Northern Ireland news

More pupils receive top A-level grade

All good at Blessed Trinity College in North Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

A-LEVEL performance in the north remains strong with the number of top A* grades on the rise.

Pupils across Northern Ireland, Wales and England received the results yesterday which will help them decide their next steps, be it university, work, or training.

The rise at A* was driven by increase in female performance, and girls achieved higher outcomes than boys across all grades.

A*-A grades increased 0.5 percentage points to 30.9 per cent.

The A* - E pass rate remained stable with a 0.1 percentage point increase to 98.3 per cent.

There was a sight fall in entries from 29,005 last year to 28,332. This was in line with a fall in population where the Year 14 school cohort declined by 2.6 per cent.

Participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) dropped but these subjects continue to account for more than one in three entries.

There was also a fall in languages - Irish, French, German and Spanish all declined slightly.

Exam results Claire Crummey at Blessed Trinity College in North Belfast Picture by Hugh Russell.

Maths was the most popular subject for the third year in a row, followed by biology and business studies. More than one in every 10 entries was in maths.

More than 85 per cent of A-level entries were through the north's Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA).

The rest were taken through the four English and Welsh boards.

Ahead of A-level results day, grade boundaries for two of England's biggest exam boards, Edexcel and OCR, were leaked.

Niall Stewart and Seana Gillen at Blessed Trinity College in North Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

The documents showed that students needed to score just more than half marks in A-level maths to be rewarded with an A grade.

Grade boundaries for Edexcel's maths A-level show students who gained 165 out of a possible maximum of 300 marks (55 per cent) will be awarded an A.

Separate documents show that those who took the OCR exam board's A-level maths qualification will walk away with an A if they achieved 54 per cent across all papers - a total of 161 out of 300.

CCEA Chief Executive Justin Edwards said the results were a testament to the hard work and dedication shown by pupils over the past two years.

"Northern Ireland students continue to perform well, with increases across all grades. There was a slight increase in those receiving the A* grade this year," he said.

"Mathematics remains the most popular A-level, with one in 10 students studying the subject. The proportion of students taking stem subjects and Languages has decreased slightly, however stem subjects continue to account for over one-third of A-level entries in NI.

St Dominics pupils Eimear McGarrity, Hannah Heaney and Nicole Smyth getting their A-level results Picture by Mal McCann

"Once again students in Northern Ireland have performed well. We are delighted for the students and all those that helped them achieve their results."

Education Authority Chairwoman Sharon O’Connor said the high standard of education delivered in schools was something to celebrate.

"As the world is changing, with the introduction of new technologies and new ways of doing things, we need to be sure that our young people are prepared to meet these challenges and capitalise on opportunities, and having a good education is all part of this," she said.

Across Britain and Northern Ireland as a whole, the proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade or higher fell to the lowest for more than a decade.

In total, 25.5 per cent of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer, the lowest proportion since 2007 when it was 25.3 per cent.

Dr Philip Wright, Joint Council for Qualifications Director General, said this year's pass rates were stable across all A-levels and "it is particularly encouraging to see the rise in young women being inspired to take science A-levels".

"For the very first time, female entries have overtaken male entries in science," he added.

Coláiste Feirste students celebrate getting their A-Level results Eoin Ó Ruanaidh, Dáire O’Hare, Seánna NicAlastair, Eilise Nic Lochlainn, Tiarán Burns. Picture by Mal McCann

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