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A-levels: Success in `stem' excellent news for economy

Dominican College Belfast students Lauren Cowan and Laoise Kavanagh celebrate their top results

EDUCATION chiefs have taken the unusual step of highlighting pupils' strong A-level performance in "economically important subjects" with employers.

In a letter, Department of Education deputy secretary Katrina Godfrey said this year's results "offer some real encouragement".

The number of A-level pupils sitting maths increased by 8.6 per cent from last year. There was also increased uptake of `stem' subjects. The 3.2 per cent increase was a stronger growth than in the UK as a whole.

"We are delighted to see these improvements, in the take-up of maths and of girls' take-up of maths in particular and stem subjects more generally. You can be confident, however, that we are not going to become complacent; we recognise that there is much more work to be done," Ms Godfrey wrote.

"In that regard, it would be enormously helpful if you would continue to support us by welcoming these latest figures and by using your own role models and success stories to underline to parents and teachers the value you place in higher study of maths and other stem subjects and to provide encouragement to young people themselves."

Education minister John O'Dowd said he was delighted that maths topped the poll.

"Employers continue to tell us about the growing need for students with science, technology, engineering and maths subjects and this year entries in these subjects from female students have increased considerably," he said.

"Seeing the relevance of course choices for the future is vital in keeping young people engaged and motivated to achieve."

Nigel Smyth, Director of CBI Northern Ireland welcomed the results.

"To build a balanced, modern economy, we need a workforce that can exploit new technologies and drive forward our high-value, high-growth sectors, so a rise in the number of stem students is excellent news for the economy," he said.

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