Applying to post-primary school: Northern Ireland

If your child is progressing to post-primary you’ll receive a leaflet from the Department of Education with advice about choosing a post-primary school and completing the Transfer Form.

Visit to get further information and confirm the deadlines. 

For more information on the NI Transfer test, this guide offers a good overview.

Your questions answered 

Can I apply to any school?

In theory, you can apply for any state school in your local authority or council’s catchment area. But before applying, look at the school’s admission criteria because it’s unlikely your child will be offered a place at a school unless you meet at least one of them. Details can be found on the school website and they usually include factors such as the distance from the school, siblings already at the school and the number of places available. 

Are all state schools the same?

No, although they all teach the same Northern Ireland Curriculum. You can find out more about the different types of state schools in our About Schools section.

How many schools should I apply to?

You should list at least four schools, including a non-grammar school, in order of preference. Your child isn’t guaranteed a place at a particular type of post-primary school.

What else do I need to consider?

If your child is applying to grammar school, they’ll need to take one of two private transfer tests – AQE or GL. You’ll need to check directly with the grammar schools which test results they accept as most schools have a preference for one test, although a few will accept both. A list of the schools and their preferred tests can be found here.

Primary schools are not responsible for registering children for the test and they’re not allowed by the EA to prepare children for these tests, so full responsibility for both lies with parents. Full details regarding registration can be found on both the AQE and Post Primary Transfer Consortium (GL) websites.

Registration for both tests is open in Spring until September, so having visited post-primary Open Days with your child when they are in Year 6 is very important.

More information is available here on both tests, including the marks that accepted pupils have achieved in previous years.