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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
NI pupils tops for A-levels
Ballyclare High School students celebrate their A-level results
Margaret Johnston and Linzi Quigley celebrate their results

Thousands of students have received their A-level grades as results revealed Northern Ireland has out-performed England and Wales.

A total of 28.5% of the students achieved A grades - almost 7% ahead of the national figure of 21.6%.

The overall pass rate on Thursday was 97%.

However, performance at the first stage of the exams, AS-level, was not as good as last year.

The pass rate was 93.3% this year, compared with 93.9% last year.

Education Minister Jane Kennedy welcomed the results.

She said: "Congratulations to all those pupils and teachers involved in achieving these results.

"Such results are not achieved without hard work and commitment."

They've got first class support materials, and they're very well prepared.
Gavin Boyd
CCEA

As in the rest of Great Britain, girls are ahead of the boys, particularly when it comes to the top grade.

Overall, the only disappointment is that AS-level students scored lower than they did last year.

The CCEA exams body said it was confident that with almost 400 more extra staff than usual recruited to deal with the exams, it had done its best to avoid the large number of mistakes which affected results from the English boards over the last few years.

Chief executive of the CCEA Gavin Boyd said there were valid reasons for the improvements.

"A couple of weeks ago we looked at the specification for history examinations 40 years ago," he said.

"The specification ran to three lines. This year the specification is in excess of 40 pages. So, we're much clearer about telling teachers and telling students exactly what we're looking for."

Mr Boyd also said there had been no major problems with the exam results this year.

The A-level figures are released for the main exam boards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the Joint Council for General Qualifications.

They show a trend away from subjects such as maths, modern languages and science towards subjects such as psychology and media studies.

CCEA has set up a helpline for students, parents and teachers, which will be in operation until 22 August.

The phone line, 028 90 261260, will be open from 0900 BST and 1700 BST weekdays, or you can email on helpline@ccea.org.uk


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's education correspondent Maggie Taggart:
"University courses are having to revise the entry requirements and introduce new courses to allow students in without maths"



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