Some local primary seven pupils are being forced to make a 60 mile round trip to sit their AQE test as there isn’t enough space in Lisburn.
Lisa Pauley, whose son attends Pond Park Primary, was told there is no room for him to sit the test at Friends or Wallace High School and he would have to travel to Dungannon on November 11.
She told the Star that her son is one of six pupils being relocated to Dungannon for the test, Lisa said that this journey is adding to what is already a very stressful process for her ten year old.
She said: “Dungannon is an hour away, give or take time to find the place, the test starts at 10 o’clock, my son’s ten. The AQE process is stressful enough without having to go to a school you’re not familiar in the back and beyond into the bargain.
Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan has expressed his disappointment that some local children may be unable to sit the AQE transfer test in Lisburn.
He said: “Parents are understandably concerned at the disruption this will cause with some children having to travel further afield to seat the test in Dungannon. The transfer process requires three separate days for testing and a visit for orientation to help children become familiar with the environment that they will sit the test in.
“To reduce disruption and the stressful occasion this can be a local test centre is clearly the preferred option. In Lisburn we have two excellent Grammar schools that are used as testing centres, providing hundreds of places for children to complete the test and after engaging with both Principals I know they too share the disappointment parents will have. The number of applicants has increased by over 400 across Northern Ireland completing the AQE process, which is putting the system under pressure to accommodate every applicant.
Lisburn is one area that has a very high number of applicants.”
In a statement to the Ulster Star AQE Joint Chief Executive officer Stephen Connolly said that whilst he appreciates the problem faced by Pond Park Parents, there is ‘little AQE can do to ameliorate their situation.’
He said: “This year has been exceptional in that the total application has increased by 400 on last year. We have asked all our members to absorb additional numbers where they can do so safely and within their staffing resources. To help schools we are supplying or funding addition supervisors or invigilators. We have also established an additional centre, administered by AQE, in Bangor, which has had the effect of releasing further spaces in the greater Belfast area. All centres have waiting lists and where spaces become available, we place children on the waiting list in strict order. We can only work within the constraints imposed by the limited resources of schools and the fair use of existing waiting lists. It does not lie within our power to allocate places in any school unilaterally, i.e. without ascertaining whether places are indeed possible and without recourse to the existing waiting list.”
Mr Givan added: ““I have engaged with the Chief Executive of AQE asking for any opportunities to increase provision in the Lisburn area before the first test on November 11 to be examined. I have also raised the need for a review to be carried out to ensure next year the same issue doesn’t arise.”