A-level students go private

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The Independent Online
More parents are choosing to send their children to in-dependent schools to do their A-levels, results from 1,500 fee-paying schools show today. Three per cent more took the exams in the private sector this year.

However, state schools' A-level pass rates are still rising faster, with a 1.8 per cent in-crease this year compared with just 1 per cent in the independent sector. Some of the most famous public schools, including Gordonstoun and Bedales, scored lower than the top comprehensives in the Independent's survey published last week.

The top independent school this year was St Paul's School in London, where pupils gained an average of 31.4 points - equivalent to more than three A grades. Under the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) scoring system, an A gains 10 points and an E gains two. Overall, the pass rate in independent schools rose by 1 per cent to 94.9, while in state schools it rose by 1.8 per cent to 85.9.

Winchester College, which came top last year with a score of 31.9, dropped into fourth place after St Paul's and Eton after its average points per candidate fell to 29.3.

Gordonstoun, where the Prince of Wales was educated, was 324th, with an average points score of 18.6, while Bedales, the well-known pro- gressive co-educational school in Hampshire, was 264th, with an average of 20.15.

Harrow, Alma Mater of Winston Churchill and once regarded as second only to Eton, ranked 65th, with an average points score of 24.9. Five comprehensive schools in the Independent's A-level survey fared better: they were Fulford and Huntington Schools in York, the Blue Coat School and Holy Family High School in Liverpool, and King Edward VI School in Stourbridge, West Midlands. Fulford, which came top, had an average of 26.9 points.

Dick Davison, spokesman for the Independent Schools Information Service, ISIS, said an increasing number of parents were choosing to send their children to sixth-forms in fee-paying schools.

"Obviously, there are high standards, but there are other things as well. For example, quite a lot of boarding schools have significant recruitment at 16. It is regarded as a kind of preparation for university," said Mr Davison.

Stephen Baldock, high master of St Paul's, said he would rather such league tables were never compiled.

"I wish the table did not exist. Trying to draw fine distinctions between the top 20 schools is a vain business," he said.

He added that St Paul's practice of having an extended lunch break each day in which pupils could learn music, do drama or play sports also seemed to help to improve exam results.

The school's rowing team, which won a major competition this year, had all done very well in their A-levels. A third of its upper-sixth goes to Oxford or Cambridge each year.