Northern Ireland news

GCSE top grades fall in Northern Ireland but remain above pre-pandemic levels

More than 30,800 students are receiving GCSE results in Northern Ireland (David Davies/PA)
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

The percentage of top GCSE grades in Northern Ireland has fallen for the second year – but remains higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) has published the provisional 2023 results for more than 30,800 GCSE students across Northern Ireland on Thursday.

The results show that 86.8% of students received grade C/4 and above, while 34.5% received grade A/7 and above.

GCSE entries in the north increased slightly this year to 168,118 from 164,413 in 2022.

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A-Level results
The vast majority of students in NI sit exams set by CCEA (Liam McBurney/PA)

In GCSE English language, 27.3% of entries achieved A/7 and above, and 86.5% achieved grade C/4 and above.

This year’s figures for GCSE mathematics show that 29.2% of entries achieved A/7 grade and above, while 76.4% of entries were awarded a grade C/4 or above.

More than 41% of all GCSE entries were in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

Exam bodies are continuing to move back towards more normal awarding arrangements which were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic and public health measures.

In 2020 and 2021 there were no exams and teacher-assessed grades were issued instead.

This year students in Northern Ireland were provided with advance information on some topics in the majority of exams.

Examiners were also told to be mindful of disruption caused by the pandemic when considering overall student performance.

The vast majority of GCSEs in Northern Ireland are taken by pupils through the region’s exam board, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), although a small number of pupils take exams through English and Welsh exam boards.


CCEA chief executive Gerry Campbell said: “The results are the culmination of two years’ hard work and commitment by these students, their school leaders, teachers and wider school community.

“Thank you to the teachers, exams officers, examiners and moderators for their support and dedication which helped to ensure a successful delivery of this year’s examinations and assessments.

“Also, I wish to acknowledge the important role of the thousands of parents and carers across Northern Ireland, as they have guided and supported our young people throughout their studies.”

Mark Baker, chief executive of Controlled Schools’ Support Council (CSSC), congratulated students receiving their results.

He said: “They should be proud of their achievements, not only those confirmed today but those realised throughout their school life.

“I would also like to acknowledge the dedication and diligence of the teachers and support staff, who have inspired, encouraged and guided their learning.”