Maths more popular as gap closes between girls and boys at top A-level grade

Students at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood, (from left) Danny Lyttle, Rory Caddy, Robin Watts and John Matchett, after receiving their A level results
Students at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood, (from left) Danny Lyttle, Rory Caddy, Robin Watts and John Matchett, after receiving their A level results

Mathematics has grown in popularity in Northern Ireland as more students gear up for the jobs market, A-level results showed.

The gap between the top performing girls and boys overall has closed at the highest A* grade.

Sasha Cleere and her boyfriend Lewis Smyth at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood, after receiving their A level results

Sasha Cleere and her boyfriend Lewis Smyth at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood, after receiving their A level results

Performance levels remained strong and stable with 7.7% of entries receiving an A*, up 0.1% on last year.

Female students outperformed boys across the grades but boys continued to close the gap at the highest grade, rising 0.1% to 7.5%.

The number of entries in mathematics rose this year by 1.4% and was the most popular subject with the highest levels of achievement.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications in Northern Ireland, said: “It is a very desirable subject for entry to university for engineering and for business qualifications and it is one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

“People make individual choices based on where their career aspirations lie.”

A recent survey by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry found half of businesses felt a skills mismatch/shortage was hampering economic and business growth and few believed young people were receiving enough support when making their choices.

Today’s results showed participation in STEM subjects remained popular, with a growth in participation by girls in ICT, mathematics, biology and chemistry. There was also an increase in the number of students choosing business studies.

Overall, the tally of entries for A-level decreased this year by 1.7% in line with falling school populations.

There were notable drops in the number of entries in music, religious studies, drama and art and design.

More than 28,000 pupils received their A-level and AS-level results on Thursday.

The number of A-level entries was 31,828, and the proportion of entrants receiving A* or A grades rose by 0.2% on the previous year, with almost 30% receiving the high marks.

Maths, biology, history, English and religious studies were the five most popular subjects.

For the third year the proportion of entries for media/film/television subjects has increased - up 3.6%.

The number of students staying at school after the age of 16 to take A-levels has risen.

Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir said Northern Irish students had outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales.

“Worthy of note is the level of participation in Stem subjects, which remain popular, with a growth in female participation in subjects such as mathematics and computing.

“Employers continue to tell us about the growing need for students with science, technology, engineering and maths subjects and this year entries in a number of Stem subjects from female students have increased.”