The North’s Catholic Principals’ Association (CPA) has called for “clarity” from bishops on the issue of academic selection for grammar schools, after the announcement of a drive to formulate a single entrance exam to serve all schools by 2019.
The announcement by the Post-Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) of a link-up with the Association of Quality Education (AQE) in designing a single selection exam is entirely at odds with the stance taken by the Catholic bishops, who have previously stated their desire to move entirely away from academic selection.
The resulting confusion prompted the CPA to issue a statement this week calling on both the bishops and Catholic trustees “to state publicly their position on the matter”.
The CPA said it was also “a matter of urgency” to find out “on whose behalf the PPTC statement was issued and how it sits alongside the policy of the Northern bishops regarding ending selection”.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, CPA chairman Tony Devlin said that as the PPTC currently oversees the entrance exams for 28 Catholic grammars, the need for clarity was crucial for his organisation.
“Are the PPTC speaking on behalf of those Catholic schools and their trustees?” Mr Devlin asked. He added: “If schools are wedded to selection, then so be it. But we need clarity.”
Describing the development as “unhelpful and regressive as far as the CPA is concerned”, Mr Devlin said “we support the bishops and the end of selection, which we view as detrimental to students”. He revealed that the CPA will now put a request into writing to Archbishop Eamon Martin.
The PPTC announcement of its cooperative approach to selection with the AQE has come four months after the North’s Education Minister Peter Weir of the Democratic Unionist Party – which favours academic selection – established an initiative to examine if agreement could be reached on creating a single entrance examination for Grammar schools.