Minister not planning to reintroduce single transfer test

Education Minister Peter Weir has said he has no plans to reintroduce a single transfer test for P7 pupils in Northern Ireland.

He appeared before the Education Committee at Stormont to discuss the issue on Wednesday morning.

During a sometimes personal session, Mr Weir was challenged to find a political resolution - but said that was unrealistic.

He said: "In an ideal world I would like to see a single test that was agreed by government.

"In that regard I am realistic enough to know that there won't be agreement politically over that, so consequentially I am not going to waste time trying to find a state test and get agreement across the different views that are there.

"I've enough problems in education without seeking another trench warfare on something there isn't going to be an automatic solution to."

Question marks over academic selection have hung over pupils, parents and teachers since before the 11 -plus was abolished in 2009.

And so the latest minister to hold the portfolio – who in contrast to his predecessors supports academic selection – has had his intentions under scrutiny.

Last month Peter Weir indicated a change in departmental approach when he told primary schools they are now free to prepare pupils for the unregulated tests.

However he said it would be pointless to impose a test that could be scrapped if there was a ministerial change.

Mr Weir went on: "I think there is no point creating a situation where this becomes simply whether there is a test or whether there isn't a test - it becomes almost a political football in terms of who is in charge of education in that regard.”

There are currently two unregulated tests used by grammar schools still selecting on the grounds of academic ability in Northern Ireland.

Mr Weir said it was his goal to see if the two exam bodies running the tests could come together to produce a single test.

Sinn Féin, who previously held the education office and oppose academic selection, questioned the minister's decision.

Committee member Jennifer McCann said: "The gap between those who are deprived and disadvantaged and those select few that academic selection helps is just so wide.”