A-level results in Northern Ireland show big rise in top grades

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

Image source, Pacemaker
Image caption, Many students are expected to go to their school to find out their results

The proportion of top A-level grades achieved by Northern Ireland students has risen significantly.

A* or A grades were achieved in 30.4% of entries, a rise of 0.9% on 2016.

More than 30,000 students received their A-level and AS-level results on Thursday and the overall A*-E pass rate was 98.3%.

However, the gap between girls and boys has widened: One third of entries (33.3%) from girls achieved A* or A grades - a significant rise on 2016.

That compared to 26.8% of entries from boys getting those grades, a fall of 0.4% on last year.

There was a fall of just over 1,000 in the number of A-level subject entries this year to 30,684.

Image source, PA
Image caption, Northern Ireland students are expected to continue to outperform those in England and Wales

However, that is mainly due to a drop in the Year 14 demographic.

Maths remains the most popular A-level subject.

Biology, history, religious studies and English Literature complete the list of the top five most popular subjects.

However, there have been steep falls in the number of A-levels taken in subjects like psychology, geography and physics.

Students were able to access their exam results from 07:00 BST on Thursday, but many went to their schools to discover their grades.

Many of those getting their results have already applied to university and will have their place confirmed if they get the grades they need.

Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) show there has been a 4% fall in Northern Irish students applying to go to university this year.

Other pupils will go into further education, work or an apprenticeship.

Students can call UU's inquiry line on 028 7028 7028 on Thursday and Friday, and the university is holding an advice day at all four campuses on Friday.

As of Thursday morning, the university had a small number of places for approximately 39 courses available through clearing.

QUB's enquiry line is on 028 9097 3838 and it will operate on Thursday and Friday, and on selected days over the following weeks.

Media caption, Are you getting your A-level results this week?

The university is holding advice sessions on Monday 21 August and Monday 28 August in the Whitla Hall between 14:00 and 17:00.

Many students getting their grades will also pursue other options including apprenticeships, entry into further education, employment or a gap year.

The Department for the Economy's careers service will run an extended online advice facility from 09:00 to 19:30 on Thursday and Friday.

Careers advisers are also available by phone on 0300 200 7820.

BBC News NI will also be hosting a special Facebook Live to answer any questions that students and parents might have.

Please join us on Friday 18 August at 10:00 and put your questions to our panel of experts.