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.
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.
September 21, 2010
“The AQE has never been in the business of forcing anyone to do anything they do not want. If any individual grammar school wants to drop selection, that is up to them.”
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield, Chairman of the Association for Quality Education
Exactly what business is the AQE involved in? The AQE’s recent spending of money, obtained from grammar school entrance tests, on advertisements instead of providing statements and interviews from headmasters and teachers with their local newspapers smacks of misguided influences.
Are schools such as Portora Royal, Strathern and Methodist College ready to abandon academic selection?
Parents were encouraged to enter their children for the Post Primary Transfer Consortium’s GL Assessment Test to facilitate their transfer to grammar school. One of the most prominent inducements was that the tests were claimed to be free in contrast to the AQE (Association of Quality Education) CEA (Common Entrance Assessment) charge of £35.
The facts are otherwise.
The broadcast and print media made much of this distinction although not one correspondent produced any investigative findings to explain how GL Assessment were to be paid for their activities.
Figures provided in a delayed answer to a Freedom of Information request to Ballymena Academy reveal that a sum close to a quarter of a million pounds may have been paid by participating schools.
The source of the funds used by Ballymena Academy is not disclosed but averages over £28 per pupil.
Instead of one agreed common assessment test for grammar schools it appears that unidentified leaders from the PPTC wanted to make a distinction over £7. Unsuprisingly talks aimed at agreeing a common test have failed.
Parents of Ballymena Academy will no doubt be asking themselves why they are expected to fund applications from parents from various primary schools many of whom do not end up attending the school.
There is no free school lunch from the PPTC.
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
Peter Robinson this morning signaled his personal willingness to sacrifice the principle of academic selection in order to stay in power. In a statement conveniently timed with Cardinal Brady’s announcement for the future comprehensivisation of Catholic education, the DUP leader has signalled to Sinn Fein and other anti-selection that it is now safe for them to make academic selection and the 11-plus an issue over which they can threaten to bring down the Northern Ireland Executive. Peter Robinson has made the principle of selection negotiable.
“I am determined to ensure that an academic option is available to those from all backgrounds who wish to pursue this path.”
Peter Robinson First Minister
Unfortunately Mr Robinson has not insisted that during the interim period before any introduction of Computer Adaptive Testing, the AQE CEA 11-plus must become the only acceptable exams option not the GL Assessment one day and inferior approach.
Leaving the decision on agreeing a single test to grammar school principals at a meeting in Methodist College this evening is akin to Peter Robinson and the DUP insisting the the Ulster Unionists endorse the Hillsborough Agreement with Sinn Fein.
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 25, 2009
The Belfast Telegraph petition campaign to pressure politicians into a compromise on the use of academic selection tests for grammar schools has taken on a new twist. The newspaper has established a Facebook site.
Interestingly there are no sign-ups from the AQE or Catholic Consortium leaders but many members of the Belfast Telegraph staff including the education correspondent Kathryn Torney have backed their own petition. So is Ms Torney for or agianst academic selection?
September 25, 2009
The Chairman of the Association of Quality Education (AQE) Sir Kenneth Bloomfield has been appointed to an ‘academic brain trust’ to help with the complex policy choices the country is facing. Given the uncertainty and virtual chaos surrounding the economy and particularly the transfer to post-primary education system this may seem appropriate. It may surprise readers to learn that the country in question is the Republic of Ireland not Northern Ireland.
The president of the Royal Irish Academy, Prof Nicholas Canny said Ireland was lagging behind other developed countries which were following the example of Franklin D Roosevelt, who chose a “brain trust” of professors to help him solve the problems created by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
“Academics should feature more prominently as opinion leaders and architects of recovery in our society, since they are the ultimate source of new knowledge and innovation,”
PACE are just waiting for the appointment of Professor Tony Gallagher of QUB to this august body to ensure a prolonged depression where the education system is concerned.
Sir Kenneth Bloomfield has yet to express his views on the Belfast Telegraph campaign to ‘Sort Out’ the mess in Northern Ireland’s education debacle , his purported area of expertise. Perhaps he is too busy counting the profits earned by AQE since their introduction of aState deregulated private grammar school entrance test.