14/08/2014 06:07 BST

A-Level Results Day 2014: Northern Ireland Wins, Outperforms Rest Of UK

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
Kate Nissan, 18, who got 2 A* and one A from Newcastle High School in Jesmond with friend Bethany Painter, 18, who got 2 A* and a B, as official figures show that more A-levels were handed the very highest grade this summer, but the overall pass rate fell for the first time in more than 30 years.

Northern Ireland has outperformed the rest of the UK in the proportion of students achieving A-level grades A*-A.

Almost 30% received the coveted higher marks, with students performing well in sciences, mathematics and art and design.

A one-off rise in the number of pupils taking film or media studies was linked by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) to the filming of the Game of Thrones fantasy drama in Northern Ireland.

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However the number of political studies A-level entries over the one year was down by a fifth, a decrease of 223.

Children went online from countries as diverse as Oman and the United States to receive their grades from early this morning.

Results overall remained fairly stable with a slight increase in the percentage being awarded the top A* grade, rising to 7.3%, JCQ said.

At A*-A there was a slight increase of 0.8% from last year to 29.9%.

The number of A-level subject entries dropped by 3.8% from almost 33,000 last year to 31,600 this time. Girls again outperformed boys in achieving top grades.

Anne Marie Duffy, director of qualifications at the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA), said: "It is notable that during a year when GCE entries dropped, the popularity of subjects that support the creative industries increased.

"It will be interesting to see if this becomes a trend over the next few years in response to the growing creative economy in Northern Ireland."

The most popular A-level subjects overall included biology, mathematics, religious studies, history and English.

The percentage achieving grades A*-C was 83.7%, and 98% achieved at least a grade E.

Girls outperformed boys in achieving the top grades. The most popular subject for boys was maths while for girls it was biology.

This year saw the highest number of AS-level entries since the qualification's introduction in 2001, in line with the rising population.

A quarter achieved an A and three-quarters at least a C.