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The pupils not making the grade in English and maths

GCSE results: numeracy and literacy policy branded a shambles as over half of non-grammar candidates fail to attain crucial C or above

More than half of GCSE candidates in non-grammar schools failed to get a vital grade C or higher in this year's GCSE English and maths exams.

Results of GCSE grades published yesterday show that just 45.6% of non-grammar school entrants secured grade C or above in maths - well below the Northern Ireland average of 75.7% - meaning 54.4% did not achieve the minimum required standard of grade C.

The figure is also 1.1% lower than last year and more than half the 97.2% achieved by grammar school candidates - though that figure is also down compared to 2010 by 0.6%.

Alarmingly, it means that one in four candidates here are failing to achieve a grade C or above in maths, a mandatory subject at GCSE.

In English it was a similar trend with only 49.6% of non-grammar candidates getting grades C or above - significantly under the Northern Ireland average of 71.2% - and 95.2% for grammar schools.

Again, those figures have spiralled by 1.2% on last year and 0.1% for grammar schools.

As in maths it also means that more than one in four candidates are failing to achieve a grade C or above in English, a core GCSE subject.

Grades C and above in maths and English are a requirement for many schools and further education colleges, as well as employers.

Overall it means that in maths 1.7% of all candidates and 1.1% of all entrants in English failed to get any qualification in GCSE (grades range between A* and G).

Mervyn Storey, chair of Stormont's education committee, said: "It is evidence, if more evidence was needed, that the numeracy and literacy policy of the department is not working.

"We are well aware of the problem in terms of numeracy and literacy in primary schools. These problems are following children right through their school career.

"The department needs to focus not on a policy, but a practice, that will deal with this problem. And the best way to do that is through teachers in the classroom."

Mr Storey added: "It also raises further concerns around the teaching methods of the revised curriculum."

While a literacy and numeracy taskforce was established in January 2008 - a strategy was only launched in March this year.

In the last report by the taskforce, its chair Sir Robert Salisbury warned: "Though there seems to be a growing awareness that there are still far too many children who struggle with reading, writing and mathematics and who leave school without the fundamental skills which will equip them for life in the 21st century, progress on many of the key issues remains far too slow."

Education Minister John O'Dowd yesterday vowed to tackle the gaps in educational underachievement.

"A top priority for me as Education Minister is raising standards," he said.

The statistics relate to CCEA GCSE exams, the province's largest exams body, and include the results of non-Northern Ireland students who sat CCEA exams.

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