Ulster A-level results ‘show why grammars must remain’

Trevor Robinson, principal of Lurgan College
Trevor Robinson, principal of Lurgan College

Defenders of grammar school education said yesterday that Northern Ireland’s excellent A-level results prove the system here should not be replaced.

Almost 30 per cent of Northern Ireland students achieved A-level grades of A*-A compared to only 26 per cent on average across Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

Some Ulster grammars fear Education Minister John O’Dowd is trying to phase out all academic selection here.

UUP education spokesman Danny Kinahan said yesterday: “Our students in the higher academic range continue to excel, despite the barely disguised hostility of those at the top of the Department of Education to the very idea of academic excellence.”

Principal of Portadown College, Simon Harper, said the success “reinforces the fact that our system works extremely well for our young people and seriously undermines the rationale of those who seek to change it”.

Likewise, Lurgan College principal Trevor Robinson said that those who are “calling for fundamental reviews of the system would do well to look at the concrete evidence of its success before tampering with it or, worse still, attempting to replace it with other unproven models”.

But Mr O’Dowd said that the excellent results here were achieved by pupils from both selective and non-selective schools. He added that the proportion of Northern Ireland pupils gaining the top A* grade is actually lower than that in England.

“I would stress that it is more important to compare on a truly international scale, so that we can continue to stretch ourselves against the best countries in the world,” he said. That is why he commissioned CCEA to revise local A-levels, though changes would only be phased in gradually after public consultation, he added.