Education news

Number of pupils awarded top A-Level grades expected to rise

The number of top A-level grades is expected to rise across Britain and Northern Ireland

THOUSANDS of sixth formers will receive their A-level results today amid suggestions of a slight increase in the number of top grades.

An analysis of the entry levels for traditionally top-scoring subjects, including maths, indicates the percentage of pupils achieving an A or A* will increase.

There are warnings of "greater volatility" in marks due to changes made by awarding bodies in England, but the north is expected to avoid significant upheaval.

In Northern Ireland last year, there was a strong performance with the overall A* - E pass rate rising slightly to 98.2 per cent. There was also a small increase in those awarded the top grade, with 7.6 per cent of entries receiving an A*.

The percentage of entries achieving A*-A fell slightly, however.

There was also an increase in numbers taking A-levels in the north last year, driven by a notable rise in entries in mathematics. The subject became the most popular A-level, accounting for one in 10 entries.

Participation in the `stem' subjects - science, technology, engineering and maths - was strong.

This year, the number of boys achieving the very top grade could pull further ahead of girls across the UK as a whole - due to a rise in take-up of maths.

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It is expected that maths will again be the most popular subject in the north.

In addition, entries to maths and further maths in England are up again, with the former now overtaking English as the subject with the highest intake.

Since they award by far the most A* grades, this could lead to an increase in A* grades overall.

Across Britain and Northern Ireland last year, boys held a 0.9 per cent lead over girls at A* grade, although girls had a 0.4 per cent lead at A and A* grade combined - having outperformed boys every year since the millennium.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the gap between boys and girls had been narrowing since 2006, and that boys could "go further ahead this year due to the increase in people taking maths and further maths".

Overall performance in the north is expected to be similar to previous years, although there might be a small drop in entries in both A and AS-levels in line with the falling number of 17 and 18 year olds in schools.

Meanwhile, Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications for the CCEA board, paid tribute to the role of examiners in modernising and improving the marking system in recent years.

"Over the space of just six weeks, since the end of the examinations timetable, more than 4,000 examiners, moderators and markers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure all 436,000 CCEA GCE and GCSE examination papers have been marked, assessed and graded to the highest standard," she said.

"Put simply, the dedication, knowledge and subject expertise of the teachers who make up the great majority of our examining and moderation teams, has ensured that every single student receives a grade to reward their hard work."

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