Belfast Telegraph

Record numbers taking A-levels

The proportion of Northern Ireland pupils earning top grades has fallen for two years in a row because of a broader take-up of A-levels, the awarding body has said.

Almost 32% of students achieved A*-A this year. A greater range of people are staying on at school and a record number are achieving the qualification - although some with lower marks.

A total of 31.9% were awarded A*-A compared with 34.5% last year and 35.9% in 2010, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at Northern Ireland's awarding body, said: "Over time results can fluctuate and this year we have seen a small decrease in the percentage of entries gaining the top grades. This is in line with expectations, based on predicted performance for this group of students, and their performance in last year's GCE AS-level exams."

Over the last five years, despite a downward trend in pupil numbers overall, there have been record levels of entries for A-level exams. Since 2008, entries in Northern Ireland have risen by close to 3,000. The number of pupils is falling but the proportion staying on for A-levels is rising - to 57%.

Ms Duffy added: "Therefore, as the size of the group taking A-levels has grown, the range of ability of the students taking the exams has widened too."

This year there were 32,908 entrants compared with 32,582 last year, and 7.7% earned A* this year compared with 8.6% in 2011. The proportion with grades A*-E remained static at 98.1%.

Girls achieved better results than boys but overall 83.5% of entrants achieved grades A* to C.

There was evidence of growing popularity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects. The most common subjects were biology and mathematics, while media studies was the only area to have a significant rise in those sitting the exam. Fewer people in this Olympic year were studying PE and English.

Stormont Education Minister John O'Dowd said: "It is encouraging that more pupils are continuing on with their education after the age of 16 and I hope that this trend will continue in the coming years."

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