An increasing number of Catholic grammar schools in the North are abandoning controversial transfer tests to select pupils for 2021. It comes after Primate of Al-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin pleaded for the tests to be set aside.
The 11-plus exams were formally abolished in 2008. However, some schools that wanted to continue to select children based on academic criteria set up their own process in defiance of the hierarchy’s opposition to such a process.
There are several schools that will now not use transfer tests including Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School, Our Lady’s Grammar School, Sacred Heart Grammar School, and St Colman’s College which are all in Newry, and St Louis Grammar School, in Kilkeel, all in Co. Down.
Mount Lourdes Grammar and St Michael’s College in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh and Loreto Grammar School and the Christian Brothers’ Grammar School in Omagh, Co. Tyrone also announced they would not be using transfer tests.
Archbishop Eamon – a former school principal – wrote last month to 165 schools warning that children are under enough pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Archbishop Eamon said he was aware of “anxiety” building over the tests.
“I appeal to the whole educational community in the Archdiocese of Armagh to support a suspension of the use of academic selection for entrance to post-primary schools in September 2021,” he said.
“I urge the Boards of Governors of our Grammar Schools to publish admissions criteria which do not rely upon the use of transfer tests carried out under such uncertain and challenging circumstances.”
He added that he has “no desire to simply re-open the arguments for, and against, the transfer tests” and that he made the call “from my heart on behalf of the current Primary 6 children, their families and all our school communities”.
At the time the 11-plus was abolished, members of the hierarchy were sharply critical of Catholic schools that wished to retain academic selection.