Girls' schools take nine of top 10 places in A-level table

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The Independent Online

Elite girls' schools have strengthened their grip on the A-level rankings, pushing aside all but one boys' school from the top 10 private schools.

King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham retained its position as the top-performing school, achieving the equivalent of more than four A grades for each pupil.

Tormead School, a girls' school in Guildford, Surrey, ranked a close second, followed by Lady Eleanor Holles in Hampton, London, figures released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) revealed yesterday.

King Edward's School in Birmingham was the only boys' school in the top 10, in fourth position. Last summer, two all-boys and one mixed school achieved the accolade.

Meanwhile, some of Britain's most famous public schools drastically improved their performance. Winchester College, alma mater of Lord Howe of Aberavon and Hugh Gaitskell, jumped from 21st to 11th. Westminster, which charges up to £20,658 a year and boasts six prime ministers among its past pupils, moved up from 23rd to 12th place. Eton College, where Prince Harry took his A-levels this summer, went from being outside the top 100 independent schools in last year's rankings to 41st this year.

There was also good news for Britain's top state schools, which have closed the gap on their fee-paying rivals in A-levels. Three state grammars will be ranked among the top 10 schools in the country when the Government's A-level league tables are published this autumn.

Colchester Royal Grammar in Essex, Colyton Grammar in Devon and King Edward VI Grammar in Chelmsford will all appear in the top 10, beating exclusive schools such as Winchester College and Westminster.

The ISC, which represents most of the UK's independent schools, expressed delight that the private sector had achieved a "near-perfect" A-level pass rate. Overall, 99.1 per cent of all entries from independent schools were awarded an A-E grade compared with a national average of 95.4 per cent.

Independent school A-level entries were more than twice as likely to be awarded A grades - 43 per cent of private school entries were awarded As compared with a national average of 21.6 per cent. Independent schools accounted for at least 13 per cent of A-level entries and more than a quarter (25.8 per cent) of all A grades, the ISC said. This is despite the fact that only 7 per cent of England's 8.1 million pupils attend fee-paying schools.

This year's top comprehensive, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar, a mixed school in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, achieved 383 points - a performance that would rank it just below the top 100 independent schools.

However, the ISC argued, the Government's measures of success in exam league tables included general studies, which might disadvantage many independent schools that did not offer these exams. If these results were not included, Winchester College would be the top-ranked independent school for the second year running, followed by Westminster.

This year's rankings have been controversial after up to 30 schools boycotted the tables because they were unhappy at the way they were assembled or had lost confidence in the exam boards' marking.

Schools that offer the International Baccalaureate - taken at the same age as A-levels - are particularly unhappy with the rankings. Nine schools published their own table yesterday. Sevenoaks was the best-performing IB school and would have come 23rd in the independent school tables with 448 points.