Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Schools outperform but still need reform

The A-level results which were announced yesterday will have brought joy, satisfaction and sadness to many students in varying degrees, but the overall pattern once again provides a sharp picture of the state of education at this level in Northern Ireland. (stock photo)
The A-level results which were announced yesterday will have brought joy, satisfaction and sadness to many students in varying degrees, but the overall pattern once again provides a sharp picture of the state of education at this level in Northern Ireland. (stock photo)

Editor's Viewpoint

The A-level results which were announced yesterday will have brought joy, satisfaction and sadness to many students in varying degrees, but the overall pattern once again provides a sharp picture of the state of education at this level in Northern Ireland.

Education in the widest sense is something that pays off for those who have the persistence to seek out what is best for them. However, if a student does not achieve their desired result, there are plenty more useful options.

This year's A-level results show broadly that female students have once again out-performed the males, and there will be much comment in coming days as to why this is the case. The girls outperformed the boys narrowly by 0.9 percentage points at A*, and by 3.2 percentage points at A grade.

The overall picture is encouraging, with the grades in Northern Ireland improving at a time when results have fallen elsewhere. The point has been noted by the DUP's Peter Weir, a former education minister, who underlined that 30% of our students achieved A* or A grades and outperformed their counterparts across the rest of the United Kingdom.

Sharon O'Connor, chair of the Education Authority, is right also to point out that this is something for us to celebrate, and credit is due not only to the students but also to their parents, teachers and others who have encouraged them along the way.

However, that is not to say that our education system is perfect. The past academic year has again shone a penetrating light on the extreme challenges facing teachers and school governors, and parents as well.

There have been worrying appeals for sundry items such as toilet rolls from poorer schools, and given the cost of school uniforms and other essentials, many parents are struggling to provide the best for their children.

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There is also the reality that while our education system continues to produce outstanding results at the higher levels, there are still far too many pupils who fall through the net and are failed by the system.

Underachievement remains a significant problem as well as a challenge. It is something that needs to be tackled at every level, and this is easier said than done.

On a positive note, as teachers and students reflect on this year's A-level results, many of them can feel proud that all their hard work has been recognised and rewarded.

Sadly, however, if a report card were to be sent to our local politicians who are still unable to find a compromise, the verdict of the electorate on all sides would be 'Very disappointing - must do much better'.

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