Stormont ministers have clashed over the planned school transfer test scheduled for next month.
Sinn Féin, SDLP and Alliance ministers argued the test run by the Association for Quality Education (AQE) should not go ahead due to the Covid-19 crisis.
DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster, who chaired the meeting, rejected a call to put it to a vote.
It was agreed that Education Minister Peter Weir would present a paper on the issue at a future meeting.
The exchanges during the meeting have been described as “tense” by some observers.
Why has the test caused a row?
There has been controversy throughout this week about whether the transfer test should go ahead as lockdown restrictions tightened in Northern Ireland.
It is used by the majority of Northern Ireland grammar schools to select pupils.
The first in a series of tests was due to take place on Saturday but on Tuesday the exam providers said that would not happen.
One provider cancelled its test while another – the Association for Quality Education (AQE) – said it was moving its test to a single sitting in February.
The attempt to halt the test during the meeting at Stormont was opposed by DUP ministers, who accused others of using the coronavirus crisis to attack grammar schools which use it.
The ministers who wanted the test to be cancelled insisted their position was not linked to the wider debate about academic selection in Northern Ireland.
It is understood the issue was raised during the any-other-business section of the meeting and Mrs Foster said that Stormont rules prevented a vote on substantive matters discussed during that time.
Ministers were also advised about the rules by the Stormont officials.
What have schools decided?
On Friday three of the 34 schools that normally use the test have said they would not be proceeding with it.
Royal School Dungannon (RSD) in County Tyrone, one of Northern Ireland’s oldest grammar schools, told parents of primary seven pupils in the area that its governers had “unanimously decided” against using the test this year.
The school was established in 1614 and has about 650 pupils.
In its letter to parents, the school said it still supported the principle of academic selection but would use its “contingency admissions criteria” for admitting pupils to year eight in September.
“Our most important consideration was giving certainty to P7 pupils and families during the Covid-19 public health crisis,” said the school.
“The AQE test will, therefore, not take place at RSD on 27 February.”
It added: “We realise that the children have worked hard in preparing for the tests and that this is not how any of us would have wanted the transfer process to have worked this year.”
It said its decision was “in the best interests of the children’s immediate welfare and their longer term prospects of success”.
The school said the contingency admissions criteria would soon be available on its website.
Some grammar schools have already published criteria for how they would admit pupils if the transfer test does not take place.
Two Belfast schools have also pulled out of using the test.
Victoria College in Belfast said it “did not consider it appropriate” to run academic selection this year in the interests of the “safety, health and wellbeing of parents, pupils and staff”.
“We understand fully that this is an emotive and divisive issue and that whilst this news will be welcomed by some it will cause anxiety for others,” a letter from the school board read.
The school said it would review its contingency admissions criteria and publish it “in due course.”
Belfast Royal Academy has also decided against using the test this year, saying it hoped the move would “alleviate any further anxiety” for children and their parents.
The school said it would publish its contingency admissions criteria on Monday.