The number of students achieving top A-levels grades has fallen in the North East.
22.8% of A-level papers in the region were given an A* or A, behind the national average of 26.4%, and ahead of only the West Midlands.
However, the pass rate (A*-E) in the region is now the highest in the country - remaining static at 98.2%, while it has fallen nationally to 97.6%.
Nationally, boys continue to outperform girls at the highest grades, the figures show, with 26.6% of boys' entries awarded at least an A grade, compared to 26.2% for entries from their female peers.
The statistics also show that STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are continuing to rise in popularity. More than a third (36.2%) of all A-level entries were in these subjects, up from 34.5% last year, and 28% in 2009.
Boys are still more likely to study a STEM subject than girls, but the balance is shifting, the Joint Council for Qualifications said.
More girls take biology and chemistry than boys, while more boys take maths and physics. But the data also shows that girls are closing in on the boys, with a 3.1% increase in maths entries from female students (boys' entries for the subject have risen 2.1%) and a 6.9% rise in physics (2.4% for boys).
The figures come in the wake of a major exams overhaul - with 24 A-level subjects now reformed.
Grades have been awarded for the first time this summer for new A-levels in languages, geography, dance, drama and theatre, music, PE and religious studies. They join the 13 A-level subjects for which the first grades were handed out last summer.
Maths is in the process of being reformed and a small number of grades were handed out for the new qualification this summer. Most students have been awarded grades after studying the old A-level course.
Overall, the subject is still the most popular A-level, with 2,383 more entries this year compared to 2017.