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Revealed: Non-denominational schools break into the top 10 A-level results table

By Rebecca Black

Two non-denominational grammar schools have broken into the top 10 performers at A-level for the first time in two years, it can be revealed.

Today, the Belfast Telegraph publishes its annual must-read guide for the performance of every post primary school in Northern Ireland.

The league table for A-levels sat during the 2015/16 academic year, reveals that non-denominational schools have caught up, taking two places in the top 10 after the previous year where Catholic and Catholic Maintained schools dominated not only the top 10, but top 11 places.

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According to figures released by the Department of Education and compiled by the Belfast Telegraph, St Dominic's High School in west Belfast has emerged the top achiever at A-level for the second year in a row.

It is closely followed by St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena with 96.2%.

Rainey Endowed, Magherafelt and Belfast High School came in joint ninth place with percentage pass rates of 86.4%.

During the 2015/16 academic year, some 66.3% of pupils in Northern Ireland achieved three or more A-levels at grades A*-C. This rose from 64.9% in 2014/15.

St Dominic's has been the top grammar in Northern Ireland for the fourth consecutive year, and increased its pass rate from 94.9% in the 2014/15 academic year to 96.5%.

School principal Carol McCann congratulated the pupils and staff at the all-girls school for the achievement

"The girls worked very hard, the staff worked very hard, and made good choices at A-level.

"I think they realise they have to do well because it is very competitive to get a place at university," she said. "One of the things we are particularly pleased about is that both this year and last year we had four girls who came first in their individual subjects at A-level, including Irish, English and Art."

St Dominic's has one of the highest percentages of students on free school meals among the grammars, but Mrs McCann said that has proven no barrier and that the statistic included some of their top-achieving girls.

However, she stressed that unless the current row between teachers' unions and management over pay and conditions was resolved, the excellent standards in Northern Ireland could slip.

"The system is under major pressure," she said.

"If it goes on much longer, I think you could find some of those wheels coming loose. It would be fabulous to have an education minister at Stormont again. We need people speaking for us, and we don't need a demoralised teaching workforce."

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