The proportion of school-leavers achieving at least five GCSEs at grades A* to C or equivalent has increased from 71.9 per cent in 2009/10 to 78.6 per cent last year.
And at 63.5 per cent, the proportion achieving at least five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths has increased by 4.5 percentage points since 2009/10.
At A level, 17.6 per cent are reaching the three-plus A* to C benchmark in secondary schools, while almost three in every 10 pupils are gaining three A* to E grades.
Mr O’Dowd says newly published Department of Education statistics also show a notable improvement in the performance of pupils in non-selective post-primary schools. The proportion of secondary school pupils with five GCSEs including English and maths stands at 41.5 per cent. Just 1.3 per cent now leave school with no qualifications at all.
The corresponding 2009/10 figures were 35.3 and 2.7 per cent respectively.
Mr O’Dowd says the results demonstrate that young people are leaving school with the qualifications and skills to open doors to employment, training, and further or higher education.
“Schools too are giving special attention to the needs of those facing the greatest challenges and it is clear that these interventions and programmes are working for our young people,” he says.
“There has also been a notable improvement in the performance of pupils in our non-selective schools, where the proportion of pupils achieving these grades has increased by two percentage points.
“What we also know now is that improvements in attainment at 16 are enabling our most deprived children to remain in education and take on the challenges of A levels and other Level 3 qualifications.”