Educational attainment at age 16

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • All the statistics below include vocational equivalents in the various GCSE thresholds.
  • In 2009/10, 2% of school leavers obtained no GCSEs, 5% obtained some but fewer than five GCSEs and a further 21% obtained five or more GCSEs but fewer than five at grade C or above.
  • These three groups together make up all those who did not achieve at least five A to C GCSEs.  As a whole, this headline measure has come down, from 43% in 1999/00 to 28% in 2009/10.  Furthermore, the proportion who fail to achieve the lower threshold of at least five GCSEs of any grade has also come down, from 14% in 1999/00 to 7% in 2009/10.
  • Among pupils entitled to free schools meals, the proportion of school leavers who have fewer than five GCSEs has fallen sharply in recent years, from 31% in 2004/05 to 17% in 2009/10.  This proportion is, however, still more than twice that for school leavers on average.

Definitions and data sources

All the data in both graphs includes vocational equivalents in the various GCSE thresholds.  The data excludes special and indepndent schools.

The first graph shows the proportion of school leavers failing to obtain five or more GCSEs at grade C or above.  The data is split between those who obtain no GCSE grades at all (either because they do not enter for exams or achieve no passes), those who do obtain some GCSEs but less than five, and those who obtain 5 or more GCSEs but less than 5 at grade C or above.

The second graph shows the proportion of school leavers failing to obtain 5 or more GCSEs of any grade, with the data shown separately for pupils entitled to free school meals and for pupils in total.  Since entitlement to free school meals is essentially restricted to families in receipt of out-of-work benefits, this should be thought of as a proxy for worklessness rather than low income.

The data source for both graphs is the Northern Ireland School Leavers Survey via the publication entitled Qualifications and destinations of Northern Ireland school leavers.  Note that the data prior to 2004/05 was obtained via the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister’s report entitled Update of indicators of social need for Northern Ireland 2005.  Also note that data is not available for 2002/03 and the figures in the graphs for this year are therefore the average for the previous and following year.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  While the data itself is sound enough, the choice of the particular levels of exam success is a matter of judgement.