A-level results: Record rate of top grades for NI students

A-level results: Record rate of top grades for NI students


About 25,000 pupils received their A-level and AS-level results this morning.

Almost 51% of A-level entries were awarded A* or A grades, a record and a rise from about 45% in 2020.

Some students also received their BTec results on Tuesday - for many, that has become a path into university.

As formal exams were cancelled for a second year due to the coronavirus pandemic, schools calculated the grades to be awarded to pupils.

Education Minister Michelle McIlveen praised young people's "incredible resilience", acknowledging the exceptional circumstances they had faced over the past year

"Our young people have demonstrated a determination not to let this pandemic put their lives on hold," she said.

"They have been awarded qualifications which reflect their hard work and will enable them to move forward confidently with their future plans."

The vast majority of AS and A-level entries in Northern Ireland are made through the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) exams board.

However, some pupils take some A-levels through English exam boards.

There had previously been a significant rise in the proportion of A-level entries to CCEA awarded top grades in 2020.

In 2020, after the change in how results were awarded, 14.5% of A-level entries through CCEA achieved the top A* grade compared with 8.9% in 2019.

According to CCEA, that has risen to 15.8% of entries in 2021.

Almost 45% of A-level entries to CCEA in 2020 were awarded A* or A grades compared with 32.2% in 2019.

That has risen to 50.8% in 2021.

Across Northern Ireland, England and Wales as a whole almost 45% of A-levels entries received A* or A grades.

Pupils in Scotland take Highers and they also received results this morning and some students in Northern Ireland also receive their BTEC results.

Alana Cahoon from Portadown, County Armagh, said she was "so relieved and extremely grateful" after receiving three Bs at A-level.

The 18-year-old, who is a member of youth-led charity Pure Mental NI, said it was important that fellow students remembered to take care of their mental health on results day.

"It's important not to compare yourself to other people, don't compare yourself to what you see on your Facebook feed and Instagram feeds, Ms Cahoon said.

"It's ok if you didn't get what you wanted, everyone has their own path."

'Delighted to welcome you'

Prof Paul Seawright, deputy vice-chancellor of Ulster University, told News NI: "We have over 5,000 places available across four campuses... more than we've ever had.

"If you meet the conditions of your offer the university is obliged to take you and we'll be delighted to welcome you."

Professor David Jones, pro-vice chancellor for education and students at Queens University Belfast, said: "What we really want is to make sure that we can get as many people in as wish to come."

He said there were opportunities not only at Northern Ireland's universities but also by entering the further education sector and moving to university through that route.

Ellen Fearon, the president of the National Union of Students and Union of Students in Ireland (NUS-USI), said everyone receiving results should feel proud of themselves.

She said the government and the education sector had to make sure the necessary places were made available at universities and colleges to accommodate new students.

"Students have done their part and it's now on the sector to do theirs," she said.

Limavady High School principal Darren Mornin said every pupils should be congratulated after what had been an incredibly difficult 18 months.

"There has obviously been that disruption to face-to-face teaching so they most definitely will have been worried," he said.

"The results that they are getting today - especially from a Limavady High School point of view - have all been fantastic and I am just so proud of them all."

Meanwhile, at AS-level in Northern Ireland, almost three-quarters of entries (73.9%) received the top A or B grades.

However, those AS results will not count towards a pupil's A-level grade in 2022.

Evidence for samples of results calculated by schools has been checked by exam boards, including CCEA in Northern Ireland.