A-level pupils celebrate achieving top grades
School-leavers across the north are celebrating another year of strong A-level performances with a slight rise in the number achieving the very top grade.
Results issued by five different awarding bodies yesterday revealed a very small increase in A*s - up 0.1 per cent on last year to 7.7 per cent of entries.
The overall pass rate remained, by and large, the same - 98.2 per cent achieving A*-E - while the proportion achieving A*-A increased slightly to 29.5 per cent.
Girls again outperformed boys, but the gender gap at the highest grade closed slightly.
While entries for A-levels in Northern Ireland decreased this year by 1.7 per cent, this was in line with school population changes where there are now fewer 17 and 18-year-olds.
For the second year in a row, maths attracted the highest number of entries while other science subjects also remained popular, with a growth in participation among girls.
Of the 10 subjects in which pupils performed best this year, five were in `stem' (science, technology, engineering, maths) areas and four were languages.
Two out of every three entries in further maths achieved either an A* or A while in Irish, more than half scored one of the top two grades.
Religion and music showed a notable reduction in entries this year. Fewer girls are choosing religion, although it still remains one of their most popular subjects.
Entries in languages also declined slightly, mainly due to a fall in people studying French. There was also a fall in Spanish, which remains the most popular language at A-level.
Irish entries remained almost the same at 331.
Overall, the north performed well in comparison to other regions.
Across Northern Ireland, Wales and England, 8.1 per cent of entrants received an A*, down from 8.2 per cent last year.
The gap between girls and boys receiving the top grades narrowed to its smallest for at least a decade.
Justin Edwards, chief executive of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said the good results were recognition and reward for hard work and a commitment to learning.
"Northern Ireland is fortunate to have dedicated and focused teachers and lecturers, who play a key role in the success of learners," he said.
"Mathematics has now cemented its place as Northern Ireland's most popular A-level choice, accounting for almost 11 per cent of all A-levels taken.
"We're also seeing that. as they did last year, young women are favouring stem subjects at A-level, with rising participation in subjects such as mathematics and the range of qualifications that are related to digital skills."
Education minister Peter Weir said he was pleased with the level of participation in stem areas.
"Employers continue to tell us about the growing need for students with science, technology, engineering and maths subjects and this year entries in a number of stem subjects from female students have increased," Mr Weir said.