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Northern Ireland students a class apart as results eclipse rest of UK

By Lindsay Fergus

Northern Ireland students are officially top of the class after outperforming pupils in the rest of the UK.

By last night more than 11,000 of our brightest minds had secured a place at university.

One A grade student was retired doctor Brian Shanks who, aged 68, is proof you are never too old to learn.

Dr Shanks said he had "a laugh" studying French alongside pupils who were young enough to be his grandchildren.

Northern Ireland's thriving film industry is also extending its reach into education.

Setting the Game of Thrones fantasy drama in Northern Ireland may have boosted the number of students taking media or film studies at A-Level. The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) said the number taking film and media studies was up 5.7% on the previous year, despite an overall fall in the total of entrants taking exams.

Anne Marie Duffy, a director of qualifications at the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said: "This could be related to more interest in Game of Thrones. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend over the next few years in response to the growing creative economy in Northern Ireland."

Campbell College student Ryan Smyth, who is going to study animation at Northumbria University, is just one pupil inspired by the HBO hit show.

"When I graduate I would like to work on a game or a TV series like Game of Thrones," said the teenager.

Amid the celebrations there were also tears for identical twins Kathryn and Olivia McCloskey who will be heading off to different universities in September.

Kathryn said: "It's the first time we will be apart. I'm scared about that but we have modern technology to keep us in touch."

While the St Dominic's (Belfast) pupils went to school to receive their results, hundreds of students from here logged in online from 52 countries around the world to learn their grades, including Zambia, Slovakia, Kuwait, Honduras, Brazil, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Peru, New Zealand, Moldova, Barbados, Kenya, and China. So it would appear Northern Ireland does have a world class education system.


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