The Education Minister’s goal to raise standards has been dealt a blow after it emerged that the percentage of pupils achieving five good GCSEs has fallen.
There has been a 1% fall in the percentage of Year 12 students attaining five or more GCSEs including English and maths at grades A* to C.
It comes as international experts prepare to scrutinise Northern Ireland’s education system. Figures released by the Department of Education yesterday show just 59.2% achieved the Government benchmark in the 2011/12 academic year compared to 60.1% the previous year.
It means that almost 9,000 teenagers did not receive the minimum qualifications demanded by employers, as results slipped in both grammar and non-grammar sectors.
Employer organisation The CBI warned that there needs to be improvements — particularly in English and maths results — if Northern Ireland is to compete on an international stage.
Assistant regional director Kirsty McManus said: “It is paramount for employers of all types that young people have high standards of literacy and numeracy and we would urge a renewed focus on this over the coming years to enable Northern Ireland to better compete economically in the global marketplace.”
John O’Dowd admitted the figures were disappointing, but said: “I also acknowledge that we still have far too many young people in our education system who are underachieving. I am determined to tackle this.
“Earlier this month I announced that we will be participating in a major in-depth review of our education system led by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”
And he added that the controversial GCSE English exams may have impacted on results.
Though a probe by the regulator earlier this year found that the overall grade outcomes for GCSE English here were in line with achievements in previous years.
However, at A-Level, results are on the up with 64.7% of students achieving three A-Levels at grades A* to C. Both the grammar and non-grammar sector improved.
Last week Mr O’Dowd ordered a review of GCSEs and A-Levels.
The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has been commissioned to carry out the review to ensure that GCSE, AS and A-Level qualifications are capable of “testing and rewarding the learning and attainment of pupils”.
The survey can be found on www.ccea.org.uk/accreditation/gcse-gce-review/ and will be available to complete until January 21.
Regional breakdown of percentage of pupils achieving five GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths 2011/12:
BELB: Non-grammar 28%, grammar 90.4%
WELB: Non-grammar 33.2%, grammar 92.1%
NEELB: Non-grammar 35.6%, grammar 92.1%
SEELB: Non-grammar 33.5%, grammar 98%
SELB: Non-grammar 40.6%, grammar 91.9%