ARK Publications

Press Releases: 15 January 2003


    As the debate over the ending of the 11-plus examination continues a survey shows that most people want pupils to stay at the same school until the age of 14 and then go on to either secondary or grammar schools.

    That was the preferred option of 73% of people who feel that the current system of education in Northern Ireland should be changed.

    People questioned by the Life and Times Survey - a joint project between Queen's University and the University of Ulster - were given three options:

    • All children stay at the same school until the age of 14 before moving on to either grammar or secondary schools.
    • All children go to the same school until the age of 16 and then split to do either A-Levels or vocational training.
    • Allow all secondary schools that wish to select up to a third of their pupils for a 'grammar stream'.


    Seventy three per cent opted for the first choice; 60% for the second and 57% for the third.

    But the survey, conducted in 2001, showed that there is little consensus of opinion about the current academic selection system. Most people (75%) felt the 11-plus put too much pressure on 10 and 11 year olds and (69%) that pupils were too young at that age to take the tests.

    However the vast majority of respondents (84%) accepted that selection has to happen at some time and 69% said that children who do not get places at grammar schools still get a first-class education.

    Asked about the effectiveness of the 11-plus, only 32% said that it works well enough with 59% saying it should be changed. Some 55% of respondents said that both the examination and the system of secondary and grammar schools should be changed.

    The survey showed that those who would like to see the 11-plus tests changed prefer a delay in the selection process until the age of 14. The second most favoured option is a different type of test closely followed by a preference for the use of teacher assessment.

    Professor Tony Gallagher Professor of Education at Queen's University and Professor Alan Smith, who holds the UNESCO chair of Education at the University of Ulster will present the detailed results of the survey at a seminar today being held at NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast

    Professor Gallagher said: "The Life and Times data identifies a high degree of dissatisfaction with key aspects of the selection system of secondary education and, in particular, the tests used to select pupils at age 11 - a pattern confirmed by the results of the consultation on the Burns Report.

    "At the same time the Life and Times evidence points to a widespread view that some form of selection is probably inevitable and that grammar schools provide a high quality of education.

    Most respondents favour the end of the 11-plus tests and many feel that pupils should attend the same school until age 14 or even 16.

    However while there was general agreement that some change should occur, there is limited consensus on the exact nature of that change".

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