GCSE results: Northern Ireland gender gap widening as girls improve grades more than the boys
The gap between girls and boys at GCSE level in Northern Ireland is widening.
While the pupils who opened their results yesterday beat last year's students, girls improved more than boys.
The proportion of students receiving grades A*-C has risen to just over 81% this year - up 0.7% on last summer.
Analysis of the results shows the proportion of girls achieving A*-C grades increased to 85.1% (up 0.9%).
Meanwhile, the proportion of entries by boys achieving A*-C grades rose by 0.5% to 76.9%.
The gap between girls and boys at A*-C grades has widened from 7.8% to 8.2%.
Nearly one in every 10 entries achieved the A* grade (9.9%, a rise of 0.4%).
But there was concern yesterday from a leading teaching union, who said the impressive results had been achieved despite a "scandalous" neglect of pupils and teachers.
Overall there were 170,348 GCSE entries this year, down by 0.4% from last year.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects account for 43% of all entries in Northern Ireland, with an increase of 2.4% on the previous year.
Some 81.1% of students here achieved A*-C. A slight improvement was recorded in GCSE English language and mathematics.
Justin Edwards, the chief executive of exams body the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said: "Subject choices remain stable with over 40% of students here now studying a STEM qualification.
"There were positive increases in further mathematics entries."
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, praised the high standards in schools but said there was not enough support.
"Teachers have maintained their commitment to do the best for their pupils despite the fact that they have been wrestling with job losses, excessive workload and continuing cuts to their pay," she said.
"It is scandalous that this commitment continues to be taken for granted by employers and politicians, who have presided over a deterioration in teachers' terms and conditions. Investment in the school workforce is urgently needed to recognise and reward the critically important work of teachers."
Former education minister and DUP MLA Peter Weir said Northern Ireland continued to lead the way in exam success.
"The hard work of our students, teachers and parents are to be commended and they should take time today to celebrate," he said.
He said it was "gratifying" to see that 43% of exam entries were in STEM subjects, including a 5% increase in girls taking on the subjects. And he urged those who did not get the desired grades not to panic or feel downhearted.
Sinn Fein MLA Karen Mullan congratulated the students for their "dedication, strength and commitment" to their studies.
"Young people are often placed under pressure in today's society and my advice would be to follow your heart, follow your passion," she said.
Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton, a former teacher, said: "Whatever the envelope contained, students should still feel proud of their hard work.
"As horrible as it may feel, failing an exam doesn't mean you've failed as a person, it just means you've failed an exam," she said.
"Life is full of opportunities, so I congratulate those that have achieved high GCSE grades and offer reassurance to those that may be somewhat disappointed."