After years of work and months of worry, there were smiles and hugs at schools across Northern Ireland as pupils received their GCSE results.
Fifth-formers celebrated and commiserated with friends as they learned of the grades that will determine the next stage of their academic life.
Students were praised by teachers and principals for their resilience in coping in the first year since formal examinations returned post-pandemic.
At Our Lady and St Patrick’s College in east Belfast, pupils were quick to praise the efforts of school staff in preparing them for the exams despite Covid.
Noah Bradley from Carryduff was delighted to receive 10 A*s and an A.
He said: “I’m very pleased.
“I think obviously it’s been a tough few years for everybody. But I think the school helped to support us through Covid.
“I think we all got good grades, most of us got the grades we wanted.
“I think throughout with the online learning, the school did as much as they possibly could.
“The teachers, even the teachers who were really not as good with technology, they really tried their absolute best to learn on the spot and help us and then even come back to school, the teachers worked tirelessly to make sure we had all the resources that we needed.”
Fellow pupil Olivia Knight was delighted to receive 11 A*s.
She said: “It has been difficult, but I would definitely agree that the school has made that transition as easy as possible for everyone.
“We’ve had all this support and I feel like we’ve been really lucky in what we’ve been given the resources and they’ve really helped all the students to do as well as they possibly can.”
At Sullivan Upper school in Holywood, Co Down, dozens of pupils turned up early to receive the much-coveted results envelopes.
Hannah Bell, 16, was delighted to received 10 A*s and an A.
She said: “I’ve picked my A-levels, I’m doing French, history, maths and art, it’s a mix of things.
“I was really nervous, I had no idea what to expect. Thankfully, it’s all turned out okay.”
Seventeen-year-old Ben Aiken wants to go on to do A-levels after receiving seven A*s and three As.
He said: “I wasn’t really nervous. I was fine to be honest, we had done the exams already, the results were sitting in the envelope, so it was just a matter of opening it.”
Abi Trainor, 16, also received seven A*s and three As.
She said: “I was really nervous but it’s all done now so it’s all good.”
Jamie Morris, 16, was delighted to receive 11 A*s.
He said: “I was nervous, I thought I had done okay but there was always a bit of doubt. It wasn’t just how hard I tried but there was a bit of luck as well.”
Grace McLaughlin, 16, said: “I got 11 A*s, I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
At St Columbanus’ College in Bangor, Co Down, pupils received a surprise visit from Education Minister Michelle McIlveen as they gathered to receive their results.
Dylan McAdam, 16, got two A*s, five As and two Bs.
He said: “I want to do physics, maths and ICT at A-level.
“St Columbanus’ allow me to do a collaboration with Bangor Grammar so I can do physics over there but still do maths and ICT here.
“I love this school. There is very good pastoral care and it is very welcoming.
“There are always materials there that allow people to revise and do whatever they need to. There is a wide range of subjects as well.
“I was very nervous before. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”
Sixteen-year-old Holly Martin was smiling after she obtained a C in mathematics and a C* in English.
She said: “Hopefully I’ll be able to come back here to do A-levels. I love the people here and the teachers, they always look out for you.”