Good luck to all the pupils waiting for their transfer test results. The children and their parents/guardians are to be commended for their efforts. The children, not least, for being willing to have their numeracy and literacy skills tested and excerising their right to compete for a place in a grammar school. The parents/guardians for supporting the efforts of those schools determined to deliver the equality of opportunity that a transfer test affords. 2013 is the forth year that the “unregulated” tests have been organised and delivered to the highest of standards and it is testament to those who have resisted the determination of an Education Minister hellbound on removing parental choice for a grammar school education to match the needs of their children.
It is important when the results are known not to fall into the annual trap generated by opponents of selection by stressing over the marks or grades (these always remove information and should not ever be compared to the old CCEA grading system) obtained by the pupil. Expect and resist the rumour mill but instead arm yourself with the knowledge that until the admissions process is completed no one can issue a guarantee of a place at any grammar school. The marks/grades from previous years may give a reasonable indication of a school’s 2013 intake but do not be put off in listing a preference because of something someone has told you “on good authority” or “inside information”. Remember that Open Enrolment has resulted in about 42% of post-primary pupils getting a place in a grammar school.
In making a selection of preferences it is important to take into consideration future plans for the schools. There is little benefit in choosing a school which in a short period will no longer be a grammar school. The school is unlikely to inform you of their change in direction, after all they are competing for your child and relying on their marketing efforts. Your child will not benefit in the long run. Forty plus years of research evidence and data on attainment shows that mixed ability schools generally produce lower attainments at GCSE and A-Level.
Add to that the negative impact of the revised curriculum and the entitlement framework and the Education Minister's insistence in breaking parity on examinations with England and this year's cohort of parents making vital decisions on behalf of their children must be sure of their choices.
Specific information on schools will follow
February 21, 2011
Notes from the AQE letter of February 3rd, 2011 to parents and guardians signed by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield.
To view the entire document click here AQE
The first point is that Sir Kenneth Bloomfield uses the term “robust” to describe the AQE system, a term he used on 1st September, 2008 while calling for locally-elected politicians to reach crucial decisions about the future of our education system. http://paceni.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/bloomfields-latest-tragedy-of-errors/
Bloomfield’s affinity for a Pupil Profile remains intact and has not been rejected by him.
“A pupil profile, if meaningful and reliable, could provide for parents and potential receiving schools a useful summary of a pupil’s performance in primary education and facilitate the informed matching of pupils to schools.”
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield of the GBA and AQE
On P2 of the letter Sir Kenneth announces detail of the AQE CEA re-mark scheme. Parents will recall that disadvantaged pupils (those on Free School Meals) did not pay the £35 fee for taking the tests. However, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, on behalf of AQE announced the imposition of a £10 charge for those on FSM for requesting a re-mark. It is understood that the motivation behind creating further disadvantage for those already disadvantaged was to prevent members of the local community from flooding the AQE office with requests for remarks.
So to be clear - the AQE proclaims equality of opportunity for the disadvantaged in applying for grammar school entrance tests but effectively removes it by denying them equality in seeking a re-mark. PaceNI blog readers will hardly need reminding that Sir Kenneth Bloomfield’s school, Inst refused FOI requests from PACE seeking disclosure of the number of bursaries provided to disadvantaged pupils at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution. The exemption claimed by Inst was on the groulnds of cost to provide the information. While some member schools in AQE make claims of their desire to assist and support disadvantaged pupils Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, chair of governors of only one of two category B schools, destroys such claims by imposing charges for “free” tests.
Ken Bloomfield then goes on to claim in his letter about the help and assistance that primary school principals will provide during interviews for completing the transfer forms. Perhaps he should have read his own document,The Statistics from the Questionnaires of January 2011 which clearly indicate that only 67% of primary schools provided information on the AQE tests. Even those of limited mathematical ability can covert that figure to a fraction. One in three primary schools, led by principals, refused parents the information on the transfer tests. How can Bloomfield suggest with any expectation of credibility, that parents trust primary school principals to ” assist you in the application process”. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield clearly wants to attract attention to himself and his incoherent agenda. His signature on the letter to parents on behalf of AQE juxtaposes sharply with all the work diligently carried out by William Young, former headmaster at BRA, the CEO at AQE Ltd. Unfortuantely it seems that Bloomfield is determined to destroy AQE from within. How else can one explain the gross ineptitude found within his letter to parents. Specal circumstances, special provision and special cases are highlighted by Bloomfield as a basis for parents who feel that the mark obtained after three tests does not reflect their child’s “true ability” to challenge the result.
Bloomfield suggests that parents might wish to obtain comparative educational evidence from the primary school (including the third of schools who provided no information on the AQE CEA tests). Did he stop to consider that this is instantly recognised as another effort on his part to push for the Pupil Profile. After all, if equivalent information on attainment exists in the primary school what is the point of testing for grammar schools? That question will confuse and confound the 21% of parents from the middle classes who entered their children for entrance tests while claiming they are also against academic selection.
“AQE believes strongly that Northern Ireland is blessed with excellent schools, Primary, Grammar and secondary, and is confident that, in whatever school your son or daughter is enrolled in September 2011, he or she will have an educational experience of high quality.”
Perhaps he was regressing and thought he was writing a letter in his former role as head of the N.I. Civil Service seeking to deliver everyone in an equality of result outcome.
February 18, 2011
February 4, 2011
Tomorrow thousands of pupils from throughout Northern Ireland will be awaiting the results of their tests for a place in a grammar school. As predicted the BBC Nolan Show gave a platform for the Education Minister, Caitriona Ruane to emotionally terrorize young listeners and their parents. Having abdicated responsibility for measuring attainment in numeracy and literacy at primary school she has taken to venting her spleen at those who have demonstrated her irrelevance. It is clear that demand for places at grammar schools is as strong as ever and an equality of opportunity still exists for all who wish to do so to compete in a fair competition based on their numeracy and literacy attainment. Good luck to all those pupils.
As many parents will know there are two different tests offered by different schools (except for Victoria College, Belfast). One is marked as a script by teachers [AQE], the other is marked by a computer [GL Assessment] There has been no published information on which test is more valid and reliable but one must be. Last September PACENI highlighted a story on yet another series of errors by the Northern Ireland examinations body CCEA in which computer-based marking is used. The Education Minister must take responsibility for the failures of her regulated system that swallows £30 million per year while at the same time spending an inordinate amount of time and resources criticizing the unregulated tests.
This week Ofqual published two reports into the reasons behind mistakes which resulted in 935 out of 1024 candidates being awarded wrong scores.
PACE will be publishing an in-depth analysis of the Ofqual reports into CCEA. Please revisit the site for regular updates.
CCEA the subject organisation are not so keen to communicate the Ofqual reports.
February 6, 2010
UPDATE for 2011. Visit the page of February 4 on the cautionary tale of exam results by computer. http://paceni.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/exam-results-a-cautionary-tale/
Today saw the delivery of results for the two very different tests used to determine entry to grammar schools. The AQE test and the GL Assessment tests. The AQE results were delivered efficiently and effectively but the GL Assessment results encountered some difficulty with attendant stress for pupils http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/breaking-news/uk-ireland/school-exam-results-delivered-late-14670533.html
AQE CEA Tests
Three tests were offered with the best two scores counting. Most applicants took all three tests. The scores range from 55 to 145 with the average score set at 100.
Scores were adjusted to take account of age. The scores will be split into five bands or quintiles. The top band are marks greater than or equal to 113, followed by 106-112, 98-105, 88-97 and, less than or equal to 87.
Within each quintile fall 20% of the scores obtained by the total number of candidates – so 20% of scores fall between 145 and 113, 20% between 112 and 106 and so on.
Only once all transfer applications have been processed and places allocated will a school be in a position to publish how the application of admissions criteria arrived at final admissions decisions.
There is not a direct relationship between each quintile and the traditional Transfer grades. The advice of PACE is that parents should use the Transfer form to put down their chosen schools in order of preference rather than trying to anticipate whether or not the score is sufficient to gain admission.
It was never the intention by AQE that transfer grades (A, B1, B2, C1, C2) would be applied as CCEA did with the regulated transfer test results. Anyone suggesting otherwise is misleading you and should be challenged as to the source of their information. Parents have been conditioned into talking about grades as if they represent some form of ranking but this is not the case. A score of 123 is not the same as 113.
Admission to a grammar school based upon strict rank order is the fairest method. However some grammar schools have adopted different criteria and it is here that parents and pupils are likely to run into difficulty and may be misled. Parents should check the admission criteria published by each of the grammar schools to which the pupil has applied for admission.
The second method claims to be similar to the old 11-plus (it is not)— taking all pupils in first two score ranges (quintiles) and then using other non-academic criteria if oversubscribed within the other bands of scores.
The third method involves schools taking a proportion of available places e.g. 100 of 150 places based on scores alone. Then a pool of pupils is created (the size of which has been decided in advance) and the school will apply other non-academic criteria to all of this group to select for their final places. (social selection) Such schools undermine the principle of equality of opportunity and the purpose of the AQE CEA test. Parents should exercise caution in applying to these schools for admission since they may attempt to rely upon information from the primary school which is unreliable. Some schools have asked parents to access this information on their behalf. PACE recommend that such requests are refused.
Schools using the third method include Inst and bangor Grammar School.
The GL Assessment Tests
The GL Assessment tests are completely different. The questions were multiple choice and marked by computer. To highlight the misinformation campaign mounted by supporters of the GL Assessment campaign (remember the Catholic grammars and others refused the opportunity to use the AQE CEA tests) it has been reported that remarking can take place. If any educationalists can suggest how the computer can remark a test paper designed to be read by a computer and issue a different result PACE would be delighted to investigate this AI device. Claiming that GL Assessment remarks are “free” underscores the attempt at deception. It will recalled that the GL Assessment tests were” free” to applicants but as yet the identity of the philanthropists paying GL Assessment’s bill has not been made public. Interestingly no political party, educationalist or investigative journalist from the local media have even investigated the matter.
Today’s Irish News makes mention of Standardised Age Scores (SAS). Simon Doyle, their education correspondent must not have access to Google or other search engine because if he did he would have immediately discovered that the correct term is Age Standardised Score (ASS). If the Irish News education correspondent does not know the difference between an ASS and the SAS, readers should not rely on his counsel on important education matters It will be of great interest to learn where GL Assessment obtained their standardised scores from. Was it from template? Where did the norms come from?
Attempts to link the results of GL Assessment tests with CCEA grades only further complicates the issue but the most complicated situation of all arises at Victoria College, Belfast where pupils are to be admitted on the basis of results from both tests. The school Board of Governors was warned about the problems by PACE but refused to accept the advice.
Victoria is the only school in Northern Ireland admitting pupils using the outcome of both AQE and GL tests. Dr Darrin Barr, the school’s deputy head, has said pupils will be admitted by considering the percentile ranking in the particular assessment sat. The AQE were queried by a school principal who was concerned whenever a percentile was given as a decimal such as .68 It will concern parents to know that numeracy problems extend to primary school principals not just the pupils. Ms Slevin the principal has rightly stayed silent.
In the case of an applicant who sat both assessments, the higher percentile rank will be used. The first pupils to be accepted will be those with a percentile rank of 60 or above.
This must be the most egregious use of an apples to oranges comparison. The two tests have no useful comparison properties.
If there are more within a band (B1 and B2 are five marks apart) than places available, other non-academic criteria will be used.
Age Standardised Scores
Parents with concerns over test result information should contact PACE at email@example.com