CCEA reply on 11+ exam

THE Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has responded to concerns raised by two Coleraine academics on a recent 11+ paper.

Principal of Millburn Primary School John Platt and leading mathematician, Dr James Caldwell, both expressed their concerns that the transfer test paper was “seriously biased” against working class children, against boys and against children who are more scientifically and mathematically minded.

Dr Caldwell, originally from Coleraine and now a leading academic in Hong Kong, highlighted a number of areas of concerns in the test which he asked The Coleraine Times to pass on to the CCEA for consideration.

CCEA said they would take time to study Dr Caldwell’s report and reply to him in person.

The Council has now issued a statement to this newspaper on Dr Caldwell’s findings.

The statement said: “Dr Caldwell describes the importance of tests of this type being ‘…properly tested out in advance and measured against criteria which assess the suitability taking into account important issues such as gender, age and culture’.

“CCEA supports this view and I am pleased to confirm that testing in advance is a key part of the development process of the Transfer test.

“Outcomes from the pre-testing phase of development are used to inform decisions about the design of the papers.

Key aspects of development include -

1. All questions are tested in advance using a large sample of pupils and schools taking account of factors including socio-economic backgrounds

2. For each question, measures are taken to determine the level of difficulty and reliability

3. Gender bias is addressed in the test development process and is taken into account in the final selection of questions that make up the test papers

4. An age allowance is applied to across the cohort of children taking the tests

5. Questions are checked against the specification and revised by a team of experienced practitioners

6. The development process is designed to ensure reliability and balance across the papers,” concluded the statement.