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Championship fencer advances to medical degree after straight As in A-levels

Published 18/08/2016

Rachel Philpott achieved four A*s at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood
Rachel Philpott achieved four A*s at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood
Northern Ireland's Education Minister Peter Weir with students at Sullivan Upper School, Holywood, as they receive their A and AS level results

A champion fencer who competed in the Commonwealth Games was celebrating after getting top marks in her A-levels.

Rachel Philpott from Sullivan Upper school in Holywood in Co Down gave up the pugilistic pursuit for her studies after taking part in the competition in Glasgow two years ago.

On Thursday, she finally let down her guard after learning she had four A* grades.

"I did not expect to do as well as I did so I am delighted."

The proportion of top grades achieved by Northern Irish students has risen.

A* or A grades were achieved in 29.5% of A-level entries, an increase of 0.2% on last year.

Northern Ireland pupils again outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales.

Miss Philpott wants to study paediatric medicine at Queen's University Belfast or Trinity in Dublin after receiving A* grades in chemistry, biology, mathematics and home economics.

She is a former under-16 women's foil champion but suffered disappointment in Glasgow after sustaining an injury just before the competition which limited her prospects of success in the Commonwealth Games.

Stem subjects including the sciences and mathematics have grown in popularity in Northern Ireland, particularly among girls, as more students gear up for the job market, results show.

The gap between the top performing girls and boys overall has closed at the highest A* grade.

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

Female students outperformed boys across the grades but boys continued to close the gap at the highest grade, rising 0.1% to 7.5%.

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

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 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.

Ellen Reid, 18, from north Belfast was the top performing student at Dominican College in the city with three A*s and an A.

She is going to Aberdeen University to study medicine.

"I am just so relieved that it is all over and that I got into the course that I wanted to. I am over the moon."

She said she was keen on the neurological side of medicine.

"I just think that is interesting in how that ties into people's personalities and this idea of consciousness."

She played the violin in an orchestra until recently but gave up to concentrate on studying.

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

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