The Association for Quality Education exists to seek to improve the lot of all children in Northern Ireland, not just those with academic gifts. Its whole raison d’être is the promotion and provision of quality education for all. At a time when the high academic standards of Northern Ireland were seen to be placed in serious jeopardy through the abolition of selection for post-primary education, it fell to AQE to honour the wishes of the majority of parents consulted in the Province, by providing an alternative in place of the abolished 11+ examination. In order to preserve the academic standards in Northern Ireland, we established the Company AQE Ltd, and, on a very tight budget, it has successfully run four Common Entrance Assessments for 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13 (the CEA), which have high standards of reliability and of validity and which have been an improvement on the old 11 plus in a number of ways, including:
* the three assessment structure with the best two to count;
* the Access arrangements;
* the removal of a grading system with its potential to mark children as failures and its capacity to
* the development of age-standardized scores.
Since its inception AQE has tried hard to produce relevant, unbiased and challenging papers to address a range of issues on our society and
to maintain regular contact with a range of political leaders and party spokesmen on education on a broad spectrum of issues. These include:
ACADEMIC SELECTION: Demonstrations have been arranged for party representatives of Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) as a mechanism for transfer to post-primary schools. In the final round of television interviews with party leaders before the May 2011 Assembly election, First Minister Peter Robinson referred to CAT as a potential replacement of the existing examination system. (The Leaders’ Debate, BBC1 May 3)
FINANCE: Apart from representations on the effect of cuts in the education budget, we have emphasized the importance of increasing, as circumstances permit, resources for pre-school and primary school sectors.
CURRICULUM: We have stressed the value of traditional methods of teaching and advocated an examination of the impact of the Revised Curriculum.
ACHIEVEMENT/SOCIAL MOBILITY: In all our discussions with politicians we have put forward a number of suggestions to deal with the problems of under-achievement and low levels of aspiration in economically-deprived areas. Further consideration is being given to this issue by an AQE sub-committee.
SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS: We consider that this is an area of concern which requires urgent attention. At the moment too many young people are not getting the help that they deserve.
NURSERY EDUCATION: Fundamental to the well-being of our children is the start which they get on the educational ladder.
Difficult economic times lie ahead. With our Province situated on the edge of Europe with no natural resources and having lost the heavy industries that once were its source of prosperity, a highly trained and educated workforce is essential for economic survival. We believe that education in Northern Ireland must focus on building on our strengths and on addressing effectively those areas which need improvement. We make a number of suggestions in all our papers which, we believe, have the potential to raise standards further. In all our suggestions, we have tried to be realistic and to have regard to the fact that there will not be the finance available for wholesale change.
In order to find out more about our work on education over the past ten years, please click on the desired section below.
1. Educational papers produced by AQE and its associated organizations.
2. Recent relevant Press material.
3. Quality Education for all 2011, Reflections on the state of education in Northern Ireland.
4. More is Less 2012, Reflections on Post-16 Choices in Northern Ireland.
5. Does the Department of Education's audit refute the claim that Northern Ireland's education system is world-class?
6. League Tables
7. High Standards of Education
8. THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA
9. League tables: Cambridge Journal of Education 2008
10. The education bill and ESA
11. Undermining of Grammar Schools