Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Northern Ireland top of the UK A-level class despite dip in best grades

A-level student Molly Gilmartin who got four A* grades from Victoria College, Belfast
A-level student Molly Gilmartin who got four A* grades from Victoria College, Belfast
Ballymena Academy pupils Helen McKelvey and Ian Wilson celebrate their A-level results
A-level results day at Ashfield Girls Grammar School. Chloe Given
A-level results day at Ashfield Girls Grammar School. Rebecca Reynolds, Chloe Given, Megan Macartney, Rebecca Bryans, Rachael Clarke, Courtney Brooks, Andrea Stone and Lauren Calvert
A-levels results day at Ashfield Girls Grammar School. The head girl for next year Grace Mamawa pictured with the leaving head girl Shannon Hamilton
A-levels results day at Ashfield Girls Grammar School. Jenny Wilson and Lois Williamson
A-level students From L-R Tara Gilmore , Dara Murphy and Tori Kerr from Victoria College in Belfast get their grades, with around 13,000 students across Northern Ireland finding out their grades
A-level students Judi Maley (left- A* AA) and twin sister Heather (right - AAA) from Victoria College in Belfast get their grades, with around 13,000 students across Northern Ireland finding out their grades
A-level students Jack Solomon (left) and Peter McLoughlin (right) from The Royal Belfast Academical Institution in Belfast get their grades
A-level student Molly Gilmartin who got four A* grades from Victoria College, Belfast
Students from Priory Integrated College, Holywood with their results.
Sullivan Upper student Jane Clarke who got A - Business Studies, A - RE, B - Biology
A-level students across Northern Ireland receive their A Level results. Sullivan Upper student Patrick Hillen who got A - Geography, C - History and C - Biology
Sullivan Upper students receive their results
Belfast Inst students with their results
Sullivan Upper students with their results
Sullivan Upper students Sarah Whittington (BBD) Kate Doake (A*AA) and .Grace Walker (A*AA)
Sullivan Upper student James Feeney who got A - Business Studies, B - Economics and B - History
Sullivan Upper student Katie Kirk who got A* - HE, A - Biology, B - English Lit
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry with students (left-right) Felicity Goddard, Michael Morrow and Conor Gormally from Lagan College as they received their A and AS-level results today
Colleen Quigley from St. Cecilia's College who received her A-level results
James Thompson from Foyle College who received his A-level results
Sarah Louise Clarke, Ciendra Heaney, Jack McGarrigle and Charlie Starrett who were celebrating after receiving their A-level results at Foyle College
Eden Guthrie from Foyle College celebrates her A-level results
Jack McGarrigle from Foyle College celebrates his A-level results
Emma Brown, Siobhan Rooney and Colleen Quigley, from St. Cecilia's College celebrate their A-level results
Lucia McCafferty and Niamh Connolly from Foyle College celebrate their A-level results
Conor Cummings from Foyle College who received his A-level results

Northern Ireland students are top of the class when it comes to A-Levels.

More A* and A grades were awarded to Northern Ireland candidates than in England and Wales, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

The percentage of top grades in Northern Ireland was 31.9% — 5.4 percentage points higher than England and 7.3 percentage points higher than Wales.

And just 1.9% of entries here failed to get an A-Level pass.

But the proportion of Northern Ireland pupils earning A* and A grades has fallen for the second consecutive year — down from 34.5% in 2011 and 35.9% in 2010.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, Northern Ireland's exam 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 AS-Level exams.”

The falling standards are because more teenagers with a wider range of abilities are staying on at school as a result of the economic downturn and the lack of employment opportunities.

Ms Duffy added: “As the size of the group taking A-Levels has grown, the range of ability of the students taking the exams has widened too. In these circumstances the performance of our students continues to be very pleasing.”

As in previous years Northern Ireland girls outperformed boys.

Employment figures published on Wednesday show Northern Ireland has the highest rate of youth unemployment for 18 to 24-year-olds in the UK.

There are now 22,000 young people out of work who want a job and 18,877 of them claiming unemployment benefits.

That has led to a record level of entries for A-Level exams here, despite a downward trend in pupil numbers.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said: “It is encouraging that more pupils are continuing on with their education after the age of 16 and I hope that this trend will continue in the coming years.”

JCQ figures show there was a record 32,908 entries for A-Levels here. This marks a 10% rise in entries over five years. During the same period the proportion of students staying on to A-Level has risen from 47% to 57%.

Professor Richard Barnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Ulster said: “One explanation is, of course, the recession. In the world of the future, jobs and careers will increasingly go to more highly skilled people, and it is the higher education sector that will enable Northern Ireland's young people to effectively compete.”

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