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The North of Ireland Transfer Test - Classist and Inequitable

The author has a BA Hons in Pol Sci. He is a qualified PTLLS tutor and an adherent of Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of The Opressed.

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Classism and Sectarianism Enshrined Here in The North's Education System

The 'Northern Ireland Transfer Tests' previously known as the '11+' have left children on the verge of Secondary education in the worst of both worlds. The Academic Selection Process in the North of Ireland was drastically changed from
2008 onward. The very real inequalities of educational streaming in general, and in the north of Ireland in particular,
limits children's learning environment and in the case of many working-class children, it effectively ends their educational development before it has even really begun.

The 1944 Education Act Introduced free secondary education for all children in the north of Ireland but selective educational streaming at age 11 created educational elites and vastly favoured children from middle-class and
upper-class backgrounds. While over in Britain introduced Comprehensive education in the 1960s, the north retained its two-tiered Secondary/Grammar school system. There are designated 'Comprehensive' secondary schools in the
north but the whole rationale behind Comprehensive education model is that they would be much more than egalitarian schools surviving in a sea of Grammar/Secondary models. In the north, not unsurprisingly, Grammar
schools have become bastions of middle-class values and due to the complex sectarian nature of primary and
secondary education, children effectively find themselves streamed along both denominational and class lines.

The classic 'Banking System of Education of Education - Opposed by Paulo Freire

the-north-of-ireland-transfer-test-classist-and-inequitable

The 1944 Education Act introduced free secondary education for all children in the north of Ireland but selective
educational streaming at age 11 created educational elites and vastly favoured children from middle-class and
upper-class backgrounds. While Britain introduced Comprehensive education in the 1960s, the north retained it's
two-tiered Secondary/Grammar school system. There are designated 'Comprehensive' secondary schools in the
north but the whole rational behind Comprehensive education model is that they would be much more than
egalitarian schools surviving in a sea of Grammar/Secondary models. In the north, not unsurprisingly, Grammar
schools have become bastions of middle-class values and due to the complex sectarian nature of primary and
secondary education, children effectively find themselves streamed along both denominational and class lines.
Until November 2008, the 11 plus transfer test was administered by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations
and Assessment (CCEA) as the accepted method of transfer between primary and secondary schools. Dissatisfied
with the abolishment of the 11 plus exam, Grammar schools commissioned their own entrance exams in English
and Mathematics. These schools fall into two groups, the Association for Quality Education (AQE) and The Post
Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC). Both tests are based on the Northern Ireland Key Stage 2 Revised
Curriculum. While those accepting the AQE exam are all Protestant grammar schools, the PPTC members are
almos,t but not exclusively, Catholic grammar schools, the exceptions being the integrated Lagan College, Oscar
Wilde's old school Portora Royal, in Enniskillen, Rainey Endowed in Magherafelt and Victoria grammar school.

Over in Britain prior to the introduction of Comprehensive schools legislation in the 1960s' the 11+ test, largely devised by
highly discredited Educational Psychologist, Cyril Burt, was used to stream pupils into either grammar or secondary
schools. The test itself was an IQ-type test largely designed to vindicate Burt's theories on eugenics and specifically inherited intelligence, and
massively favoured children from middle-class families. The infamous IQ test-based '11+' was a product of and, effectively reinforced, the class system. The two-tiered education system in the north, with the transfer test
administered by the powerful Grammar school lobby, falls far short of even UNESCO's timid educational goals
which are reproduced below.


UNESCO's Education For All (EFA):

  • Goal 1: Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children
  • Goal 2: Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.
  • Goal 3: Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes;
  • Goal 4: Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.
  • Goal 5: Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.
  • Goal 6: Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills

The current transfer procedure, although not fully-based on the thoroughly discredited previous Burt IQ-based model,
still creates the same inequalities in education and largely reinforces the class-based streaming of children at such
an early age. The 11+ system that exists at present is operated by the PPTC and the AQE reproduces selection within selection for children aged only eleven!

Grammar schools' inflated uniform costs, monopolised books,
equipment and school trip fees often prohibit working-class kids from that option even if they succeed at the current
transfer test. The north's 'Grammar school rebellion' against attempts at removing educational streaming betrayed
the powerful influence of the Catholic church and the Protestant Grammar school anti-egalitarian lobby, backed by
Unionist and Nationalist parties in the north. It is a tragedy that working-class people in the north still lend their
votes to politicians and parties who view their children as unworthy of fit-for-purpose fully Comprehensive
education, on the basis of the seasonal waving of either the Green or Orange rag! Until such times as secondary education is no longer used as a means to 'stream' children at the tender age of eleven, working-class kids will continue to be unfairly excluded from reaching their potential by an antagonistic lobby-group whose modus
operandi is to reinforce educational elites.


References:

Spicker,P. (). Education and Social Policy. Available: http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/publicpolicy/introduction/education.htm.
Last accessed 25th November 2011

UNESCO. (2000). Education For All Goals. Available: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/leading-the-
international-agenda/education-for-all/efa-goals/. Last accessed 25th

Paulo Friere's Pedagogy of The Oppressed - Part Audiobook

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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