This week sees the start of primary school children returning to school for the first time since March. They will be taught in protective ‘bubbles’ as advised in the New School Day guidance issued by the Department of Education.
The question for many P7 parents is how will that be maintained for post primary transfer tests planned for November and December of this year?
Naomi McBurney, organiser of the #bringitbacktoprimary campaign is calling on AQE Ltd and PPTC to urgently begin discussions with primary school principals on how to move forward with schools hosting this year’s tests.
Under the current process, 000s of P7 children from across Northern Ireland will be brought together with children from different schools to sit the tests in participating grammar schools and overflow centres. With schools such as Lagan College withdrawing from the process, capacity is greatly reduced.
Campaign organiser, Naomi McBurney said: “Post primary transfer tests are challenging during normal times, but this year delivers a whole new dimension. Children must remain in their protective ‘bubbles’ for these tests and the safest way to do that is by taking them in their own primary school.
“Education Minister Peter Weir has already indicated P7 pupils are at a greater advantage taking the tests in their own school. He has also stated on numerous occasions that there are no reasons why primary schools cannot host the tests.”
The campaign is supported by Robbie Butler, UUP MLA for Lagan Valley and member of the NI Assembly Committee for Education.
Robbie said: “Taking the tests in a safe and familiar environment, while it won’t solve all the problems associated with this year’s process, it will go a long way to help reduce the stress and anxiety the children are feeling, while ensuring they remain within their protective ‘bubble’. With no legal bar on this happening I urge AQE Ltd and PPTC to start urgent dialogue with primary school principals to make this happen ahead of November’s tests.
“Launched at the end of January and with over 6,000 signatures of support by February, it is evident that many parents already support the move to bring tests back to the primary setting. Now more than ever this is something that needs to be given serious consideration by all stakeholders.”
There is much uncertainty around post primary transfer for 2021. A number of schools have decided not to use results from the tests for their entrance criteria and there have been many calls for the tests to be suspended by all selective grammar schools. One thing everyone agrees on, whether they support or abhor the test, is that children must come first. One way of achieving that, in the absence of education reform, is to enable all P7 children to take the test in an environment that is safe and familiar to them.
On Friday 21 August the BBC Reported that Education Minister, Peter Weir, was considering moving the transfer tests from late November / early December 2020 to January 2021. That decision has not yet been announced.