Catholic Principals’ Association hit out at transfer test system

Archbishop Eamon Martin has already stated his opposition to the continued use of transfer tests.
Archbishop Eamon Martin has already stated his opposition to the continued use of transfer tests.

An organisation representing the views of Catholic head teachers has hit out at the examination system for pupils transferring to post-primary level schools.

As this year’s transfer testing system got under way last weekend, the Catholic Principals’ Association (CPA) released a statement lambasting the continued use of the unregulated tests. The predecessor of the new system, the 11 plus examination, was scrapped by the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2008 .

The CPA statement noted the organisation’s “grave and increasing concern with the continued use of unregulated tests to select and reject pupils for 26 Catholic grammar schools.”

In Derry, Thornhill College, St Columb’s College, Lumen Christi and Foyle College utilise the transfer tests to select pupils.

The statement from the CPA also points out that in January this year, Archbishop Eamon Martin stated his opposition to the transfer system.

The Catholic Primate of All-Ireland said: “In this day and age no young person should be turned away from a Catholic school on the basis of an entrance test at the age of ten or eleven.”

The CPA also asserted that the continued practice “ignores the compelling evidence provided by human rights organisations and the Northern Ireland Equality Commission that educational selection at such a young age has created a two-tier system which has “a hugely damaging effect on the outcomes and attainments for children from the most disadvantaged communities.”

Continued use of this selection process, also say the CPA, is doing “serious and lasting damage to the ethos and reputation of Catholic education.”

“How can anyone in society continue to advocate and speak the language of social justice, inclusion and high quality provision for all while simultaneously practising educational exclusion and de facto social streaming?”, the statement continues.

The CPA also state they believe that in areas where selection has ceased “Catholic schools continue to flourish and prosper with the support and endorsement of parents. The ending of unnecessary unregulated and stressful testing has been a clear benefit in these areas. It is a model CPA would propose for all Catholic provision.”

In conclusion the CPA called upon all Trustees and representatives on individual Boards of Governors to publicly state their position on the selection process and also state why they are unwilling or unable to adopt the non-selective process advocated by the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland because they see no valid mora, social or ethical reasons not to do this.