Northern Ireland tops UK with A-Level results

editorial image

Northern Ireland has outperformed the rest of the UK in the proportion of students achieving A-level grades A*-A.

Almost 30pc received the coveted higher marks, with students performing well in sciences, mathematics and art and design.

A one-off rise in the number of pupils taking film or media studies was linked by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) to the filming of the Game of Thrones fantasy drama in Northern Ireland.

However the number of political studies A-level entries over the one year was down by a fifth, a decrease of 223.

Children went online from countries as diverse as Oman and the United States to receive their grades from early this morning.

Results overall remained fairly stable with a slight increase in the percentage being awarded the top A* grade, rising to 7.3pc, JCQ said.

At A*-A there was a slight increase of 0.8% from last year to 29.9pc.

The number of A-level subject entries dropped by 3.8% from almost 33,000 last year to 31,600 this time. Girls again outperformed boys in achieving top grades.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said: “It is notable that during a year when GCE entries dropped, the popularity of subjects that support the creative industries increased.

“It will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend over the next few years in response to the growing creative economy in Northern Ireland.”

The most popular A-level subjects overall included biology, mathematics, religious studies, history and English.

The percentage achieving grades A*-C was 83.7%, and 98% achieved at least a grade E.

Girls outperformed boys in achieving the top grades. The most popular subject for boys was maths while for girls it was biology.

This year saw the highest number of AS-level entries since the qualification’s introduction in 2001, in line with the rising population.

A quarter achieved an A and three-quarters at least a C.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers’ union in Northern Ireland, said:“Congratulations must go to young people and their teachers who have worked so hard to deliver yet another excellent set of results against a backdrop of uncertainty. It is especially commendable to note that pupils in Northern Ireland have outperformed the rest of the UK in A* to A grades.

“The obsessive focus of some on a very small overall fall in the number of top grades overlooks the wider achievement at other levels that students and their teachers have secured.

“It is clear that standards have been maintained across the board and credit for that must go to teachers who have, yet again, pulled out all the stops to ensure that young people are supported to achieve their best.

“That teachers have achieved these results despite savage pay and funding cuts, job loss and the continuing uncertainty over the future of the A-level system in Northern Ireland, is a testament to their dedication and skills.”

Danny Kinahan MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Education spokesman has offered his congratulations to students.

“I note that the overall results are broadly similar to previous years with 98.1pc of exam entrants achieving the pass grades between A* and E,” he said. “As is almost customary, the results of our students compare very favourably to the rest of the UK. Northern Ireland students are achieving a higher percentage of A to A* grades than their compatriots in England and Wales. Our students at 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.”

He added: “We should not forget that many of our most successful businesspeople were not successful in exams. Today is a major day in the lives of our eighteen year olds, but the results should be used as a spur to find out where they want to go in their lives and careers. The old adage that as one door closes, another opens applies today.”

He encouraged young people to use the new helpline 028 9026 1260 set up by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment CCEA to get help and advice on the options available to them.