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Transfer Test Guidance: Update

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 15th November 2016.

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Photo of Adrian McQuillan Adrian McQuillan DUP 2:30 pm, 15th November 2016

T2. Mr McQuillan asked the Minister of Education for an update on his recently announced transfer test guidance. (AQT 477/16-21)

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

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.

Photo of Adrian McQuillan Adrian McQuillan DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer so far. Minister, I have had very positive feedback on the announcements. Do you think these changes will encourage more parents to enter their kids for the exams?

Photo of Peter Weir Peter Weir DUP

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.