Number of top GCSE results in North drops slightly in new grading system

A* grades drop by 2.2 percentage points from 9.9 per cent last year to 7.7 per cent

Pupils celebrate with their GCSE results at King Edward VI High School for Girls, in Birmingham. Photograph: Jacob King/PA Wire

Pupils celebrate with their GCSE results at King Edward VI High School for Girls, in Birmingham. Photograph: Jacob King/PA Wire

 

The number of top GCSE results in Northern Ireland dropped by 2.2 percentage points following a shake-up of the grading system.

This was the first year a new A* to G grading system was used for all locally-awarded qualifications to bring them into line with that in England.

Former UK education secretarty Michael Gove first introduced the significant change in a bid to drive up standards.

Hundreds of thousands of students across the UK received their results on Thursday after sitting the British government’s tough new GCSE courses.

In Northern Ireland, A* grades dropped by 2.2 percentage points from 9.9 per cent last year to 7.7 per cent.

The proportion of candidates awarded A*-C increased by 1.1 percentage points from 81.1 per cent last year to 82.2 per cent.

Overall, students performed well, with slight increases at grade C and above.

Boys narrowed the performance gap with girls to 7.1 percentage points.

GCSE maths saw a 3.2 percentage point increase at A*-C from 68.1 per cent to 71.3 per cent.

In 2016, former DUP education minister Peter Weir decided that Northern Ireland should realign to the new English grading system.

That overturned a decision not to do so a year earlier by his predecessor as minister, John O’Dowd, which led the two largest English GCSE exam boards to say they would not offer GCSE courses in Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland this year, 30.5 per cent of boys and girls received an A. That compares with 20.8 per cent across the UK as a whole.

A quarter of boys and 35.7 per cent of girls obtained an A.

In English there was a half a percentage point increase at grade C and above, and maths saw a 3.3 percentage point increase.

More pupils were studying subjects such as health and social care, construction and drama, and fewer students took German, ICT and Spanish.

Science single award moved out of the most popular subjects for boys and was replaced by geography.

Home economics and ICT was replaced by history and single award science among girls.

A 1.4 percentage point decrease in proportional entry for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) was noted but it was too early to discern a trend.

There was a 0.3 percentage point decrease in proportional entries for languages.

This year saw a 5.2 per cent decline in the number of entries. The trend was particularly marked among 15 and 17-year-olds.–PA