Northern Ireland

GCSE exams: Rise in pupils achieving at least five at grades A*-C

GCSE exam room
Image caption The statistics show the performance gap between grammar and non-grammar schools is continuing to narrow at GCSE level

There has been a rise in the number of Northern Ireland pupils achieving at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C, including English and Maths.

Sixty-seven per cent of year 12 pupils achieved those results in 2014/15 compared to 65.2% in 2013/14.

This is the first time in Northern Ireland that more than two-thirds of pupils have achieved at least those grades at GCSE since new statistical measurements were introduced in 2008/09.

Just over 21,000 year 12 pupils sat GCSE exams in 2014/15, while 13,206 sat A-levels.

The performance gap between grammar and non-grammar schools continues to narrow at GCSE.

However, there has been another slight fall in the number of students achieving three or more A-levels at grades A*-C.

Sixty-four point nine per cent of pupils got those grades in 2014/15, compared to 65% in 2013/14, and 65.2% in 2012/13.

The figures have been released by the Department of Education (DE).

They also show a significant rise in the number of pupils entitled to free school meals achieving at least five GCSEs at A*-C including English and Maths.

Forty five point six per cent of those pupils on free school meals got those grades in 2014/15, compared to 38.7% in the previous year.

Over a quarter of pupils in year 12 in Northern Irish schools are entitled to free school meals.

However, there has also been an increase in the number of year 12 pupils ruled ineligible to be included in the GCSE results statistics.

Seven per cent of pupils were ineligible in 2014/15, a rise from 6.8% the previous year.

Pupils can be withdrawn from GCSEs by their school for a number of reasons, including welfare issues, illness, or if they have a statement of special educational needs.

The latest figures also show that a significant performance gap remains between girls and boys at both GCSE and A-level.

Seventy point nine per cent of girls achieved five GCSEs, including Maths and English at grades A*-C in 2014/15 compared to 63.2% of boys.

Image caption John O'Dowd said the overall results were "very positive"

At A-Level, 67.7% of girls got at least three A-levels at A*-C, compared to 61.2% of boys.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said the overall results were "very positive".

"These statistics show a significant measure of continued success in relation to the school improvement policies I have put in place, and provide evidence that they are working for our young people," he said.

A literacy and numeracy signature programme was put in place in 2013 to help pupils who were struggling in English and Maths.

The programme created the equivalent of 270 extra full-time teaching posts and cost £16m.

However, earlier this year it was announced that the scheme was not being renewed due to a lack of ongoing funding.

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