GCSE results: Joy tinged with sadness for student who suffered loss
Schools and colleges across Belfast were a hive of activity yesterday morning as young people and their parents celebrated GCSE results.
However, it was also a poignant day at Belfast Boys Model School for Matthew Hanna, who sat his GCSE exams just months after his father died suddenly in November after suffering a heart attack.
With the support of his teachers, Matthew flourished despite the harrowing loss and was rewarded with a string of strong passes, including five Bs and three Cs, which will allow him to pursue his dream of sport.
The promising footballer currently plays for Woodvale FC and wants to study sport further at A-level.
Classmate Mark Hawthorne (16) has also been through challenges after being placed with a foster family in Year 9.
Official statistics point to just 15% of looked after children getting five good GCSEs. But Mark - who mentors children in care - secured eight good GCSE passes, including two Bs and six Cs, and is now considering his options.
Over at Royal Belfast Academical Institution, First XV rugby player Angus Adair (16) from Belfast proved he was an all-rounder when he opened his results to discover he had achieved six A*s and five As.
"The (rugby) season finished at Easter so I was able to redirect everything into study, although it was difficult at times during the year with training and school work," he said.
At Dominican College in north Belfast, the girls showed a passion for science, with biology high on the A-level wish list.
Hannah Kerr (16) from Belfast got eight A*s and two As, which included Irish and French. She wants to go on to study A-levels in biology and chemistry with the hope of studying medicine at university.
Ashleigh Murray (16) from Belfast got nine A*s and an A in her GCSEs. She said she had been most nervous about her English literature mark and was delighted to have got the top A* grade in it.
Molly McCormick (16) from Belfast got nine A*s and an A. She now wants to do A-levels in biology, chemistry, maths and geography, and go on to study pharmacy at university.
Meanwhile, Hazelwood Integrated College is looking forward to welcoming its largest ever sixth form next month following the results. Among those opening their results there yesterday included twins Phoebe and Robyn Caldwell, who achieved 18 GCSE grades at A*-C between them.
William Johnston (16) from Belfast discovered he got five Bs, a C and a D, and says he will be among those returning to the school for A-levels. "I'm definitely relieved, I was worried about the maths and the English. I'll be coming back to do A-levels. I'd like to do photography, media studies and public services," he said.