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GCSE results offer positive signs for future

The education system can come in for considerable criticism at times but there is no doubt the GCSE exam results published yesterday show there is much positive work going on in our schools.

Once again Northern Ireland performed better than England and Wales with the proportion of local students achieving A*-C grades increasing by 0.4 per cent.

In particular, the north's students are continuing to do well in science subjects with more than nine out of every ten entries achieving a grade C or better.

It is also very encouraging to see that the number of entries for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) has increased.

This move towards science and computer-based subjects is a clear sign that the message about future career prospects is getting through to teachers, parents and pupils.

All the indications are that Northern Ireland's economy needs to have a steady supply of highly-educated candidates to meet the needs of the employment market - jobs that will generally be well paid and provide decent lifestyles for the next generation.

It makes absolute sense for our young people to be trained in the skills that employers need and it is good to see this type of focus in our schools.

Yesterday was a landmark day for thousands of teenagers who deserve enormous credit for the hard work and commitment they showed to achieve excellent results.

Credit must also go to their teachers who are clearly striving to drive up standards and ensure their students are equipped with the qualifications and information they need for their future path.

That path that will be different for every child. Not every student is destined for the academic route and it has to be recognised there are many options open to pupils who want to learn key skills without going to university.

In this respect, the promotion of apprenticeship schemes in the trades and business must be regarded as a welcome step which hopefully will continue to develop.

Further education colleges also provide a range of courses which will help improve the job prospects of young people.

Some students who received their results will have a clear idea of where they are going but for those who are still unsure, it is important they have access to relevant advice to help guide their next step.

In the midst of those understandably delighted at their success, there are also those who are disappointed.

They must be given plenty of support and reassured that no door is closed, in fact they have time on their side and an education system ready to help them get the qualifications they need.

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