February 4, 2012
Good luck to all pupils awaiting their examination results for Saturday 4th February, 2012. There are no failures among them regardless of the result or score.
The unregulated examinations have been conducted for the past three years without the threatened legal challenge promised by Sinn Fein’s Caitriona Ruane and are now established as the de facto 11-plus replacement for selection to grammar schools.
The difficulties between the two organisations AQE and PPTC are insurmountable so disregard recent utterances from politicians and their compliant friends in the media claiming that they will consolidate the groups into one testing agency. It would appear that the DUP are talking to the PPTC, “the Catholic Test” organisers and perhaps to the GBA, the Governing Bodies Association of the voluntary grammar schools but not to the AQE. As ever the politicians pretend to help but actually have done nothing but try to seize political advantage over a key concern of parents. Mervyn Storey claimed that he had been meeting with both testing groups but reliable sources confirm that no such meetings have taken place with the AQE testing agency.
Ignore all romours about the score required to gain a place at a particular grammar school.
No school principal or teacher has access to information which could allow any such claim. Previous years cut-off scores are only relevant to those years. Do not be put off making application to a school based on romour. Many will propagate disinformation in order to increase the chances of their child gaining a place at your expense.
The admission procedure is controlled by the Education & Library Boards and will not conclude until May. While this period of delay is unjustifiable it should come as no surprise to parents since all of the ELBs have an anti-academic selection and anti-testing stance. If ELBs cared about all pupils they would have taken steps to shorten the timescale.
Remember that there is no equivalency between the two tests. I.E. a particular score (or faux grade) for a GL test cannot be equated to an AQE score. This year quintiles have been dropped because of the deceptive use of the information, particularly by the media, to convert AQE scores into grades. Grades remove information and are therefore unhelpful to pupils and parents.
Top scores in the AQE test are likely to be lower than in previous years because of the availability of practice papers but median scores will be higher.
The GL Assessment test in English was harder this year. This is likely to have been in response to the widespread criticism of flaws in the GL test. With a limited bank of questions available the testing agency may have selected questions with a higher facility score (difficulty) from those available in order to suggest that they have been responsive.
More to 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.
September 25, 2010
This advertisement appeared in the Antrim Guardian last week three days before the closing date for parents/guardians applying for this year’s 11-plus entry tests.
Of immediate note is that the three schools mentioned, Ballymena Academy, Slemish College and St Louis Grammar School are all members of the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC).
There is no mention of this important fact in the advertisement. The PPTC commissioned GL Assessment to provide the multiple choice tests for which they paid approx £350,000. The group then claimed that the tests were “free”. Finbar McCallion of the GBA spend time over the summer trying to convince the public that a common test would result.
The advert in the Antrim Guardian makes no mention of the PPTC, GL Assessment or the fact that the tests are multiple choice. The reason underpinning this reticence is that behind the scenes the GBA, the Governing Bodies Association are attempting to persist with the fallacy that a common or single tests will unite the two groups the AQE and the PPTC. Nothing could be further from the truth. The two tests only came about when the PPTC and the Catholic schools majority of the GBA refused to offer the AQE tests to their schools. In effect the 11-plus transfer system was both sectarianised and devalued. It should be remembered that the Catholic hierarchy have committed to end academic selection in their schools by 2012. Any multiple choice exam based on the revised curriculum serves the PPTC purposes but in effect misleads AQE parents and according to one well placed source “devalues education”.
The individual behind the false claim of a common test is Finbar McCallion, former headmaster and GBA chairman. Mr McCallion promoted the Education First campaign.The campaign, set up by the Governing Bodies Association (GBA), was officially launched at the Linenhall Library in Belfast. Finbar McCallion, chairman of the Governing Bodies Association, said:
“We agree that the 11-plus must go but we accept that it is incumbent upon the main interests in this debate that we all have a responsibility to assist in the development of an alternative – one which best matches our children with the most appropriate education.”
In case MrMcCallion has missed the news due to illness in the family post The St Andrews Agreement – academic selection by valid and reliable testing remains legal for admission to grammar schools.
In 2002 the chairman of the GBA, representing grammar schools in Northern Ireland returned to his job following a so-called row over comments made by senior Catholic bishops.
Finbarr McCallion took the decision to withdraw his resignation from the Governing Bodies’ Association over the weekend after he received a unpublished letter from the bishops. (this letter remains secret).
“Mr McCallion stepped down last week after Bishop John McAreavey, chairman of the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools, said that selection in schools should end as soon as possible.”
And Bishop Donal McKeown said that grammar schools could not continue in their current form, given an expected demographic downturn and low numbers.
Recently Mr McCallion has been aided in his efforts on a common test by Ronnie Hazzard of Ballymena Academy and Dermot Mullan of Our Lady & St Patrick’s College, Knock.
Good luck with that gents – parents are on to you.
decide on whether or not a school has correctly applied its admissions criteria but WILL NOT be able to question the validity of the admissions criteria themselves. * (This is because the panelists have no expertise in the matter and the DENI wish to avoid the sentinel issue of determining comparability between one test with a public specification (AQE) and one shrouded in secrecy (GL Assessment). A significant number of parents were induced into having their children sit BOTH TESTS in the belief that they were different and therefore measured different constructs. Parents should recall that it was the DENI who withdrew the regulated transfer test (11-Plus)
AQE and GL Assessment tests and the GBA: Information for parents
While decisions over admission to grammar schools from last years tests have yet to be announced, the secrecy surrounded a group claiming to represent grammar schools (Parents – have you ever heard of or from them?) are busy making sure this year will be just as perplexing.
The BBC has carried accounts about the development of “one test” and allowed an expectation to flourish that such an outcome is possible. However the BBC have failed to differentiate between a single set of tests (a combining of those schools using AQE and GL as the test provider) and one exam instead of two or three.The facts and history prove otherwise.
Enter the role of the GBA. The Governing Bodies Association claim to represent the voluntary grammar schools. Exactly who represents your local grammar school and in what capacity is not made clear http://www.gbani.org/?tabindex=15&tabid=810
The GBA have two secretaries, many spokesmen but no treasurer even though they demand membership fees. A claim from their website states:
It supports, in appropriate ways, Governors, Principals, Teachers, Pupils and Parents. Members work tirelessly on a voluntary basis for all young people in the province. To achieve its aims it interacts with the business, commerce, industry and other public services.
It fails to mention the close, some would say, intimate, relationship with the Minister of Education and the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the DENI. Hence the statement by Caitriona Ruane yesterday on BBC Radio Ulster that she was aware of full details of a recent meeting of the GBA held in Methodist College, Belfast , including the fact that there was no agreement on a single test.
There are 52 grammar schools eligible for membership but the entire state controlled grammar school sector are excluded.
Twice in the last month Finbar McCallion, Hon Secretary of the GBA, was interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster Good Morning Ulster. Mr McCallion raised the issue of the “one test” and spoke of a search for consensus on the basis of the specifications for the AQE and GL Assessment tests being “similar”. A specification for the GL Assessment test has yet to be disclosed to parents. How can a test be valid or reliable without a specification prepared in advance? Was Mr McCallion misleading parents and the public to avoid further difficulties for the Minister’s failed strategy prior to the General Election? How is that Mr McCallion can claim to have compared the two specifications? In what capacity did Mr McCallion have access to the GL Assessment specification ? Who are the Joint Commissioning Group he referred to on BBC Radio Ulster? Is he a member? Which schools have agreed to this arrangement?
PACE contacted GL Assessment requesting a copy in February and were referred on the basis of commercial confidence to the Post Primary Consortium. An FOI request to Ballymena Academy, a GBA member school using the GL Assessment test is still pending a response.
Mr McCallion implied to the listeners that the two testing providers were actively working on a common test. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mr McCallion and fellow travellers such as Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Wilfred Mulryne, Scott Naismith, David Manning seem willing to see all grammar schools go the way of the Catholic grammars, i.e. to comprehensive status. Hiding the intent behind descriptions such as “all ability, foundation, bipartite ” or otherwise does not change the essential fact that a school failing to use academic selection by testing at 11 is not legally a grammar school. Even the GBA managed to point this out to the Minister for Education. Why they waited so long to do still requires an answer.
The two GL Assessment multiple choice tests are not similar or comparable to the AQE CEA “constructed response” tests. That being so, the motivation for introducing GL Assessment tests, mainly by the Catholic schools, is raised. The question of who paid GL Assessment for the creation, trialling, administration and marking of the test has yet to be answered. The AQE test was available to all grammar schools. Two tests were introduced in order for the Catholic grammars to achieve a goal identified on Slugger O’Toole by one poster.
“generations of Catholics who were abandoned and left to rot by self righteous institutional sectarianism”
The catholic church chose to set up a parallel sectarian system, and the state disgracefully acceded.
State schools were always open to catholics, still are, which gets us to the real reason the catholic church will keep selection at least until it it ended in the state sector.
They don’t want catholics going to mixed grammar schools, where they are already very welcome, especially for the schools’ accountants.
on Mar 03, 2010 @ 07:34 AM
3 into 2 won’t go
February 8, 2010
The Code of Practice on Access to Government Information is a non-statutory scheme which requires Government Departments and other public authorities to release information in response to specific requests. The Act creates a statutory right of access, provides for a more extensive scheme for making information publicly available and covers a range of public authorities including schools and colleges.
Bangor Grammar School in County Down failed to answer a Freedom of Information request made on Monday 21st December 2009 made by The Parental Alliance for Choice in Education (PACE) on pupil attainments in examinations
. The legislation http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2000/en/ukpgaen_20000036_en_1 allows 20 working days for a reply to issue. The response can include information such as directing the queries to other sources, issuing a partial answer, citing legal exemptions to the request for information.
No such rely was received. Bangor Grammar School has now joined the company of other schools who seem to have failed to have learned the lessons given by their Education and Library Board’s FOI officer on their duties and responsibilities.
This disturbing information is made public to parents to take into consideration when seeking information about how the results of transfer tests such as the AQE Common Entrance Assessment or GL Assessment are to be used to determine admission to a grammar school.
It may be helpful for parents to familiarise themselves with the admission criteria to Bangor Grammar School. Given the school’s choice of the AQE CEA test ( a rank ordered approach) as the instrument to determine admission, the citation of the Minister’s Free School Meal criteria seems to indicate that two horses are being ridden.
To sum up: the School seeks to give due consideration to the constituents who have traditionally been part of the community which the School has served and which it reflects in its ethos; it also wishes to give weight to the Minister’s desire that schools should seek to restore the imbalance in access to post-primary provision caused by social disadvantage. To achieve this in its practice and procedures, the Board of Governors has decided that there should come a point in the selection process when pure academic ability as measured by a score in the AQE CEA as the sole criterion should be balanced against wider considerations. It has therefore resolved that, in principle, up to 90% of its admissions number should be determined by rank order in the AQE CEA and that the remaining 10% should be allocated primarily by means of the non-academic criteria.
Its choice of 90% is determined by the pattern of admission over the last three years, 2007 to 2009, when, on average, 92% of its intake was composed of pupils who had achieved a grade A or B in the Transfer process. The remaining 8% was typically drawn from pupils who had achieved a C1, of whom there were more than there were places available within the admissions number and to whom, therefore, the non-academic criteria were applied. To broadly replicate the position which obtained within the model of selection offered by the Transfer procedure up to and including 2009 and to sustain, therefore, continuity of process, the Board proposes to create a ‘pool’ of applicants drawn from the next pupils in strict rank order after the first 90% have been placed, the size of which is calculated as twice the number of places available and which will be approximately equivalent to the C1 band. Restricting the pool to this number will be more likely to ensure that all will be academically competent, while at the same time giving priority to socially disadvantaged pupils and acknowledging the School’s sense of community as represented by those groups listed in the non-academic criteria.
Perhaps instead of giving weight to the Minister’s desire the Principal should concentrate in compliance with the law.
15. This enables an applicant who is not satisfied with the response by a public authority to a request for information to apply to the Commissioner for a decision on whether the authority has acted in accordance with the provisions of the Act. Subject to certain conditions, for example, the exhaustion of other means of complaint, the Commissioner is under a duty to reach a decision.
AQE and QUB Professor Tony Gallagher blame politicians for educationalists’ failure on 11-plus solutions
November 16, 2009
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and Professor Tony Gallagher were interviewed on BBC Good Morning Ulster after the first of the five unregulated tests to determine entry into grammar school in Northern Ireland.
What they failed to admit during the interview were a number of important points for parents.
The AQE developed their CEA tests and offered them as a common exam for all grammar schools. This was rejected by the Catholic Voluntary grammar schools who set up an arrangement with GL Assessment thereby creating the necessity for pupils to take up to five tests.
- Sir Kenneth Bloomfield’s school, Inst, is a member of the Governing Bodies Association, an organisation claiming to be the representative body for all voluntary grammar schools. Sir Kenneth Bloomfield has been a spokesperson for the GBA on many occasions. Yet GBA schools operate two separate exam systems. Parents will naturally wonder which of the two testing systems is better since they cannot be the same.
- Sir Kenneth told BBC listeners that negotiations were ongoing to agree one common test for next year. He neglected to inform listeners that members of the GBA were split deliberately in order that two tests were imposed upon the very pupils that AQE and GBA claim to be concerned about.
- Tony Gallagher cited his concern over those not entered for the entrance exams. For someone charged with responsibility for the School of Education at Queen’s University perhaps he should have considered the possibility that their parents were actually content with the choice for a secondary school. PACE have previously highlighted Professor Gallagher’s contradictory position on academic selection and in particular (s)election at 14, the latest phase in the plan to impose comprehensive schools in Northern Ireland.
- Tony Gallagher once again attempted to blame politicians for their failure to implement his advice to government. Perhaps the politicians should use their powers to examine Professor Gallagher to the same level of scrutiny as the unregulated tests given his anti-selection background and contradictory advice.
September 6, 2009
The Minister for Education’s confirmation last week that entry to grammar school will only be on the basis of an academic test raises renewed questions about the continued use of the CCEA Pupil Profile.
The Pupil Profile became the favoured solution to the 11-plus conundrum for a number of education ministers, political parties and teachers unions. The Association of Quality Education’s heroic leader, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, former defender of Victims throughout Northern Ireland and more significantly former Head of the Civil Service wrote articles in the Belfast Telegraph extoling its value. Robust and valid were the frequent adjectives most inappropriately employed by the sanguine wordsmith.
Now that AQE has secured a private entrance exam to its publicly funded grammar schools no further mention has been made over the mixed messages on the Pupil Profile.
For Concerned Parents for Education, one of the front organisations created to provide multiple roles for headmasters and teachers a problem arises. Are they still supportive of the Pupil Profile as their preferred solution for entry into grammar schools, as were the Direct Rule ministers , Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Roy Lilley, Marcus Patterson and Billy Young of Belfast Royal Academy or have they been suckered by these same individuals into having the views of parents misrepresented by selfish, hypocritical double speaking people only interested in making a private business out of taxpayer funded grammar schools?
Since Concerned Parents for Education (CPE) told the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4325025.stm that they want the pupil profile to be used for academic selection and CPE are a constituent part of AQE, parents must now see that AQE does not even have the ability to hide its true agenda. That agenda is to have the DENI fund private testing for profit to gain entry to grammar schools. Billy Young’s weak interview on BBC Radio Ulster’s morning show in which he thanked the minister for her free publicly funded advertising of his company’s arrangements is a fair example.
May 22, 2009
Numeracy and Literacy?
Edna: Seymour, you have to think of the children’s future.
Seymour: Oh, Edna. We all know that these children HAVE no future.
[Everyone stops and stares at Seymour.]
Seymour: Prove me wrong children. Prove me wrong.
While announcements are heralded about a meeting of primary school principals on their chaos over the unregulated11-plus transfer system parents may want to share some of one principal’s helpful information.
The school, Greystone Primary School, has been providing updates to anxious parents. However the source of the anxiety may be closer to the school prinipal’s efforts with Local Area Planning than meeting pupil’s needs.
The following extract from Update 6 reveals a disturbing attitude to numeracy and literacy attainments and the school’s approach to solutions on behalf of some pupils.
“You might want to consider whether you want your child to continue with these as work done in class during this time might be more useful if you do not intend to apply for a place in Antrim Grammar.”
Ivan Skinner, Principal of Greystone Primary School, Antrim
The following questions arise from Principal Skinner’s missive.
* Are only pupils seeking a place at Antrim Grammar worthy of numeracy and literacy teaching?
* Why is Antrim Grammar the only grammar school choice? Do Ballymena Academy, Cambridge House, Belfast Royal Academy, Belfast High School, RBAI no longer exist as a choice for parents and pupils?
* Are parents restricted to only AQE tests?
* Do the pupils know they are scoring low?
* How were the scores communicated to parents?
* What “work” does Principal Skinner mean?