Education news

Northern Ireland pupils improve GCSE results with girls widening performance gap

 Happy pupils at Hazelwood Integrated College Belfast picture by Hugh Russell.

GSCE results in Northern Ireland have continued to improve, with girls widening the performance gap from boys.

The overall percentage of students obtaining the top A* grade rose by 0.7 percentage points to 10 per cent, while those obtaining grades A* to C increased to 79.5 per cent.

More than 30,000 pupils sat GCSEs this year.

In English, the percentage of entries achieving A*-C grades increased to 79.6 per cent.

In maths, A*-C grades rose to 66.4 per cent of entries, returning to 2015 levels (66.6) after a dip last year.

A small number of pupils (around 3 per cent) in Northern Ireland received results in numerical format this year, with 9 being the highest mark and 1 the lowest. The new scale applies to English literature and maths qualifications offered by a number of English exam boards. Their performance has been incorporated into the overall performance figures.

Entries in `stem' (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) related subjects grew. They accounted for almost one-third of all GCSE entries. The growth in entries is being driven by growth in subjects such as computing, and physics.

There were decreases in overall entries in biology and chemistry.

Girls outperformed boys

In terms of the gender breakdown, boys and girls recorded improved results on last year, but girls' rate of improvement was more marked. A total of 83.5 per cent of girls gained a grade C or above - up 0.6 points on last year. Boys improved by 0.1 points to 75.4 per cent. The gap between female and male performance widened to stand at 8.1 per cent.

There were fewer GCSE entries this year - down from 161,975 to 156,806.

Cara Gorman and Eimear Mulgrer with their GCSE results on the last year of Little Flower Girls' School in North Belfast Picture by Hugh Russell.

Justin Edwards, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland's awarding organisation, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said the results reflected the hard work of young people and the support they received from teachers.

"Whilst we are entering a period of change in the way GCSEs are graded across the UK, it is reassuring to note that Northern Ireland candidates continue to achieve high outcomes in comparison to England and Wales," he said.

"This year over 30,000 students across Northern Ireland sat GCSE examinations, with almost 9 out of 10 students choosing a CCEA qualification. This rise in CCEA entries demonstrates strong confidence in the CCEA GCSE qualification.

"We intend to build on this confidence, with the first teaching of the revised GCSE qualifications next month. Each of these qualifications will offer refreshed, modern and rigorous content to ensure that we continue to equip local students with the right skills and knowledge needed for life and work."

Pupils from Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast, Northern Ireland pictured after receiving their GCSE results..Picture By Pacemaker.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT union, said congratulations must go to young people and their teachers who worked tirelessly to deliver another excellent set of results.

"The fact that schools in Northern Ireland have continued to deliver these results given all that has happened in education over the past few years is a testament to the resilience of the teachers who have had to endure increased work pressures, rising class sizes and uncertainty about their own careers," she said.

 Hannah James and Victoria Gillespie pupils from Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast, Northern Ireland pictured after receiving their GCSE results..Picture by Pacemaker.

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