The Minister also acknowledged the exceptional circumstances in which they have been awarded.
The percentage of students receiving the highest grades continued to increase, with 50.8% of A Level entries awarded the highest grades of A*- A, a 7.5 percentage point increase on previous outcomes. The percentage of students achieving grades A* to E was similar to 2020: with over 99% of students being awarded these grades.
Minister McIlveen said: “I wish to congratulate all the young people who have received their A Level results today. These outcomes reflect the assessments made by the people who know you best, your teachers.
“I appreciate the past few months have been particularly challenging but our young people have demonstrated a determination not to let this pandemic put their lives on hold. Today, they have been awarded qualifications which reflect their hard work and will enable them to move forward confidently with their future plans.
“Teachers and school leaders had a very difficult job to do and I want to express my appreciation for their hard work and commitment to their students in challenging circumstances.”
Following the cancellation of exams in January, the Department and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) worked with school leaders, trade unions, employing authorities and the Education and Training Inspectorate to put in place alternative awarding arrangements.
To support schools and colleges in Northern Ireland, CCEA provided extensive guidance and training and external quality assurance ensured grades were determined appropriately.
Concluding the Minister said: “All of our young people have shown incredible resilience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I am confident that this year’s alternative awarding arrangements were the best available in the circumstances. I hope that young people will now move forward confidently to their next step in education, employment or training.”