STEM subjects account for 42% of all NI's GCSE entries

  • Over 30,000 pupils in Northern Ireland will receive their GCSE results today (Thursday 12 August), with STEM subjects now accounting for 42% of all GCSE entries in the region. 

    This is an increase of 3.9% on the previous year. STEM subjects are any that relate to science, technology, engineering and maths. 

    2021 is the second year in a row that grades issued in Northern Ireland have been based on teacher assessments, due to the cancellation of formal examinations again due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

    Last year's results were determined by a controversial statistical standardisation algorithm, which lowered more than a third of A-Level grades that had been predicted by teachers and has thus been scrapped.

    This year, schools instead submitted grades for pupils based on a range of evidence, including mini-exams, mocks and coursework, with the final results this week being issued by exam boards.

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    Almost 40% of overall GSCE entries in Northern Ireland have been awarded A or A* grades, with the entirety of GCSE entries increasing by 2.6% in line with the region's rising school population. 

    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.

    If pupils are unhappy with their results, they can challenge their grades through CCEA's free post-results service.

    Students are also being encouraged to now avail of the Department for the Economy's free Careers Service, which Economy Minister Gordon Lyons says "can help young people align their career aspirations with the immediate and future needs of the labour market."

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    Head of the Careers Service, Frances O’Hara added: “This is an important and sometimes daunting time for young people receiving results and I would like to encourage students to take advantage of the free professional advice and guidance available from our careers advisers to help you take the next step. Young people and parents can also access useful information at"

    If you need immediate advice and guidance following your results please use the Careers Service online webchat facility. This can be accessed at:  You can contact a careers adviser by clicking on the 'Chat with an adviser' button, or you can speak with an adviser by calling 0300 200 7820.

    Ken Webb, Chair of the Further Education Colleges Principals’ Group added that for any pupils receiving their A-Level or GCSE results this week, "there are hundreds of courses available at the six colleges including higher education options such as Higher National Diplomas, Higher Level Apprenticeships and Foundation Degrees as well as A level, Level 3 Advanced technical and our new Traineeships."

    Any student who would like to know more about those alternative routes available at Further Education colleges can find out more information at

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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