GCSE results: NI outshines London and rest of UK with top-grades success – Belfast Telegraph


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Pupils at Colaiste Feirste in Belfast receive their GCSE Results Picture: Pacemaker
St.Cecilia’s College pupils Aine Saunders, Hannah Gallager and Trenyce Gallagher study their GCSE results Picture: Martin McKeown
Education Minister Michelle McIlveen Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
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Students in Northern Ireland have been celebrating another record-breaking set of results, with almost 40% of GCSE pupils awarded A or A* grades.
And in UK-wide terms, Northern Ireland ranks as far and away the highest-performing region, with 39.9% of entries awarded the top grades (7/A or above), well ahead of the next best region London on 34.5%.
All smiles at Colaiste Feirste in Belfast Pic: Pacemaker
The performance is even more impressive when looking at overall GCSE entries awarded at least four C grades. Northern Ireland returned an 89.6% pass rate overall.
London was again the second best performing region, but at 79.7% was almost a full 10% behind student performance here.
Despite the record level of success, the Education Minister said schools can feel confident that the awarding process – where teachers assess the work of their pupils after the cancellation of formal examinations for the second year in a row – has produced a true reflection of pupils’ work over the past two years.
Michelle McIlveen was at Nendrum College in Comber to congratulate pupils as they received their results.
“The pupils have worked incredibly hard through what has been a very difficult 17 months. There’s huge credit to be given to them all and also to the staff who have worked tirelessly alongside them,” she said.
Grace Martin, from St. Cecilia’s College in Derry, celebrates her 6 A*, 2 As, 1 B and a Distinction in Health and Social Care Picture: Martin McKeown
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“Generally the structure has been quite stable this year compared to last year, particularly in grades A to C and there has been a slight increase in A and A* grades by just over 3%. I’m not terribly concerned about that and I’m confident the results do reflect the hard work of the young people and the support given to them by teaching staff.”
Ms McIlveen said school staff had been in the best position to judge the work of their pupils.
“No-one knows the pupils better than the staff who have been working very closely with them,” she said.
“Obviously every school has had a different experience through Covid and that can only be reflected by the school staff. It would have been more difficult for an outside examiner to do that assessment.
“But that said, schools have been moderated internally and by the examination bodies. I think schools can be quite confident in the results that have been produced today.”
The proportion of entries awarded top grades by teachers has increased by 3.6% to 39.9%.
Pupils after receiving their GCSE results at Campbell College in Belfast Picture: Michael Cooper/PA Wire
There has been little change in the number of entries achieving A-C grades – with 89.6% in 2021 compared to 89.8% last year.
In the absence of formal exams, grades were instead assessed by teachers and decided through a five-stage process, and Northern Ireland’s main exams body said it had a high level of engagement with principals, teachers, learners, parents, unions, the UK awarding bodies and assessment academics through the five stage process.
Margaret Farragher, interim chief executive of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said: “Students have had to deal with unprecedented challenges and I hope that they can take pride in their achievements.
“We must also commend our teachers for their commitment, professionalism, and the critical role they played in delivering the curriculum and determining the GCSE grades this year in the most challenging of circumstances.”
But teaching union the NASUWT issued a note of caution.
“Teachers have faced huge challenges in drawing up centre assessed grades, not least due to the delays and failure of the minister to put in place timely contingency plans, despite the chaos which ensued over grading last summer,” said union general secretary Dr Patrick Roach.
“The NASUWT recognises the work that the Department of Education and CCEA have undertaken and remain committed to working with them over the next academic year.
“However, serious concerns remain in some subjects. The NASUWT is concerned that no measures at all have been put in place for GCSE maths, while the units which have been omitted in a number of other subjects do not do enough to address teachers’ concerns in relation to workload.
“The Department needs to urgently revise their plans to ensure that content is reduced in all subjects and communicate these changes swiftly to young people and their teachers,” he said.
“They also need to provide details of what contingency plans will be in place in the event that exams cannot go ahead as planned, so that young people and their teachers have the best possible opportunity to plan, prepare and achieve their best.
“In developing all their proposals, the Minister of Education will need to ensure that the unacceptable and avoidable workload pressures teachers and school and college leaders have experienced in the last academic year are not repeated.”

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