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A Level students have plenty of options

The publication of A Level results is always a significant day in our education system with individual students learning the outcome of years of study.

It is also a time when schools reflect on their results overall, hoping for signs of an improvement in performance.

In wider terms, it is an opportunity to assess not just educational standards but how the exams system delivers for the future needs of society, providing the skills and training that are required in the workplace of tomorrow.

Northern Ireland continues to deliver excellent results at A Level, with 30 per cent of candidates scoring an A or A* this year, an increase of 0.9 per cent on 2016.

Those who have achieved the grades they wanted will be overjoyed while those who fell short will be disappointed but it is important to stress that they have plenty of options.

Many of the pupils getting their results yesterday will be heading to university, still a popular choice despite the burden of tuition fees, which will leave graduates with debts of at least £16,000 in Northern Ireland for a typical three year course or more than £27,000 in England although the financial cost is much higher when living expenses are taken into account.

But the academic route is not for everyone and apprenticeships are being viewed as increasingly attractive, offering on the job training, the opportunity to gain recognised qualifications and a foothold in a chosen career without running up enormous debts.

As well as the traditional trades, today's apprentices can access training in IT, engineering, accountancy and other business sectors.

Industry works closely with the north's further education colleges which is a key factor in ensuring we are training people in the skills required by employers.

What is crucial is that all school leavers making decisions about their next step get good advice and information about their options and the wide range of opportunities that are available to them.

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