Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Fall in top A-level grades

The proportion of Northern Ireland pupils earning top grades has fallen for two years in a row because of a broader take-up of A-levels, the awarding body has said.

TOP GRADES FALL AMID WIDER TAKE-UP

By Michael McHugh, Press Association



Almost 32% of students achieved A*-A this year. A widening range of people are staying on at school and a record number are achieving the qualification - although some of those extra candidates are getting lower grades.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at Northern Ireland's awarding body, said: "Over time results can fluctuate and this year we have seen a small decrease in the percentage of entries gaining the top grades.

"This is in line with expectations, based on predicted performance for this group of students, and their performance in last year's GCE AS-level exams."

Over the last five years, despite a downward trend in pupil numbers overall, there have been record levels of entries for A-level exams.

Since 2008, entries in Northern Ireland have risen by close to 3,000.

This year there were 32,908 entrants compared with 32,582 last year, and 7.7% earned A* this year compared with 8.6% in 2011.

According to statistics from the Joint Council for Qualifications, 31.9% took grades A*-A compared with 34.5% last year and 35.9% in 2010.

The proportion earning grades A*-E remained static at 98.1%.

There was a growing popularity of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects.

The number of pupils is falling but the proportion staying on for A-levels is rising - to 57%.

Ms Duffy added: "Therefore, as the size of the group taking A- levels has grown, the range of ability of the students taking the exams has widened too."

The most popular subjects were biology and mathematics. The number of most modern language entries rose and psychology had the largest increase with a quarter more entering, albeit from a relatively small baseline.

Fewer people were studying PE and English.

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