Commenting on today’s announcement that providers of post-primary transfer tests in Northern Ireland have agreed to hold this year’s exams in January, Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,
“Whilst I recognise and welcome children will be given more time to prepare for these exams, this was not the outcome we were seeking. It is unfortunate it took legal action to get to this point, when the same decision could have been made months ago saving children and their families’ stress and uncertainty.
“I am reassured by feedback from the Department of Education and the Education Training Inspectorate that the focus should be on assessing the effectiveness and impact of remote learning on children so that schools can support them to be ready for education following this gap. This should ‘level the playing field’ in terms of extra support being put in place for pupils who need it most.
“With the first test proposed to take place on 9th January, I am of course concerned about the impact on the first term back, preparing children for tests must not distract schools from concentrating on well-being and education recovery. The impact on their Christmas break, is also concerning, after what has been arguably one of the toughest years so far for these and many other children.
“There is little to no room for slippage now, and we need to see contingency plans in place in the case of another gap in education due to a further Covid-19 surge, if a pupil contracts the virus, and how effective education will continue for a whole Primary 7 class if they have to self-isolate because of a positive Covid-19 test.
“The alternative timetable runs the risk of affecting every child transitioning to post-primary school. It must account for the fact that school placements are announced in early June, normally 4 months after choices are submitted which has now been reduced by 5 weeks. Time must be factored in for those pupils who do not get the school of their choice and wish to avail of the appeals process, as is their right.
“I will be seeking further assurances from the Department of Education and the Education Authority that they will be able to meet all the requirements for all children transitioning to post primary so that they won’t be left without school places come September.”
Notes to Editors