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Derry primary school principals in new appeal for transfer test to be suspended this year

Concern over the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on children's education

(Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Lumen Christi College is continuing to use the transfer test this year.

A group of local primary school principals have called for the transfer test to be suspended this year.

Appeals have been made recently, including from the leadership of the Catholic church in Ireland, for the test to be scrapped later this year because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, while some grammar schools have said they will not use the test this year, others have said they will continue to use it for academic selection.

In Derry, two grammar schools, Thornhill College and St Columb's College, have said they will not make prospective pupils sit the transfer test this year.

However, Lumen Christi College has said it will continue with academic selection.

The city's other grammar school, Foyle College, has not yet commented publicly in relation to its plans for the transfer test.

Now, a number of primary school principals in the local area, have published an open letter outlining their views on the situation, and called for the transfer test to be suspended this year.

The letter has been issued on behalf of the Londonderry Controlled Primary Principals’ Group which incorporates the following schools: Drumahoe Primary School, Ebrington Primary School, Lisnagelvin Primary School, Eglinton Primary School, Artigarvan Primary School, Bready Jubilee Primary School, Newbuildings Primary School, Cumber Claudy Primary School and Donemana Primary School.

In the letter, the principals say they are 'particularly concerned' for pupils due to the sit the transfer test later this year.

“From mid-March these pupils have been at home and in a ‘lockdown’ which is likely to continue into August. This unprecedented period of isolation and home-schooling is having, and will have, an unknown impact on every pupil,” the letter states.

“Each pupil’s emotional and mental well-being is vitally important to us and the added pressure of sitting academic selection tests in November and December is inevitably adding to the stress normally associated with these tests.

“Anxiety levels are already raised in Year 6 homes across our country and this is reflected in the volume of calls, posts and emails from parents directed to teachers and principals in the primary sector.

“We are very concerned that much of the debate around these tests has focused on organisations such as the Education Authority (EA), the Association for Quality Education (AQE), the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) and the Department of Education (DE).

“The focus for us is on the children and what is in their best interests.

“Our Year 6 pupils’ education has been significantly disrupted from mid-March and there is likely to be a phased return for many from August/September.

“The normal educational experiences, teaching and learning which Year 6 and 7 pupils would have had pre-academic selection tests is evidently impossible.

“It is also very likely that many pupils returning from this extended absence will need additional personal and emotional support.”

In addition, the principals' letter says that with the possibility of a second wave of COVID-19 during the Autumn, they do not think that the normal academic tests should be carried out in these 'abnormal circumstances'.

“Our young children should be afforded the same moral consideration as those who were scheduled to sit GCSE and A-Level examinations this term.

“As a society we are having to review and consider how we function in this new context and the operation of unregulated academic selection tests should not be exempt from these considerations.

“Primary school teachers and leaders are not in a position to make judgements on which pupils should or should not be admitted to a grammar school.

“We call on those with responsibility for the admission of pupils into Year 8 to review their arrangements for 2020/2021 and to prioritise the needs and well-being of the current Year 6 pupils and their families.

“This is a time for people to show true leadership to the communities which they serve. We appeal to the Principals and Boards of Governors in post-primary schools which use the selection tests to suspend their use for admission in September 2021,” the letter ends.

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