21/08/2008

NI Students Celebrate Exam Success

GCSE students are celebrating top grades in the biggest annual rise since 1990 - with the Province outperforming the mainland.

Northern Ireland beat England, Scotland and Wales with 26.4% awarded A* or A.

NI Education Minister, Caitríona Ruane and Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, have both congratulated the young people on this year's results.

They applauded the fact that A*-C grades were achieved by 74.5% of candidates, with 8.9% being awarded the top A* grade.

This is respectively 2.1% and 1.6% higher than last year, demonstrating that high standards have, yet again, been maintained.

Commenting on the results, the Education Minister said: "These are excellent results once again demonstrating that our young people are dedicated to their studies and performing to the best of their ability.

"Congratulations to all involved in achieving these excellent results and the teachers and parents who inspired and motivated our young students."

Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, said: "The importance of making an informed decision following exam results is imperative to effective career planning. Taking time now to explore options will pay dividends in the future.

"My Department's careers advisers are located across the Province and offer free, impartial advice and guidance on the options available.

"Careful consideration should be given to these as they are the first step towards achieving a fulfilling career," he said.

Overall, as some 750,000 teenagers collect their results today, it has emerged that entries across the country awarded at least a C increased more than two percentage points.
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This year, 65.7% of the exams taken were awarded A* to C grades, a rise of 2.4% from 63.3% last year, the exam board reported.

It was also revealed that the number of entries fell to a five-year low of 5.7 million entries this summer compared with 5.8 million last year.

Director General of the AQA exam board, DR Mike Cresswell said "some young people are focusing their efforts on fewer GCSEs".

Another reason for the decline was that more students had taken English and Maths exams in November and these were not included in the summer results.

In England, 20.6% achieved A*/A and 65.5% A* to C. In Wales the figures were 18.9% and 65%.

Scotland's exam results were released a fortnight ago.

It will be another few months before statistics become available showing how well students have done.

The grades will help students decide their next step in the education ladder - be it to stay in school to sit A-levels, or to abandon education into the world of work.

English education ministers want at least 30% of pupils in each school to attain five A*-C grades, including Maths and English, by 2011.

Currently, 638 schools in England are subject to the "National Challenge" programme, with extra funding to improve their results.

The National Association of Head Teachers has congratulated students, who may have not made the top grade, but nonetheless achieved "beyond their expectations".

A spokesman said: "Their perseverance and hard work must not be forgotten in the scramble to analyse the number of students achieving at the highest levels."

Headmaster of Eton College, Tony Little, has insisted that GCSEs have not got easier but teachers were "more efficient" about training pupils to pass.

Meanwhile, 61 top independent schools are preparing to boycott league tables because they "skew" the education system.

(DS)

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