GCSE students in Northern Ireland are continuing to perform better than their counterparts in England and Wales, this year’s results reveal.
Thousands of anxious and excited young people gathered at schools and colleges across the Province this morning to collect their exam results.
Figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQCIC) show that the proportion of entries awarded A* - C grades has risen by 0.7 percentage points, this year, to 81.1%. And the number of entries achieving the A* grade is 9.9% – a small increase of 0.4 percentage points on the previous year.
The number of GCSE exam entries in Northern Ireland decreased by 0.4% this year, from 171,060 to 170,348.
Today’s figures show that there has been a slight improvement in GCSE English Language and Mathematics.
In English Language, the percentage of entries achieving A* - C grades increased by 0.6 percentage points to 80.2%. In Mathematics, the percentage of entries achieving A* - C grades increased by 1.7 percentage points to 68.1%.
Females achieving A*- C grades increased to 85.1%, by 0.9 percentage points. The proportion of male entrants achieving A*- C grades rose by 0.5 percentage points to 76.9%. The gap between female and male performance at A*- C grades has widened from 7.8 to 8.2 percentage points.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects now account for 43% of all GCSE entries in Northern Ireland, with an increase of 2.4% on the previous year.
The number of female entries for STEM related subjects increased by 4.9%. Male entries in STEM subjects increased by 0.1%. Entries also increased in subjects such as Drama, Construction and Business Studies.
The proportion of overall entries for languages remains broadly stable, with a 0.2 percentage point decrease on the previous year.
This is the second year of the 9-1 grade scale offered by English-based awarding organisations, and a small percentage of students in Northern Ireland (1.7%) will receive a 9-1 grade, with the vast majority (98.3%) of students continuing to take A* - G graded GCSEs.
According to the Joint Council for Qualifications, standards remain anchored at grades A/7, C/4 and G/1. The organisation said comparisons across years, subjects and jurisdictions, are possible at these anchor points.
Commenting on the results, Justin Edwards, Chief Executive of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) said: “Congratulations to all students receiving their GCSE results this morning. Northern Ireland’s students have once again demonstrated good outcomes across all grades, reflecting the hard work that takes place in our schools and colleges.
“Students here continue to achieve higher outcomes in comparison to their counterparts in England and Wales.
“There are some patterns worth further analysis, such as the continued widening of the performance gap at A*-C grades between males and females.
“Subject choices remain stable with over 40% of students here now studying a STEM qualification. There were positive increases in Further Mathematics entries.
“This year, the strong confidence in CCEA as a qualifications provider continues. Over 95% of students in Northern Ireland study CCEA GCSEs. We are committed to ensuring that all students in Northern Ireland are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge needed for their future.”
Education Authority (EA) chairperson Sharon O’Connor commended students receiving their GCSE results and wished them well in the next stage of their educational journey.
“The publication of the GCSE results is a significant milestone in the educational calendar,” she said.
“Young people across Northern Ireland are anxiously and excitedly waiting to hear if they have achieved the results that will take them on the next stage of their journey, either moving into sixth form in school or beginning study in a Further Education College or Training Organisation.
“I congratulate each young person receiving results and wish them all the very best, whatever they decide to do next. For those students whose grades weren’t what they had expected, I would assure them that there are other options available to them in education, training or apprenticeship programmes that provide for a range of career pathways.”
EA Director of Education John Collings paid tribute to the hard work of all the young people receiving results this week and praised the dedication of school staff who have supported their pupils throughout their school journey.
“For many young people, GCSE results reflect years of hard work and commitment,” he said.
“The Education Authority would like to take this opportunity to congratulate staff in schools for their professionalism and dedication in supporting our young people in their GCSE achievements.
“Behind each of the young people receiving results this week, there are people who have supported them tirelessly and I would commend everyone who has contributed to helping them achieve their goals.”
The EA Director of Education also offered advice to students who did not achieve the grades they hoped for: “Although this can be a stressful time for young people and their families, education and careers advice is available from staff in schools, Further Education Colleges and through the Careers Service website https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/campaigns/results.”
Some practical next steps for students to consider
• Schedule a meeting with an appropriate member of staff in your school to get advice on what to do next, particularly if you have not obtained the grades that you planned for or if you have achieved better than you expected;
• If you have narrowly missed a grade boundary speak to your subject teacher to see if it is worth requesting a remark;
• If your grades fall short of the requirements for the school, college or training organisation that you applied for; speak to the appropriate staff to find out whether they will still give you a place on your chosen course. Even if you have not achieved the grades required for the course you may still be able to get a place on another similar course;
• Make use of all the support that is on offer and don’t rush into making decisions, sometimes you will just be taking a different route to the career that you have always been interested in following.
• Anyone with queries regarding CCEA’s examination results can call 028 9026 1260, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or log onto the CCEA website to access answers from the Frequently Asked Questions section.