Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Principal praises A-level efforts

Many students at St Joseph's College in Belfast have set their sights on attending Queen's University

Northern Ireland's education standards should be driven by high expectations, a successful school principal has said.

The region's pupils continue to outstrip counterparts in England and Wales, with the pro-selection lobby crediting grammar schools for the success.

Although state-sponsored testing at age 11 has been abolished, many selectors continue to recruit on independent exam results.

St Joseph's College principal Joe McCourt said his Belfast school was all-ability and all-inclusive.

"We have children from a wide social mix and cultural background, and it works here. We have high expectations for all pupils," he said. "Whenever you teach pupils of all abilities there is an onus on teachers to be well-prepared for their lessons. That works and we are happy to continue with it."

Northern Ireland A-level students outperformed their English and Welsh counterparts at all grades this year. Around 2,800 A* awards were achieved in Northern Ireland, with the most popular subjects including biology, maths and English.

This is the fifth year in which vocational applied exams like applied ICT, leisure and tourism or social care have been offered, and this year saw a small rise in entries.

Mr McCourt said applied courses had been positive.

"There is an increasing demand, we offer a double award for science A-level. It is much more accessible to children with high aspirations for sciences at university and our results there have been very good," he added.

Pupils embraced, commiserated or chattered excitedly outside the school in tree-lined suburban south Belfast, only a stone's throw from Queen's University Belfast, where many were aspiring to go.

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