The not-so-elitist grammar school education (with the exception of Lumen Christi and Rathmore)

An article in today’s Belfast Telegraph [some detail now online] contains the results of this year’s Freedom of Information trawl around NI grammar schools to find out about their Year 8 entrance policies for the 2011 intake.

With two different exam systems (AQE and GL assessment), varying degrees of using the overall scores or grades/quintiles, and some schools , the results are even more difficult to compare than last year (which I posted about in September). The chart below shows the number of pupils admitted as well as the range of marks admitted to a subset of NI’s grammar schools (mostly in and around Ballymena, Bangor, Belfast, Coleraine and Derry).

2011 NI grammar school intake - subset

  • Based on the figures available, Lumen Christi College and Rathmore Grammar were (like 2010) the two notable exceptions in only accepting pupils with the top grades. In fact Lumen Christi’s lowest score admitted was 242, 8 points above the boundary for an A grade (234) in the GL Assessment!
  • Schools like Coleraine Academical Institute, Foyle & Londonderry College, Hunterhouse College (Belfast) and Royal Belfast Academical Institution stand out as admitting the majority of their intake with lower grades.
  • Two grammar schools accepted 100% of the children who applied for the 2011 intake: Coleraine Academical Institution (which admitted 10 Q1, 14 Q2, 18 Q3, 27 Q4, 31 Q5 and 12 others) and Foyle & Londonderry College (11 Q1, 13 Q2, 22 Q3, 25 Q4, 54 Q5). Those two schools probably also accepted in the lowest marks.
  • Grammar schools accepting in 90-99% of their 2011 applications included St Louis Grammar, Ballymena (92%), St Mary’s, Belfast (92%), Ballymena Academy (91%), Loreto College, Coleraine (90%).
  • In some schools, the lowest score admitted in the 2011 intake was more than 5% higher than in 2010: Antrim Grammar (92->97), Belfast High (94->99), Sullivan Upper (79->100).
  • In other schools, the lowest score admitted in 2011 was more than 5% lower than in 2010: Coleraine Academical Institute (82->66), Dalriada (102->94).
  • The change in scores may reflect intake of pupils with statement of special educational needs and alternative entrance provisions.

The Belfast Telegraph article tonight points out that at least 12 grammar schools in NI accepted pupils with the bottom grades (Q5/AQE or D/GL).

Once again, analysis of the 2011 intake suggests that while a minority of grammar schools accept in only the highest performing of pupils sitting the AQE and GL examinations, the majority are educating a wide range of abilities, and a minority of grammar schools are clearly anything but elite.

Education Minister John O’Dowd told the Belfast Telegraph that

If it does not determine an academic intake, an entrance test is only a branding exercise. The ability range of those admitted to many grammar schools would not be significantly different if the school did not use the test. Why then, put children and parents through this?

None of this deals with the problem that when it comes to GCSE results (using the latest figures for 2009/2010) …

  • 6% of grammar school pupils (553 in total) left without the five good GCSEs (A*-C) including English and Maths.
  • That percentage rises more than ten-fold to 64.7% (or 8800 pupils) of students leaving non-grammar schools without five ‘good’ GCSEs including English and Maths.

9353 people leaving school without the kind of minimum qualifications that many employers require.

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