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NAHT Northern Ireland represents principals and vice-principals in around two-thirds of 1,150 schools in Northern Ireland. NAHT Northern Ireland provide advice, training and support for its members on a range of issues faced by senior leaders in schools. Along with our colleagues in England and Wales, we are there to defend and extend the rights of school leaders.  

NAHT NI is democratic and member-led, and supported by its Belfast-based team of staff alongside their colleagues based in both Wales and England.

NAHT Northern Ireland
Carnmoney House
Edgewater Office Park

Belfast
BT3 9JQ

nahtni@naht.org.uk
02890 776633 

NAHT(NI) response to the proposal to introduce ‘hybrid system’ for academic selection as an alternative to the transfer test

NAHT(NI) stands behind the expressed NITC position that “it is simply not the case that any scores exist within primary schools to take the place of transfer this year. Primary assessments are formative and not comparable across schools” (NITC press release, Nov 2020). 

We recognise Mr Butler's effort to help provide a solution to the shameful position that many of our year seven children have been placed in by the inability of the Minister to develop timely contingency planning. 

It is, frankly, appalling that despite months of opportunity, no plan B has been provided, leaving many children and their parents in a wholly avoidable crisis. It must be noted that many within the primary sector have suspected for a long time that no genuine attempt to find any alternative process for these children has been made. 

The information that Mr Butler refers to is data that schools routinely share with parents (if it is available) and are free to furnish to parents should they request it, to inform as to progress in learning. Primary principals will, however, have no part to play in anyone’s decision to use such information for any other purpose and will not be held accountable for such inappropriate application.  

The proposal suggests using two forms of information held by primary schools: standardised assessments and practice papers for the transfer test process. At the outset, it is our opinion that primary principals routinely share this information with parents and, in the normal course of things, provide such information to parents to support the transition from primary schools through the 'Special Circumstances' processes. 

Standardised assessments

Primary schools administer standardised assessments in English and maths every year. It must be noted, however, that:

  • standardised assessments are diagnostic, designed to support learning and teaching, and are never to be used for such high-stakes summative assessment
  • there is no equity in how these assessments have been administered
  • due to covid-19, and the fact that these assessments are generally administered in May/June each year, many schools do not have standardised data from after year five
  • while primary school principals will happily supply any standardised assessment data to parents (if they haven't already done so as a matter of course), no primary principal will stand over its appropriateness for this purpose.  
Practice transfer tests

It is often (but not always) the case that primary schools run practice assessments in preparation for the AQE and PPTC assessments, only to support their children. It must be noted, however, that:

  • as the official past papers and the commercially available practice papers are publicly available and regularly used by parents and tutors outside of school, there can be no guarantee of the robustness of any score 
  • there is no equity in how these assessments are administered, or indeed marked
  • practice tests are carried out at different times in different schools, negating any comparability
  • there is limited (if any) reliability and validity between commercially available practice assessments and official past papers so comparability is extremely questionable
  • while primary school principals will happily supply any such data to parents (and generally do, when special circumstances are applied), no primary principal will stand over its appropriateness for this purpose.  

It rests entirely with the boards of governors of those schools that use the academic selection as a criterion in their admission processes to determine if they can stand over the legalities presented by Mr Butler's proposal. Simply speaking, primary principals will not.

First published 07 January 2021

 

First published 07 January 2021

NAHT NI Annual conference

Annual Leadership Conference
14-15 May 2020 Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle
 ‘Empowering Positive Leadership’
 
Full programme to follow. Register now using the form below:

 

 Nursery and Foundation Stage Conferences
• Foundation Stage Conference:  Thursday, 19 November 2020
• Nursery School Conference:  Friday, 20 November 2020 
Venue: Hilton Hotel, Templepatrick

NAHT(NI) are delighted to have Anna Ephgrave to deliver two conferences, a day aimed at Foundation Stage practitioners and a day for Nursery practitioners.   Anna taught in the early years in English schools for 30 years and is now an independent consultant, trainer and author, supporting practitioners both in the United Kingdom and abroad. She has written four very successful books for David Fulton, Routledge: The Reception Year in Action, The Nursery Year in Action, Year One in Action and Planning in the Moment. Anna is passionate about children having autonomy and choice in child-initiated play. This ensures that each child can follow their interests and become deeply engaged which results in outstanding progress and meaningful learning.      This event can be used as a whole staff/team professional development opportunity and Principals may wish to use a Staff Development Day for this purpose. Further information will be issued soon, but in the meantime, please hold these dates in your diary!