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Transfer 2010 - Ruane announces details of guidance

2 February, 2009 - by Caitríona Ruane


Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane, has announced details of the guidance schools will use for Transfer 2010.

The Minister made a statement to the Assembly in which she advised members that the Department of Education would be issuing guidance to schools for admissions in 2010. The Minister said: "The time to act has arrived. Over the past 16 months I have reflected long and hard on the wide range of views put to me. On two occasions the Executive has refused to discuss my proposals for new transfer arrangements. Proposals which are based on a position of compromise and are attempts to introduce equality into an outdated education system.

"I am therefore withdrawing my compromise proposals and am no longer pursuing a legislative framework for them. I am also withdrawing my department's commission to CCEA for a continuance test. In the absence of political agreement I have a duty to act and let parents, children and teachers know how Transfer 2010 will operate.

"I am issuing today departmental guidance under Article 30 of the Education Order 2006. Article 30 gives to the department a power to issue guidance on 'the arrangements for the admission of pupils to grant-aided schools'. This Article states that all parties involved in post-primary admissions must 'have regard to' guidance issued under this power.

"This guidance recommends that all schools use as their first criterion a measure that will ensure that applicants entitled to Free School Meals (FSME) gain admissions at the same rate as all other applicants. For example, if 20% of applications are from FSME applicants, then at least 20% of the school's places should be allocated to FSME applicants.

"This is to address the current situation where FSME children have been disadvantaged in terms of access to grammar school places. One in 17 children in academically selective schools were FSME while one in four children in other schools were FSME.

"Thereafter the guidance recommends the following menu of criteria:

· Sibling;
· Eldest Child;
· Feeder/named primary school;
· Parish (with nearest suitable school);
· Catchment Area (with nearest suitable school);
· Nearest Suitable School; and
· Random Selection (tie-breaker).

"The guidance recommends that the geographical criteria (parish and catchment area) are used in conjunction with 'nearest suitable school' as a means of ensuring that rural and outlying applicants are not disadvantaged by their address. The school categories that would define school suitability for the purposes of this measure (and for transport) would be as they are now.

"The guidance states that the use of academic admissions criteria is not recommended. The reasons for this are the inequity produced by ability-based admissions and the difficulties that schools will face in using such criteria through independent assessment procedures. Otherwise, the guidance assures parents, children and schools that whilst there will be no admissions criteria regulations for Transfer 2010, much of the process will be as before.

"Under Article 29 of the Education Order (NI) 2006, a new Exceptional Circumstances body will be established. Parents can apply to this body for a direction that on the grounds of 'exceptional circumstances' their child is admitted to a specific, grant-aided post-primary school.

"In relation to the issue of preparation for a post-primary school's entrance test, primary schools should note that this is not required of them, and they should not skew teaching away from the revised curriculum.

"I will be writing to principals and boards of governors of primary schools and post-primary schools, the Education and Library Boards and I will be communicating with parents."

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