EDUCATION Minister Peter Weir has announced that primary schools in the north can now prepare pupils for unregulated transfer tests.

The Minister claims the change removes any perceived threat to primary schools involved in supporting children through the process of transfer, reversing a long-standing departmental policy on the issue.

The guidance, which endorses academic selection, explains that primary schools can support their pupils by supplying support materials, carrying out preparation for tests during core teaching hours, coaching in exam technique and familiarising pupils with the test environment.

“This week marks 100 days into my term as Education Minister,” he said. “I have been clear from the outset that I support academic selection and wanted to reflect the widespread public support for its retention and for the process to be improved.

“The guidance which has been sent to schools today allows primary schools to respond to parental demand to prepare children for the transfer tests.  Importantly, it removes any perceived threat to primary schools involved in supporting children through the process of transfer.

“This is a significant change to an area where no progress or agreement had been made for a significant period of time.”

The Minister claims the move means that every child, regardless of background, postcode, social group, religion or ethnicity, has the opportunity to get into a grammar school.

“Grammar schools can, by setting demanding standards and offering rich educational opportunities, secure impressive outcomes for those who will derive the greatest benefit from them.

“This in no way diminishes the excellent work being carried out in our non-selective post primary schools.  Those who did not attend grammar schools have likewise gone on to make a very significant contribution to the social and economic life of our country.

“Today’s guidance will support both primary and post-primary schools to make this transition as seamless as possible for these pupils.

“This, I believe, is in the best interests of children and supports the positive intentions behind the use of academic selection to post-primary school.”