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Breakaway grammars fare worst for results


22/07/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Schools planning new 'breakaway' entrance tests are producing some of the worst A-level results among the north's grammars, new performance lists reveal.

Nine of the 10 schools with the top exam results last year were Catholic but just one has said it intends to retain academic selection after the 11-plus system ends.

Of the grammars with below-average A-level grades, half are planning to continue with transfer tests.

Retaining selection is seen as a means of safeguarding their academic bias but new figures obtained from the Department of Education reveal that many pupils are struggling.

Instead it is schools that have not threatened to break away from government reforms that were more likely to enjoy exam success last year.

The Irish News has compiled a list of the 30 schools with the highest proportion of pupils achieving three or more A-levels at grades A-C in 2006/07.

In addition, the paper lists the ranking of the 30 schools that, under the guidance of The Association of Quality Education, are planning to introduce new tests.

The list provides a snapshot of an important aspect of school performance, although this will fluctuate from year to year, par- ticularly when numbers of pupils are small.

It does not claim to represent all the achievements of a school or of all pupils attending a school.

However, academics say grammars can usefully be compared on the basis of A-level performance given that they gear pupils towards taking the exams.

According to the department figures, the average proportion of pupils achieving three grades at A-C across all 69 grammars in Northern Ireland last year was 74 per cent - up slightly on the previous year.

Where two or more schools had the same percentage in the table, the percentage achieving seven or more GCSE grades at A*-C was used as a tie breaker - the grammar average in this case was 91 per cent.

Lumen Christi in Derry emerged as the top-performing school again - almost all its pupils achieved three or more grades A to C.

The gap between the top two names in the table has narrowed, however.

St Mary's Grammar School, Magherafelt, also had 91 per cent of its pupils achieving three good A-levels but Lumen Christi had slightly better GCSE results.

The latest figures show that while the Catholic sector is the minority in the grammar sector - making up 30 of the 69 schools - it occupies most of the top spots in the performance list.

Of the 29 grammars that achieved above-average A-level grades, 19 were Catholic.



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