On the front page of today’s Irish News is the story Sinn Fein’s Education Minister has fought long and hard to prevent from coming to pass:
All Catholic grammar schools are set to hold new entrance tests in place of the 11-plus after the executive failed to agree to proposals to ban academic selection. A total of 25 Catholic schools, including the Newry grammar that Caitriona Ruane sent one of her daughters to, are expected within days to match plans by six others who have already made their position public.
Simon Doyle writes:
Such a move would be devastating for the education minister who still hopes to introduce a non-selective system. Ms Ruane wanted to introduce her own new temporary transfer test to give schools time to prepare for a complete ban on academic selection, but needed legislation.
She had hoped to discuss details of her proposals at a meeting of the executive yesterday, but the issue did not make the agenda. The minister is now expected to revert to offering guidance to schools, given the urgency with which clarity on a new transfer system is required.
It is understood this guidance will not include an entrance test option, instead focusing purely on non-academic criteria.
As Doyle also points out, in educational terms this is viewed amongst educationalists as a regressive move:
The 25 remaining members of the Catholic Heads Association were understood to have been waiting for the outcome of yesterday’s executive meeting before making a decision. It is now expected they will follow the lead of Lumen Christi and use a test devised by the National Foundation for Educational Research, which sets grammar school entrance tests in England.
It will consist of two “standardised reasoning” papers to be taken probably this autumn. Such testing was scrapped in the north about 15 years ago amid criticisms that children spent their time learning exam tricks. [emphasis added]
So that would be ‘Game, Set and Match’ for whom precisely?