GCSE results … and 9,000 sixteen year olds

(Blog posts are better when they cover one idea at a time. This follows on from the previous post about the Belfast Telegraph’s coverage of Laurelhill Community College’s inspection report.)

The front page of the Laurellhill Community College website links to a news item from August which – while omitting any figures – explains:

the number of pupils being awarded the highest GCSE grades A* to C has risen again in Laurelhill Community College. It was particularly pleasing to see the number of students achieving A* and A grades in one or more subjects.

Upward progress is good?

Yes. However, the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) report and the school’s own more detailed figures paint a picture that is still alarming.

This all reminded me that I’d noticed something from DENI about GCSE results a week or two ago, but hadn’t followed it up. The Department of Education released a statement about Years 12 and 14 examination performance. – looking right across Northern Ireland.

There were 22,440 pupils in year 12 eligible for GCSE (or equivalent) examination entry – 9,255 in grammar schools and 13,185 in non-grammar schools. This continues the decline in the year 12 exam cohort and represents a decrease of 2,314 pupils since 2005/06, when there were 24,754 year 12 pupils eligible for the examinations.

Overall Year 12 Performance

  • 59.8% of year 12 pupils achieved 5 or more GCSEs (including equivalents) at grades A*-C including GCSE English and Mathematics, an increase of 1.2 percentage points from 58.6% in 2009/10.

The more detailed statistical report [link to Word document] gives a breakdown by gender and by type of school. (click on the table to see a larger version)

The DENI report makes the observation:

59.8% of year 12 pupils achieved 5 or more GCSEs (including equivalents) at grades A*-C including English and mathematics. When this figure is analysed by school type, 36.3% of non-grammar schools and 93.3% of grammar schools are achieving this standard. This represents a performance gap of 57 percentage points, a 3.8 percentage point decrease on the gap recorded in 2008/09 when the information was first collected.

While comparisons can be made (and have been previously) between the performance of grammar and non-grammar schools, the most disturbing thing about the report is that just over nine thousand 16 year olds in Northern Ireland finished year 12 (‘fifth form’ in old money) without the kind of GCSE results that many employers will be looking for.

Next time someone says NI has a world class education system, remember … Nine thousand. Forty percent of 16 year olds. That’s not world class.

While the Laurelhill Community College inspection triggered these two posts, I’ll finish with a positive observation made to me by a past pupil.

She recalled attending the school more than twenty years ago, and contrasted Laurelhill’s understanding of individual pupils and pupil-centred learning with the kind of factory approach adopted by some of the nearby Lisburn grammar schools at that time.

I hope to read positive inspection reports about Laurelhill Community College in the next 12-24 months as board intervention and continued efforts by staff, governors, parents and pupils take effect.

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  • It is a very grim picture.
    And frankly in a lot of schools, closure looks to be an option.
    First off its an option that appeals to the Department (and that would be the same case no matter what the political affiliation of the Minister).

    The simple fact is that no Parent actually wants to send their child to a “failing school”. For basically ideological reasons (we believed in Integrated Education) AND importantly my sons choice ..he spent nearly three years at a bad school. There was just a point in time when “leave him here one more year” just made no sense.Luckily he made a full recovery at a better school.

    But the problem is that not only do bad schools not get the best pupils……they dont get the best teachers.
    Nor can they retain the “good” pupils and teachers who keep the averages up.
    Each time a good pupil is withdrwan from such a school, the school actually gets worse……..and there just has to be a point in time when everyone says “enough is enough….close it down…….”

  • Barnshee

    “But the problem is that not only do bad schools not get the best pupils……they dont get the best teachers”

    Ah le vieux canard

    If the teachers are so bad explain why some pupils get A* whilst others ,in the same class ,,,exposed to the same teacher and lesson delivery, don`t.

    Shit man surely they A* pupils arn`t more clever?

    Pupil achievement is based on unholy mix of intrinsic ability,parental support,parental background and OVERWHELMINGLY — pupil behaviour.
    Teaching come a poor fifth after these

  • BluesJazz

    Now that the exam boards are telling teachers what’s on the question papers:


    How on earth can any pupil fail?

    Exams have been constantly dumbed down for decades to the point of the useless ‘Learning for Life and Work’ (sic) GCSE’s now flooding schools along with a host of other pathetic ‘qualifications’ .

    And then we can get on to joke ‘degrees’ issued by pseudo universities.

  • Zig70

    I have lots of discussion with fellow workers about the grammer school system. The distinction between what is the best school system for society and what the best system is for wee Conor et al is greeted with an acknowledgment but you know they will choose what is best for themselves as a family unit. As with the banks, sometimes the government needs to make tough decisions that benefit society rather than the self. Not everyone needs GCSE’s for a vocation, just that now with global economy, those jobs are scarce in NI, especially with the collapse in the building trade. China £2 a day anyone? For me as an employer, attitude is the big problem these days. Not a days work in them, gcse’s or not.

  • BluesJazz

    about the grammer school system

    Grammar, grammar, grammar

    Otherwise, I agree, including many graduates, Sense of entitlement for getting out of bed, becoming a big issue,