Students in North still top of the class with better A-levels than English and Welsh peers


NORTHERN IRELAND A-level students continue to outperform their counterparts in England and Wales, with close to a third achieving the top A* or A grades.

However, the A-level results released yesterday by the exams body, the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), show the numbers achieving top grades are marginally down on last year. Females once again did better than males.

Almost 12,600 students sat final-year exams and of these, 31.9 per cent gained A* and A grades compared to 34.5 per cent of students in 2011. This compares with 26.6 per cent of students achieving these grades when the figures are averaged out for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A total of 34.2 per cent of females gained A* and A grades this year in Northern Ireland compared to 29.1 per cent of males.

The percentage of entries achieving grades A* to E is steady at 98.1 per cent and is comparable to the 98 per cent figure for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The top five subjects for A-level students, most of whom take three subjects, were biology, maths, history, religious studies and English.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at the CCEA, who congratulated students on their “outstanding performance”, said more students were now staying on at school to do A-levels.

“Over the last five years, despite a downward trend in pupil numbers overall, we have seen record levels of entries for A-level examinations. The figures show that since 2008, entries for A-levels in Northern Ireland have risen by close to 3,000,” she said. “Official statistics also show that during this same period, the proportion of students staying on to A-level has risen from 47-57 per cent. 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. In these circumstances, the performance of our students continues to be very pleasing.”

On the fall in numbers gaining high grades, Ms Duffy 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.”

A total of 24,807 students sat the A-levels and AS-level exams (taken a year before A-levels), compared to 23,144 students who did these exams last year.

Sinn Féin Minister for Education John O’Dowd said it was “encouraging that more pupils are continuing on with their education after the age of 16 and I hope that this trend will continue in the coming years”. Alliance Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry told students many would go to university but that there were “other routes to achieving your future goals” and all options should be explored.