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Moment of truth for thousands of students who sat GCSE exams

By Lindsay Fergus

Tens of thousands of students across Northern Ireland will tomorrow discover the results of their GCSE exams.

Depending on their grades teenagers will have to decide on studying A-levels, BTECs, NVQs in sixth form or further education colleges, or trying to secure an apprenticeship, a place on a Government training scheme or a job.

However, with youth unemployment sitting at 17%, which is up on this time last year, employment opportunities are limited.

The latest figures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment show that 18,972 young people (18-24) are currently claiming job-related benefits.

Frances O'Hara of the Department for Employment and Learning's careers service said: "The importance of making an informed decision following examination results is imperative to effective career planning. Taking time now to explore options will pay dividends in the future.

"This transitional period presents a crossroads in a young person's career planning and I would encourage students, unsure of their next step, to take advantage of professional guidance in order to make well-informed decisions."

Last year 59% of pupils here achieved A* to C grades in five GCSEs including the all-important subjects of English and maths. However, when that is broken down into grammar and non-grammar schools there is a significant difference in grades.

In the grammar sector, 97% of pupils achieved five GCSEs at grade A* to C while just 44.1% of pupils in high schools secured five GCSEs at grades A* to C.

As well as pupils, parents and teachers, the Department of Education will be paying close attention to tomorrow's results.

A key aspect of its school improvement policy is to drive up literacy and numeracy standards.

Although the number of teenagers leaving school with the desired A* to C grades is on the increase, 41% are still leaving school without achieving five GCSEs at grades A* to C including English and maths, which is a vital requirement for many jobs and entry into further education.

Alarmingly, 2.1% of pupils are still leaving school with no GCSEs.

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