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Blow for John O'Dowd as number of pupils on five good GCSEs falls

By Lindsay Fergus

Published 29/11/2012

John O'Dowd
John O'Dowd

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.

Background

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%

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