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A-level results: Increase in number of Northern Ireland students scoring top grades

Published 18/08/2016

Pupils sitting maths A-level exam.
Pupils sitting maths A-level exam.

The number of students receiving top A-Level grades in Northern Ireland has increased.

The gap between the top performing girls and boys overall has closed at the highest A* grade. Last year, 7.4% of boys received A* grades while 7.8% of girls received the top grade.

This year, the percentage of boys who received top grades in 2016 was 7.5% and the percentage of girls remained the same at 7.8.

Performance levels remained strong and stable with 7.7% of entries receiving an A*, up 0.1% on last year.

The number of entries in mathematics rose this year by 1.4% and was the most popular subject with the highest levels of achievement.

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Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications in Northern Ireland, said: "It is a very desirable subject for entry to university for engineering and for business qualifications and it is one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

"People make individual choices based on where their career aspirations lie."

A recent survey by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry found half of businesses felt a skills mismatch/shortage was hampering economic and business growth and few believed young people were receiving enough support when making their choices.

Today's results showed participation in STEM subjects remained popular, with a growth in participation by girls in ICT, mathematics, biology and chemistry. There was also an increase in the number of students choosing business studies.

Overall, the tally of entries for A-level decreased this year by 1.7% in line with falling school populations.

There were notable drops in the number of entries in music, religious studies, drama and art and design.

Commenting on the release, Justin Edwards, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland’s awarding organisation, the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) said: "The A-Level examination results, received by many students across Northern Ireland today, are recognition and reward for hard-work and a commitment to learning. My best wishes go to all those receiving results, and I wish you the best for whatever you choose to do next.

"Overall Northern Ireland has performed well in comparison to other regions of the UK. Results at the highest grades have risen a small amount and there is stability across all the grades. Northern Ireland is fortunate to have dedicated and focused teachers and lecturers, who play a key role in the success of Northern Ireland learners.

"Mathematics has now cemented its place as Northern Ireland’s most popular A level choice, accounting for almost 11% of all A levels taken here. We’re also seeing that, as they did last year, young women are increasingly favouring STEM subjects at A level, with rising participation in subjects such as Mathematics and the range of qualifications that are related to digital skills.

"With increased entries in some subjects also comes declines in other subjects. We have noted a decline in entries in Religious Studies, Music and Art & Design in the past year.

"Entries in Languages also declined slightly this year, however this was mainly due to a decline in people studying French.

"AS entries in Northern Ireland have declined, but in line with population trends. England has seen a marked decrease in AS entries, which has not been seen Northern Ireland. These changes can be attributed to reforms taking place in England.”

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