the level of demand, the transfer tests are here to stay. From that point of view, I think there will always be an individual choice for individual parents about the action they take in connection with that. Therefore, I suppose my role is to try to make the pathway as easy as possible and to not throw artificial barriers, to an extent, in their way or in the way of the schools and to try to make sure that provision, if you like, is given in what is always going to be a difficult issue — that of transfer — but is done in a way that does not add stress to the situation.