Cut off from the distractions of city life, rural Suffolk school notches up 'outstanding' marks

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The Independent Online

Farlingaye High School, in Woodbridge, Suffolk, was this summer's top-performing non-selective school. Its students achieved a point score of 398 - the equivalent of almost three grade As and an E for every A-level student.

Headteacher Sue Hargadon said the whole school was "thrilled" with what she described as "outstanding" results.

The students' successes were all the more remarkable, she argued, because the school sixth form had an open-access policy and - unlike many other schools - was happy to allow teenagers with below-average GCSE results to continue into the sixth form.

Ms Hargadon said: "This is an outstanding year for us. Almost one-quarter of students from this broadly average intake have achieved at least three grade As. Equally, there have been young people who started school quite a long way behind [their peers] who have achieved four good A-level passes. We're absolutely thrilled."

The school, which won national acclaim with a Leading Edge award in 2002, attributed some of its success to the growing popularity and rising achievement in vocational A-level courses such as health and social care and leisure and tourism.

Overall, the highest performing state school was a grammar school - but one that also has a rural setting - Colyton, in Devon. Its pupils achieved a point score of 529, the equivalent of at least four As and an E for every student.

Barry Sindall, the headteacher, said he was delighted with the results. Almost all sixth-formers at the selective school take four A levels plus an AS in critical thinking, which Mr Sindall said he believed had been successful in boosting pupils' analytical skills and improved their results in all subjects.

Mr Sindall praised his students for their hard work but added that the school's rural position might have boosted their results.

"Maybe our students do not have some of the distractions of some more urban settings so are able to concentrate better on their work," he said.

In the grammar school league table - where there tend to be more single-sex schools - neither sex predominated in the table. Four schools, including Colyton, were mixed - while the rest of the top 10 contained an equal number of boys' and girls' schools.

Farlingaye was among several comprehensives which outstripped grammar schools, which select all their pupils. If a top 100 of both grammar and comprehensive schools were to be compiled, there would be nine comprehensives in the list this year. Farlingaye would come 50th, beating 115 grammar schools.

Overall, the number of non-selective schools making the top 100 is slightly lower than in previous years, and down from last year when 11 comprehensives also achieved this standard.

The highest scoring sixth-form college was Winstanley College in Lancashire, which saw its students achieve an average of 405 points this year - equivalent to more than three As and an E grade each.