DONACLONEY PRIMARY SCHOOL
When the 11+ was abolished, by the Education Minister, it was replaced by two different transfer tests, introduced by grammar schools, to enable continued academic selection. The tests are commonly known as the AQE (Association of Quality Education) and the GL (Granada Learning). Which test(s) your child sits depends on the grammar schools your child wants to apply to. Donacloney Primary School helps prepare children for the AQE test.
The AQE test is also called the Common Entrance Assessment (CEA). It is set and marked by AQE Ltd in Belfast. It is the test mostly used by the state (non-denominational) grammar schools. There are 3 assessment papers. Children may sit two or all three papers: in the latter case the best two scores will count. Almost all children sit all 3 papers to give them the best chance of a higher score. The fee to register for the assessment is approximately £50 (no fee if children can claim Free School Meals). AQE scores use a standardised age score with 100 as the mean (average) score. Primary schools have no responsibility in respect of registration, payment, arrangements for administering tests or the issuing of results.
Preparing children for AQE involves teaching concepts, developing skills and giving training and practice on the topics of the transfer tests, before commencing constant and frequent testing. Primary 6 practice tests are introduced at the beginning of April. Parents have an opportunity to discuss AQE, with the teacher, in October. They may opt out from the outset, or can indicate later, preferably by the end of April, whether or not they wish their child to sit the AQE. For the remainder of the Primary 6 year, there is AQE homework (two Literacy and two Numeracy per week) in addition to normal homework. There is also one timed assessment after school each week (Tuesday) and a teaching session after school (Thursday) to go over the paper. Mrs Hamill takes both sessions after-school sessions (3.00 – 4.00pm) and marks the papers.
In Primary 7, children who are preparing for AQE, are given timed assessments using actual past papers. These are scheduled, in order, so that the oldest papers are used first and the most recent papers are used closer to the AQE tests. In the 2022/23 year, timed assessments will be after school on two days per week (3.00 – 4.00pm). The papers are marked and results given out at follow-up tutorials which begin at 8.30am on the morning after each assessment. Key questions, identified during the marking of the papers, are revisited and additional teaching is provided based upon need. Mr Orr takes both after-school sessions, Miss Nesbitt marks the papers and takes both of the early morning follow-up sessions. AQE homework continues in Primary 7, in addition to normal Primary 7 homework, until the AQE assessments are over. Summer packs are available for purchase through the school in June.
AQE practice materials and revision resources are available on line for any parents who wish to add to the school’s programme. The resources, available from these private companies, may vary from year to year.
Factors to Consider
The entrance tests are NOT in line with the Northern Ireland Curriculum. They are of a Level 5 standard, which is the standard we would expect a very capable child to be achieving at the end of P7, rather than in the autumn term when the tests take place. Children need to have covered almost all of the whole primary curriculum by the summer term of Primary 6 and be aware of exam strategies for completing a test in 1 hour. Children’s standardised scores in Literacy (PTE) and Numeracy (PTM) may provide some indication of whether or not the level of AQE work is in keeping with their ability. These may be discussed at parent consultations in October and February of the child’s Primary 6 year.
Work Ethic and Attitude to Homework
There is a large amount of extra homework associated with AQE preparation. If a child already struggles to complete homework, independently and on time, the effort required for AQE preparation may prove difficult to maintain.
Confidence and Self-esteem
Confidence and self-esteem are important factors to consider when deciding to opt for AQE. Normal class teaching is differentiated to meet individual needs of children. It moves at a pace and level of difficulty that they can cope with. AQE is intense, fast moving and at a level higher than is manageable for many children. It is not effective as ‘extra tuition’ for this reason and constant and frequent testing has potential to demoralise if scores are consistently low. Emotional welfare should be monitored throughout the AQE experience and support and encouragement given (for all children).
Mrs Hamill provides information on AQE preparation at pre-term parent meetings (COVID restrictions allowing). Parents normally have two scheduled opportunities to consult with the teacher (October and February), but may request additional meetings or telephone calls at any stage to discuss AQE. Parents are also welcome to contact Miss Nesbitt for information or advice at any stage of the journey.
With applications for Post-Primary Schools now being online, there is no requirement for parents of Primary 7 children to meet with Miss Nesbitt to complete application forms. However, meetings will be arranged for any parents who would like to discuss post-primary school options.
Key Dates (to be released by AQE when available)
There are plans for Grammar schools to have a single transfer test from November 2023, to bring to an end the current system of two separate tests run by the AQE and the PPTC (GL). A new company called the Schools' Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG) will run the transfer test. The ‘Common Transfer Test’ will consist of two papers held on two Saturdays two weeks apart: the second and fourth Saturdays in November 2023. Each paper will feature English and Mathematics questions and there will be a mixture of multiple choice and extended written questions. It will cost £20 per pupil (or free for pupils who can claim Free School Meals). GL Assessment will provide the new 'common transfer test'.