Page last updated at 11:26 GMT, Thursday, 20 August 2009 12:26 UK

Figures reveal drop in A grades

Students at Grosvenor Grammar School in Belfast react to their results

The number of students getting A grades in their A-levels in Northern Ireland has gone down by almost 1%.

However, NI students have again outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales.

The percentage of local entries with an overall A grade dropped by 0.9% to 34.5%.

A total of 84.6% of entrants achieved grades A-C, a slight increase of 0.2%. A-level entries are up in NI for the first time in four years.

They increased by 4.5% to 31,374, with an overall entry of 846,977 across NI, England and Wales.

The overall A-E pass rate in Northern Ireland was 98.4% compared to 97.5% across Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

BBC Northern Ireland education correspondent Maggie Taggart said: "It seems that pupils with a wider range of abilities have opted for A-levels and have driven down the performance at the highest grades."

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane congratulated all the local students who received their A and AS-levels on Thursday.

It is encouraging to see a rise in entries and we welcome the increased demand for A Levels
Anne Marie Duffy
CCEA Director of Qualifications

"They are the culmination of years of hard work and are well deserved," she said.

"The results also demonstrate the commitment, dedication and professionalism of our teachers who have encouraged our young people to strive and reach their full potential.

"Sadly there are some students who did not get the results they had hoped for but I would tell them to explore as many opportunities as possible."

Biology

Employment and Learning Minister Sir Reg Empey also added his congratulations, but said some students would be "concerned about their future".

He said his department's careers service had "a team of professionally qualified careers advisers offering free, impartial, careers information, advice and guidance to young people and adults".

DUP education spokesperson, Mervyn Storey, said the results in Northern Ireland demonstrated "the value of a tailored education system which matches pupils to the most appropriate school for their individual needs".

According to the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), girls have again performed better than boys at A-level, increasing their lead at the A grade by 1.2%.

Across the A to E grade range, the gap is narrower at 0.5%.

Biology was the most popular subject, followed by Mathematics.

CCEA's Director of Qualifications, Anne Marie Duffy, said A-level students in Northern Ireland excel at A-level "year on year" and 2009 was "no different".

University

NI Students have outperformed those in England and Wales
NI Students have outperformed those in England and Wales

"We continue to note particularly strong performance in the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as the languages with students continuing to opt for more traditional subjects," she said.

"It is encouraging to see a rise in entries and we welcome the increased demand for A-levels. Their popularity in Northern Ireland reinforces their status as a relevant and worthwhile qualification."

Competition for university has increased with 7% more 18-year-olds opting to study rather than enter a depressed job market.

Sir Reg Empey said it was "a significant increase".

Half of NI school leavers go to university, more than in the rest of the UK.

GSCE students will have to wait until next Thursday for their results.



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