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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005, 18:38 GMT 19:38 UK
More top grades for NI students
About 10,000 students in Northern Ireland sat their A-levels
About 10,000 students in Northern Ireland sat their A-levels
Northern Ireland students have got more top grades in their A-level exams than those in England and Wales.

Figures released show that 31% of students in the province achieved A grades compared to a figure of just under 23% nationally.

About 10,000 pupils received their results in the post and from their schools.

Exam board the CCEA said although girls still outperformed boys in the exams, the gender gap was beginning to close.

The popularity of A-levels in Northern Ireland rose again with overall entries standing at 31,276, a rise of 4%.

The overall A-E pass rate saw a small increase from 97.4% to 97.5% of all entries. The equivalent figure nationally is 96.2%.

"These are very impressive and very important results. Our students should be rightly proud of their achievement as should their schools and colleges," Gavin Boyd, chief executive of the CCEA, said.

In an increasingly competitive environment the excellent performance of our students is a good news story for Northern Ireland
Gavin Boyd, CCEA
"In an increasingly competitive environment the excellent performance of our students is a good news story for Northern Ireland."

He said despite the rise in popularity of subjects such as media studies and information technology, traditional subjects remained more popular in Northern Ireland.

The most popular subject in the province in 2005 was biology which accounted for 10.3% of all Northern Ireland entries.

The exam system is under scrutiny because of claims that awarding a high proportion of A grades has made it harder to differentiate between pupils.

Some head teachers in Northern Ireland have called for the introduction of the International Baccalaureate qualification which requires students to do at least six academic subjects.

Gerard Adams, principal of St Michael's Grammar in Lurgan, said he believed it had a lot to offer pupils.

"It gives a much broader education, it contains a lot of the issues which we in Northern Ireland are starting to consider in terms of citizenship and aspects of personal development," he said.

However, John Stevenson, principal of Sullivan Upper School in Holywood, said he thought the International Baccalaureate would not suit the majority of students in the province.

"People have talked about the International Baccalaureate and we know it is a very, very good qualification," he said.

"But people have to do mathematics, have to do a science, have to do a modern language.

"I don't think that particularly suits the vast majority, or even the average sixth former in Northern Ireland."




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