Northern Ireland GCSE students continue to perform well in an ''exceptional year''

Northern Ireland’s GCSE students have continued to perform well and demonstrated ''remarkable resilience'' in an exceptional year.

GCSE grades have been determined by teacher professional judgement using a range of evidence
GCSE grades have been determined by teacher professional judgement using a range of evidence

That is according to figures released this morning by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQCIC).

This achievement by students is ''recognition of their hard work and resilience in overcoming the many challenges and disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.''

Following the cancellation of examinations, in January 2021 by the Education Minister, GCSE grades have been determined by teacher professional judgement using a range of evidence.

The grades awarded reflect the actual work completed by the students, accounting for the varying levels of disruption experienced by schools, colleges, and individual students.

Throughout Northern Ireland, teachers have demonstrated great commitment and effort to ensure that students are able to progress on to the next stage of their journey this year, be it

further education, employment or training.

Across Northern Ireland, England and Wales, similar approaches to centre determined grades were adopted by the awarding organisations, with extensive engagement and collaboration undertaken with schools, colleges, regulators, and the wider education system.

Awarding organisations provided a wide range of support to schools and colleges as the alternative arrangements were progressed. This included assessment materials, training, guidance, and an external quality review process.

As the means of determining grades in 2021 has been different to any other summer, it was anticipated that the overall distribution of grades would differ from that of a standard year.

GCSE entries in Northern Ireland have increased by 2.6% from 162,035 to 166,172 in line with the rise in school population.

This year, the proportion of entries awarded grade A/7 has increased by 3.6 percentage points to 39.9%. The number of entries achieving A/7–C/4 has remained stable at 89.6%,

previously 89.8% in 2020.

Outcomes increased at A/7 for both males and females, by 3.3 percentage points for males and 3.8 percentage points for females. The gap between genders across all grades, remains

consistent with previous years.

In GCSE English Language, the percentage of entries achieving A/7 grade increased by 1.5 percentage points to 29.8%, with a slight decrease of 1.1 percentage points at grades A/7–

C/4, from 87.2% in 2020 to 86.1% in 2021.

This year entries achieving A/7 grade in GCSE Mathematics increased by 0.8 percentage points to 30.5%, compared to 29.7% in the previous year. Grades A/7–C/4 also showed an

increase of 2.4 percentage points to 81.5%, from 79.1% in 2020.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects now account for 42%

of all GCSE entries in Northern Ireland, with an increase of 3.9% on the previous year.

This is the fourth year of the 9–1 grade scale offered by England based awarding organisations.

A small percentage of students in Northern Ireland (3%) will receive a 9–1 grade, with the vast majority (97%) of students continuing to take A* - G graded GCSEs.

Standards remain anchored at grades A/7, C/4 and G/1. Comparisons across years, subjects and jurisdictions are possible at these anchor points.

CCEA has congratulated students and teachers on the successful GCSE results.

Commenting on this summer’s GCSE results, Margaret Farragher, Interim Chief Executive of the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said:

“Congratulations to all those receiving their GCSE results this morning. Students have had to deal with unprecedented challenges since the COVID-19 pandemic began and I hope that

they can take pride in their achievements.

"We wish them well as they progress, be it in continuing education, training, or employment. In congratulating students, 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.”