Hundreds of Derry primary school children sat post-primary entry examinations on Saturday. One local MLA reported some children were “physically sick” on Saturday as they prepared to sit the exam and called for the issue of the transfer exam to be settled “once and for all.”
A local headmaster however countered that there would be no need for examinations if the Education Board shared academic information from Primary level.
Mark Durkan MLA for Foyle said: “It is over ten years since the 11+ was ‘abolished’ but we now simply have a privatised version of the exam, there is no doubt that the current system is most unsatisfactory. I would say the new system is infinitly more harrowing for pupils, more worrying for parents and more frustrating for teachers. The SDLP believe in parental choice but we need to resolve this issue as the transfer exam has been at the centre of debate for far too long now. The strange thing is that demand to sit the exam is actually growing.
“Luckily for those opposed to the exam, Derry has such a wealthy provision of great post primary schools.”
One local College principal reported: “No trauma and no issues with the exam.” In defence of academic selection, Lumen Christi’s Pat O’Doherty said: “167 pupils sat the exam for 120 places on offer. I would say that the process of academic selection is a fairer one than a geographical process.
“I would reject the accusation of privatisation of the 11+. There is no charge for the exam and I would say it is superior to the 11+. I would also argue that the examination could be disposed of while still maintaining academic selection. No test would be required if the Education Board allowed primary schools to share their academic records.”
It was a successful weekend for Lumen Christi as the school was, for the eighth successive year, named number one in the Sunday Times Parent Power Survey of schools and 24th in the overall UK survey.
Sinn Fein MLA Maeve McLaughlin said: “Academic excellence can be achieved without selection at age 11 without labelling 70% of our children a failure at such an early age. In countries, which abolished selection, such as Finland for example academic attainment has risen significantly as has been the case elsewhere where academic selection was abandoned. We can not continue to have a system based on class and all of our children deserve the right to fulfil their true potential.”