Ulster Unionist Education spokesperson, Rosemary Barton MLA, has congratulated pupils receiving A-Level results today but emphasised that not enough is being done to tackle chronic issues in our education system.
Mrs Barton said:
“For another year, pupils have been outperforming their counterparts in England and Wales in their A-Levels and I offer my sincerest congratulations to everyone receiving their results today. The proportion of top A-level grades achieved by Northern Ireland students has risen significantly with 30.4% of entries achieving grades A* or A, up from 29.5% in 2016. Unfortunately, however, the gap between boys and girls has continued to grow with 33.3% of girls achieving top grades compared to 26.8% of entries from boys getting those grades, a fall of 0.4% on last year. We cannot continue to watch this gap widen year on year and not take any action. Unfortunately, without a Minister in place it will be very difficult to tackle the issue. In some cases, teachers can only do so much.
“It was also unfortunate that results day was preceded by revelations that some schools are excluding pupils from their overall exam results in order to improve their place in published league tables. As a former teacher this is extremely concerning. There are obviously genuine cases where pupils may have issues that affect their overall result such as welfare issues or illness. However, for schools to use such a process to exclude results that are not in their favour is very disingenuous and action must be taken and processes put in place so that this cannot happen again next year. In lieu of a Minister being put in place any time soon I would encourage schools to look at examples of good practice across the sector which helps pupils to decide whether to sit their exams or not. That would also be much better for the welfare of the pupil.
“Whatever the results, students should take the time to assess their future options carefully. Take time to research what is best for you, whether looking for employment opportunities now, resitting some subjects or going on to Further or Higher Education. Remember, University is not the only route to success. I would encourage young people to use the helpline 028 9026 1260 set up by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to get help and advice on the options available to them.
“These excellent results have been achieved in spite of a very challenging budgetary situation facing schools at the moment, and everyone - students, teachers and of course parents – should be applauded for their efforts.”