Anger and confusion in wake of transfer test cancellations

Grammar schools have been given an extension to try to work out what their next steps will be after post-primary transfer tests were cancelled due to Covid-19.

However, anger and confusion remains over what criteria will be used to award places to pupils.

It is a dilemma for schools – and a cause for concern among parents.

Meanwhile, primary school teachers have concerns over suggestions like using data such as practice paper scores and say the disruption caused by the pandemic has affected children’s results.

And further controversy unfolded when Education Minister Peter Weir tweeted his reaction to the AQE tests being cancelled.

He said the decision “severely limits parental choice and children’s opportunities”.

That prompted anger from those who perceived the comment as viewing secondary schools in a negative light, compared with grammar schools.

In a further tweet on the subject, Mr Weir said: “Great opportunities exist throughout our education system, through both selective and non-selective schools, all of which have produced the best of Northern Ireland.

“Once opportunity to be considered for entry to any school is denied, in any sector, it is a denial to opportunity for all.”

Speaking to UTV a day later, the Education Minister apologised for any misunderstanding around his initial tweet.

Meanwhile, many questions remain over educational provision for children in the current climate.

While the difficult decision has finally been taken to close schools, they remain open for those pupils who are vulnerable or whose parents are key workers and may be unable to find suitable childcare.

However, in some schools, that means there are still large numbers of pupils on site.

One Bangor primary school has sent a letter to parents warning that the number of pupils attending is making it unsafe and asking them to think twice before sending their children.