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Northern Ireland pupils delighted as GCSE set standard for UK achievement

Exams special: NI students show improvements across the board with almost one in 10 entries awarded an A* grade

By Michael McHugh

The proportion of Northern Ireland pupils achieving top GCSE grades has increased by 0.5%.

Almost 10% of all entries were awarded an A*.

Girls extended the performance gap over boys at grades A* to C by half a percentage point, according to the Joint Council for Qualifications.

The proportion of science, technology, engineering and maths entries increased by almost a third.

Northern Ireland pupils continued to make steady improvements, with small rises across the grades.

The proportion of entries awarded A*-C grades rose by 0.4% this year to 79.1%.

Entries achieving A*-A, meanwhile, improved 0.5% to 29.1%.

And entries achieving the top A* grade now sit at 9.3% - a slight rise of 0.3% on last year.

Justin Edwards, chief executive of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment exam board said: "Northern Ireland's performance remains higher than the full UK A*-C performance, which was 66.9% this year."

In English, A*-C performance rose by 2% to 77.8% of entries this year.

In mathematics, A*-C performance fell by 1.7% to 64.9% of entries.

At age 16, the performance was stable at 68.4%, with a decline of 0.2% on last year.

Pupils continued to perform strongly in the sciences, with A*-C performance in biology rising 0.6% to 92.2% of entries, chemistry up 0.1% to 93.6 of entries, and physics up 0.3% to 95.9% of entries.

Girls continued to perform better than boys, with 82.9% gaining A*-C grades (up by some 0.7% on last year).

The tally of boys achieving A*-C grades also improved to 75.3% - up by 0.2% on the result recorded last year.

Stormont Education Minister Peter Weir said pupils continued to show steady improvement, with small rises across the grades, noting that teenagers again outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales.

Mr Weir added: "High standards have once again been achieved in the GCSE examination results, with over 79.1% of local candidates achieving A*-C grades and 29.1% achieving A*-A, representing a slight increase in both categories on last year.

"I am pleased to see that entries for Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects have grown by 2.4% in Northern Ireland.

"This growth is stronger than the equivalent UK figure of 0.1% and means Stem subjects here account for close to one-third of all GCSE entries."

Top performer Sarah Kidd (16), from Belfast, attends Methodist College in the city.

She achieved eight A*s and two As and will now take A-levels. She wants to study medicine at university.

She said of her GCSE results: "There was a lot of work put into them. I was hoping to do as well as this, but I definitely did not expect to do as well."

She said that her advice to others sitting exams was to work hard and do your best.

She volunteers with children aged four to eight at Girl Guides and swimming and goes ice skating in her free time.

Shan Mathew (16), also from Belfast, earned nine A*s and two As at Our Lady And St Patrick's College, Knock in the city.

"I was really surprised and happy with what I got," he said. "(I did) a lot of hard work and revising for the exams."

His favourite subject is chemistry and he said he wants to study medicine or engineering at university.

Ann W Schmidt and Donna Deeney talk to teenagers about their plans and hopes after the nerves and drama of the big day

Dena Philpott (16), three A*s, seven As, Methodist College, Belfast

I’m really happy. The nerves built up to today. It’s a relief to get the results. I did the best I could and it paid off. I got a place in a dance school, so I’ll be heading over to Cheltenham for a three-year course in dance. It’s just been my dream since I was little. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often, so I can’t not take it. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s like starting a new chapter.

Sarah Morgan (16), nine A*s and two As, Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Belfast

I’m really pleased, really happy. I thought I would get lower, so I’m just really relieved. Next year I’m going to do maths, biology, French and religious education. I’m excited just to drop the ones I don’t like and then pick up the ones I really want to focus on. I’m so relieved. I was just so nervous building up to getting the results and now it’s all over. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

Brandon Otero (16), seven Cs, one D, Hazelwood Integrated College, Belfast

I feel alright, just not very happy about English because I failed it. I wanted to come back next year. I hope to do business studies, public services and I don’t know what else. I feel good, excited. I haven’t gotten my uniform yet, as I was waiting to see if I got back. I’m the first in my family to go to sixth year. They all went to tech.

Shaun McNutt (16), one A, five Bs, three Cs, one D, Oakgrove Integrated College, Londonderry

I haven’t decided what career path I am going to go down yet, but I am coming back to study for my A-levels. I’m doing ICT, religion and journalism. I think those subjects are wide enough to give me a number of options when it comes to deciding what to do about university. Right now, I am happy with the results I got.

Matthew Gilliland (16), three A*s, five As, two Bs, one C, Foyle College, Londonderry

I was hoping for an A* in Physics so I am a wee bit disappointed with my A grade, although I am fine with the C grade I got for Spanish. I will do A-levels, but I haven’t made my mind up about eventually going to university yet. It is an awful lot of debt so I might go straight into work.

Aishling Hegarty (16), one A, four Bs, three Cs,  St Mary’s College, Londonderry

I am really looking forward now to coming back to St Mary’s for my A-levels. I am delighted with the results I achieved today, but I did work hard for them. I’m going to do information and communications technologies, politics and health and social care.

Aoife Callaghan (16), one B, five Cs, one D, one E, Oakgrove Integrated College, Londonderry

When I opened my results this morning the first thing I saw was the B and all the Cs, so I knew at least I had passed the majority of the exams. I got a D in my maths and I am so disappointed about that. I struggle with maths so I worked very hard and put in a lot of time studying for it, but I was just six points from a pass. I’m not giving up though, I will do the subject over again along with the courses I’ve chosen for A-levels.

Jamie McErlane (16), eight Cs, Hazelwood Integrated College, Belfast

I’ve decided I’m not going to do A-levels. I’m going to tech to study engineering instead. I’ve always been interested in engineering. I’m mostly interested in cars and mechanics, so I’ll be studying mechanical engineering. I’m a bit nervous about meeting new friends.

Terence Hernandez (16), 10 A*s and  one A, Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Belfast

I’m pretty neutral. I didn’t really feel anything coming here because GCSEs aren’t the world for me. I feel that there’s different routes you could go to, apart from the academic course. But it was nice to get the results I got, just as a reassurance if I do want to go down the academic course. Next year I’m doing further maths, maths, physics and chemistry, but I’m quite undecided really on what I want to do in the future.

Leah Markham (16), one A, one B, three Cs, one D, one E, Hazelwood Integrated College, Belfast

I’m still happy. I am going to stay on now that I’ve got the results, so I’m delighted. I’m thinking of doing media studies and I’m not too sure what else I want to do. I think I might do ICT again, but I don’t know what else. It’s so good, because all summer I’ve been worrying, like I’m going to do so bad, and the nerves this morning were so bad, like what if I go in and I failed everything? But I’m so happy. I’m ready to put my head down and get my A-levels.

Kate Doherty (16), two As, four Bs, St Mary’s College, Londonderry

I was really nervous yesterday and had to come into school because the GCSE results aren’t posted online and our post doesn’t come until really late. I couldn’t wait that long and I am delighted with my results. I’m coming back to St Mary’s to do A-levels in English Literature, Business Studies and IT.

Scott Hand (16), five A*s, two As, three Bs, Foyle College, Londonderry

One of my A*s was in history which I wasn’t expecting so I am really pleased with that. I haven’t decided what I will do at university, maybe something to do with engineering, so my A-levels will be with that in mind.

Lauren McCallion (16), one A, six Bs, one C, St Mary’s College, Londonderry

I put in a lot of time studying for my exams and I worked really hard. I love science subjects and eventually I would like a career as a biomedical engineer, so I’ve chosen double-award science and technology for my A-levels.

Eimear Rogers (16), nine A*s and two As, Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Belfast

I’m relieved because you have to wait so long to get the results — and then finally just get it over and done with. I’m excited to get back. I feel a bit more confident going into A-level to be able to go in and do well. I’m looking forward to it now that we’re at the school and we’re getting the results.

Liam Gray (16), eight A*s, two As, Methodist College, Belfast

I was not nervous until this morning and then you start doubting everything. But it’s good. I’m very happy with my results. I don’t know what to expect with A-levels. I have two older siblings and they all did extremely well, so there’s a bit of an expectation. A-level year is meant to be quite fun.

Conor McHugh (16), one A, six Bs, three Cs, Oakgrove Integrated College, Londonderry

My long-term career plan will be something in finance, I think. Maths is the subject that I am best at, but I did my further maths as well. I was disappointed that I got a C in History — I had expected to do better.

Samuel Bernard (17), two A*s, six As, one B, Methodist College, Belfast

I’m happy with my scores. Next year I’m doing French, Spanish and then History and Economics. I’m excited for next year, very happy and relieved. It’s been in the back of our heads for the past two months, so it’s kind of nice.

Laura Hegarty (16), five A*s, four As, Foyle College, Londonderry

I am really delighted with my results. The exams were muchharder than I expected, but I worked hard for them and I am over the moon now. I am coming back to study for A-levels and am doing art, music, English and Spanish.

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