MSM Law on Education Law and the School Transfer System

Primary Schools in Northern Ireland are now officially free to prepare their pupils for transfer tests. Since the 11+ was abolished in 2008 the unfortunate children (and their parents) of Northern Ireland have had to suffer two separate selection processes if they wished to be considered for selection to most grammar schools. The current two testing systems are the GL exams, most commonly used for Catholic Maintained schools and the AQE exams mostly used by Controlled schools.

The Department of Education however, seeks one single transfer test in place by November 2017. Whilst a small number of schools have abandoned academic selection, the Education Minister Peter Weir has stated, "It is clear that academic selection, whether you are in favour or not, is happening and it is here to stay".

The transfer process can be an extremely complex and stressful time for both the child and their parents and we can help. A child may have a specific condition, such as dyslexia, so that they will need extra help. This is known as "Access arrangements" and can mean the child gets 25% more time to do the test.

Shortly before or during the Assessments a child might experience medical, or other, problems which affects their performance in the test. These difficulties are known as Special Circumstances and, where the parents can provide appropriate evidence, an adjustment to the outcome may be secured.

There are avenues to challenge the school place allocated to your child after the decision is made. Parents may make an application to the Independent Admissions Appeals Tribunal which looks at the admissions criteria for the selected school and whether or not the School has applied their own criteria correctly.

The Exceptional Circumstances Body considers whether there are exceptional circumstances which are personal to the child meaning that the child must attend a specific school and only that school because of their circumstances. Parents can apply to both of these.

There is also the possibility of challenging education decisions by way of Judicial Review.

Eamon O'Connor specialises in Education Law. He represented the N.I Commissioner for Children and Young People in the Supreme Court in London in a Judicial Review challenge regarding Education Law. He is a member of the Exceptional Circumstances Body. He is also a father of three children and has experience of the transfer procedure. He and the experienced staff at MSM Law would be glad to assist you in applications for assistance or representation at Tribunals. Please call us on 028 9032 1409 for further information.

Back to news