ASCL NI comment on GCSE and vocational qualification results

Robert Wilson, Regional Officer at ASCL Northern Ireland, comments on the publication of this year’s GCSE and Level 2 vocational qualification results in Northern Ireland.
Congratulations to all students across Northern Ireland on their GCSE and other Level 2 results. Thanks must also go to the teachers and school leaders who have worked incredibly hard in difficult circumstances to prepare their students for this summer’s exams.
“Although the proportion of students achieving the highest GCSE grades has fallen from last year, it remains higher than it was in 2019. This is a result of the approach taken in Northern Ireland to adjust the grading system so that the distribution of grades is between that of 2019 and 2022, as part of a soft glide back to 2019 standards next year. As a result of this, and the different approaches taken to awarding grades across the UK,  it is not possible to compare these results with those in other jurisdictions or with other years.
“The approach taken in Northern Ireland, and the advance information provided for most subjects, has been helpful in giving additional confidence to students who have suffered significant disruption to their education and I commend CCEA for the way it has managed the 2023 series. Despite the resilience that students have shown, it is clear that the impact of the pandemic is still being felt. Work particularly needs to be done to address the growing mental health problems among young people. Teachers and school leaders have been instrumental in guiding students through this difficult period, while continuing to deal with a range of other issues including funding challenges. 
“Students receiving their results today will be progressing to a range of courses, under the guidance of school leaders and careers teachers. While some will begin the study of AS and A-levels, there will also be many choosing to study BTECs and other applied general qualifications in schools and FE colleges. In an era of skills shortages, there are also numerous apprenticeships available for school leavers in Northern Ireland. 
“Although there are numerous opportunities available today, the future of our young people depends on strong investment in our education system. The cuts being imposed on education as a result of the funding decisions taken by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland risk a once strong education system being no longer able to adequately meet the needs of our young people