Local young people have performed strongly yet again, with increases in the proportion of students achieving the A*-C grades and in those achieving the very highest A* and A grades.
Congratulating those who got results, Minister O''Dowd said: ''Today is a huge milestone for thousands of young people and regardless of the outcome, all young people should be proud of the hard work they have put in over the last two years towards getting their GCSEs. These young people are now faced with important decisions on whether they continue on in school, further education, training or employment. Whatever choice they make, I wish them well on their next step.
''I would also encourage those who did not achieve the grades they had hoped for, to seek advice on where they go from here. There are many options available to you and your teachers and families can offer you guidance and advice.Those who do stay on at school will experience even greater choice in their post-16 studies as a result of my policy, the Entitlement Framework. This policy ensures that young people have access to at least 27 courses, both general and applied, offering clear progression routes to further and higher education, training and employment.
Continuing, the Minister said: ''I am particularly pleased that today we are seeing improvements in two key areas, the performance of young men at this level and the growing popularity of key subjects including English, maths and ICT. In GCSE, like in A Level, Maths is the most popular subject and this is very encouraging. Following the trend seen last week in A levels, the proportion of entries in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at GCSE has also grown by 3%. These subjects offer a firm foundation for a range of careers choices and I expect will be welcome news for those in the business sector seeking young people to join their industry.
However, we do need to continue raising the standards and closing the performance gap between the highest and lowest achievers in our society. We have ambitious targets for improving outcomes for pupils from socially disadvantaged areas and I remain committed to ensuring pupils from all sections of our society do well in education and are supported to achieve their full potential.
Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: "The importance of making an informed decision following exam results is imperative to effective career planning. If you did not achieve the results you expected, be they better or worse than anticipated, there are many other opportunities available to you and I would urge you to examine these fully. My Department''s Careers Service can provide advice and guidance to help you unlock your potential."
Careers Advisers are located across Northern Ireland and offer professional, impartial advice and guidance on the options available. Careful consideration should be given to these as they are the first step towards achieving a fulfilling career. I would urge you all to visit http://www.nidirect.gov.uk/results for a wealth of useful information and the location of your nearest careers adviser or, alternatively, you can call 0300 200 7820.
Northern Irelands further education colleges offer you the opportunity to study from a wide range of full-time courses to suit your career path, with options including A Levels, GCSEs, Professional and Technical Qualifications and Apprenticeships. There are also a number of Level 3 Extended Diplomas where students can achieve up to 420 UCAS points which is the equivalent of three A* at A-Level. You may want to consider securing an apprenticeship with a local employer, where you develop specialist skills, giving you the chance to earn while you learn and gain qualifications that are recognised worldwide.
Training for Success can also provide you with an opportunity to gain the skills necessary for employment, letting you enter at the level that matches your needs, develops your employability skills and allows you to gain nationally recognised qualifications.
Fold Housing Association would like to congratulate all the young people who took GCSEs this year and wish them every success for the future.'