North sees fall in top exam grades


The proportion of Northern Ireland pupils earning top grades has fallen for two years in a row because of a broader take-up of A-levels, the awarding body has said.

Almost 32 per cent of students achieved A*-A this year. A widening range of people are staying on at school and a record number are achieving the qualification - although some of those extra candidates are getting lower grades.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at Northern Ireland’s awarding body, said: “Over time results can fluctuate, and this year we have seen a small

decrease in the percentage of entries gaining the top grades.

“This is in line with expectations, based on predicted performance for this group of students, and their performance in last year’s GCE AS-level exams.”

Over the last five years, despite a downward trend in pupil numbers overall, there have been record levels of entries for A-level exams.

Since 2008, entries in Northern Ireland have risen by close to 3,000. This year there were 32,908 entrants compared with 32,582 last year, and 7.7% earned A* this year compared with 8.6 per cent in 2011.

According to statistics from the Joint Council for Qualifications, 31.9 per cent took grades A*-A compared with 34.5 per cent last year and 35.9 per cent in 2010. The proportion earning grades A*-E remained static at 98.1 per cent.

There was a growing popularity of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) subjects.

The number of pupils is falling, but the proportion staying on for A-levels is rising - to 57 per cent. Ms Duffy added: “Therefore, as the size of the group taking A- levels has grown, the range of ability of the students taking the exams has widened too.”

The most popular subjects were biology and mathematics. The number of most modern language entries rose and psychology had the largest increase with a

quarter more entering, albeit from a relatively small baseline.

Fewer people were studying PE and English.