NI: Transfer tests delayed further after legal challenges

NI: Transfer tests delayed further after legal challenges

Grammar school transfer tests are to be delayed until next January following successful legal challenges brought to the High Court in Belfast.

The transfer tests set to take place in November and December 2020 after a two to three week delay will now take place in January 2021, lawyers for the Department of Education said.

Belfast firms Phoenix Law and Finucane Toner brought legal challenges on behalf of children who felt disadvantaged by the loss of classroom time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ciaran Moynagh, partner at Phoenix Law, said: “The global pandemic has brought about unprecedented change to the way of living. Such unprecedented change must be mirrored by the Department of Education in ensuring children’s interests are protected.

“Making children undertake life-changing exams during such turbulent times would be most unfair. The right decision has been made this morning. Sitting exams in November or December certainly would not have been in their best interests.

“This case was never about the rights and wrongs of academic selection. My client achieved a postponement of the tests and that postponement will allow some of the disadvantaged children who did not have access to private tuition/resources or remote technology during lockdown to be back at their desk learning from experts for a reasonable period of time before they sit exams in the new year.”

Ciarán Toner said: “Today’s win is welcomed by our client whose child has, along with all other school children, missed out on valuable teaching time to help prepare for this year’s transfer tests.

“It is paramount that children are afforded the time to complete the Key Stage 2 curriculum in a classroom setting and have the appropriate preparation time in advance of sitting the tests.”

He added: “I would appeal to Education Minister Peter Weir and the exam bodies to keep the transfer tests under review as my client has concerns about the impact further COVID-19-related school closures may have on her child’s access to education, and to a post primary school place of choice.”

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