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The Minister of Education of said: “I am disappointed that AQE will not be operating a test this year on the grounds of public health. This will also be very disappointing for many pupils and parents.

“Today’s decision by AQE makes it an impossibility for any such test to happen. It is clear that public health and the wider Covid-19 situation has prevented the transfer test taking place this year.

“Transfer tests have never been compulsory for any school nor any student, but what they have provided for many has been parental choice and opportunity for children to gain a place at a post primary school of their choosing. Today’s announcement diminishes that choice significantly.

“In view of the ongoing public health situation, I had recommended to Boards of Governors that they should prepare contingency criteria in the event the transfer tests did not go ahead.

“These criteria should be finalised soon by schools and will be published by the Education Authority on 2 February. However, in light of the changes today, we are extending the date for schools to submit final admissions criteria to the Education Authority, until 22 January. My officials will issue further correspondence to schools.

“Schools still have the opportunity to use either non-academically selective criteria or alternative data as a proxy for academic selection, but neither route is without its difficulties, and our previous guidance that they seek clear advice before they determine their course of action remains.

“Along with my Department, I stand ready to continue to work with all schools in the difficult circumstances created by the current health situation.”