“The schools involved are right across Northern Ireland..”

In the absence of political consensus, and “until the appropriate legislation is in place”, the Catholic Heads Association (CHA) had stated that they would prefer to use “the CCEA test which the minister has commissioned”. But with the Northern Ireland Education Minister, Sinn Féin’s Cáitríona Ruane, apparently, still manning the trench, the CHA have announced that they will use tests set and marked by the National Foundation for Education Research. They have already been given the go-ahead by the NI Commission for Catholic Education and, according to the BBC report, “Pupils will sit the test in English and mathematics on Saturday 21 November at 28 schools across Northern Ireland.”

Catholic Heads Association chairman Dermot Mullan said it was not just Catholic schools which had signed up for the exam. “The schools involved are right across Northern Ireland – we are in discussion with a number of other schools as well,” he said. The tests will be set and marked by the England-based National Foundation for Education Research. Children will receive their results at the end of January. Parents will not have to pay a fee for the tests.

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  • [Warning: the following is probably out-of-date, because I escaped from the chalk-face a couple of years ago.]

    About the only detail that surprises me is that parents are asked to pay for the NFER tests.

    At least a decade ago (in the English secondary schools that I knew) it was the norm to apply the NFER tests. This is for diagnostic and “baseline assessment” purposes, from which “value-added” calculations could be made. Many junior schools had a similar regimen, as part of their “primary-secondary transfer” reporting. The bottom line there, of course, is that nobody really trusted the crude Key Stage 2 SATs.

    So, as an outsider to the NI arrangements, the question I would be posing is the quality of the end-of-KS2 reporting across NI. If it’s not robust enough to provide the pupil profiles that the Catholic Heads Association (and, of course, their non-Catholic Head colleagues) require, how can any system of transfer effectively work?

    By the way, I’m a believer in comprehensives, and profoundly suspicious of 11+ formal testing.

  • Pete Baker


    “Parents will not have to pay a fee for the tests.” [added emphasis]

  • Pete Baker @ 08:32 PM:

    Sorry: miscue.

    I failed the test.

    Does the rest stand up?

  • Pete Baker

    No idea, Malcolm.

  • PACE Parent

    The Catholic Heads have been flushed out by the non-denominational grammar schools into acceptance of the principle of academic selection. The CHA do nothing without the knowledge of the Bishops, including Bishop Donal McKeown head of the Catholic Commission.
    It must be pointed out that the Catholic heads have been included in the AQE since its inception. Finbar McCallion of the GBA and a variety of other representatives have been present at most meetings.
    The point to note is that the Catholic heads refused to support the AQE in their pursuit of a numeracy and literacy test or the adoption of CAT (Computer Adaptive Testing).
    Last week the Commission was forced to respond to demand from parents and concede their position on academic selection. All the calls for an interim test are designed to permit yet another change of position.
    The call will come for all grammars to adopt the NFER test, currently paid for by anonymous donations perhaps Atlantic Philanthropies (similar to the anonymous funding for the study attacking the 11-plus. However this would be a fatal mistake for the non-denominational grammars to cede control of their unregulated test to the Catholic authorities. The Catholic hierarchy remain anti-academic selection. Has another Trojan Horse has been wheeled into position?

  • Pete Baker @ 08:54 PM:

    Hey, come on: Help me out here!

    I’ve got important business on hand (all three CDs of Eric Clapton’s 1999 Blues boxed set).

  • Chris Donnelly

    The ‘End of KS2 Levels’ reporting from schools can be easily discredited and carries little value (a simple comparison between what schools return regarding pupils at Levels 4/5 Maths and English with their respective 11 Plus results will illustrate my point.)

    Schools arbitrarily return results for English and Maths after going through a completely internal process of assessing pupil performance using Assessment Units (which are themselves optional, with teacher interpretation deemed sufficient.)

    Regarding NFER (now GL Assessment), their assessments are normally used by schools today as you’ve indicated, though (crucially) this test will incorporate OMR pupil multiple choice papers which pupils have little or no experience of, and which is significantly different from the ‘NFER’s Progress in Maths/ English’ series most commonly used in schools today.

    The fact that there will be two tests on the one day is also a significant change from the Transfer Test of old.

  • Chris Donnelly @ 10:21 PM:

    Thanks: that confirms my worst expectations.

    Let’s go back a pace or two.

    Transferring students, at any phase, without proper diagnostic evaluation, documentation and appreciation is — quite frankly — unprofessional. Were it done properly, there would be no need for 7+, 11+, 14+, 16+ or 18+, or for SATs, or for all these peripheral testing regimes. We could trust that (wait for it!) “continuous assessment”.

    Yet, after — what? — sixty years, we are still floundering. What we do know is that the formal testings do not get it right. Yes, they neatly match the sheeping-and-goating required at each phase; but in itself that tells us the degree of their corruption. Meanwhile, successive cohorts of young talent are wasted, all the way from St Whoever’s Junior to Oxbridge entry.

  • Pete Baker

    Sorry, Malcolm.

    Not my area of expertise – “What is?” I hear the rabble cry.

    But, of course, post-primary heads are verboten forbidden to see the pupil profiles in advance for ideological reasons.

    They might, you know, use them as a basis for selection..

    Even if that could be viewed as a documented, professional approach to transfer.

  • PACE Parent

    No test is perfect but what have the educationalists come up with? No testing at all naturally leading to the destruction of grammar schools.

  • Neil

    It does seem ridiculous that the old system was shut down without some semblence of a new system in place. I wonder if at some point we can get our minister’s to explain themselves.

    Between the DUP (Sammy as environment minister, the Robinson’s expenses claims, Iris’ & wee Ian’s views on homosexuality, the Paisley’s office in Ballymena at the princely sum of 87k/year) and SF (Ruane *shakes head* nuff said, their unjustifiable expenses, and their piss poor performance in the assembly, and the hypcrisy of the socialist party creaming off forty fortune’s out of British government), our Assembly is more and more like a good ole boy network, where unqualified people who would have little prospect of getting any job in the private sector end up earning maybe five times more than some graduates.

    It’s been said many times on this site, we need an election, and we need some politicians who are educated or qualified through experience to deal with the brief they get. Taking Sammy and Catriona as examples, how ridiculous is Sammy with the environment brief? What do people think of Catriona’s poor (to put it extremely mildly) planning for the removal of the 11 +, and her consequent petulant refusal to a) explain her plans b) justify what seems to the vast majority of voters here to be a complete shambles. That second point really grips the shit outta me personally. In what other career would you present yourself to an oversight comittee to explain your behaviour, and when the going gets tough accuse other ministers of a political attack and refuse to answer questions.

    This place is going down the shit pan, and we’re paying an inordinate amount of our cash to a bunch of arseholes to sit on pointless quangos trying to control every aspect of our lives. It wouldn’t even be so bad if they were our intellectual heavy weights, but they evidently are absolutely not.