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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.

Enforcement

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.

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