Top state schools gaining on fee-paying sector

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The Independent Online

The best-performing state schools are gaining ground on the independent sector, beating many leading fee-paying schools in this summer's GCSE results.

Six state schools would be ranked in the top 20 in the performance tables after achieving the equivalent of more than nine top A* grades per student, according to independent school GCSE results published on Friday.

Two of the top three schools were from the state sector ­ pushing last year's best performer, King Edward VI High School for Girls in Birmingham, into fourth place and demoting £16,488-a-year Eton College into fifth position.

The highest-scoring state school, the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe, took second place with an average 81.4 points per candidate ­ equivalent to more than 10 top grades. Tim Dingle, the headteacher, attributed his school's success to its policy of entering students for an average of 13 GCSEs to allow them to study a broader range of subjects.

"We believe in giving our pupils a very broad education," he said. "Every school is different and some do better than us in A* grades because they prefer to focus on fewer GCSEs. But that does not fit with our philosophy."

The school was only beaten by a small independent school in Cardiff to win the top ranking in The Independent's league tables of GCSE results.

The 200-pupil Westbourne School in Cardiff had just 16 pupils sitting GCSEs this summer, scoring an average of 81.6 points. Taking third place was Brooke Weston City Technology College, a specialist state school in Corby, with an average point score of 81.1.

Peter Simpson, the college principal, said the college's policy of encouraging students to sit exams early also contributed to its position. One student scored an incredible 136 GCSE points ­ equivalent to 17 A* grades ­ after taking qualifications worth 19 GCSE exams.

The official tables measure schools' performances according to the average point score per candidate and the proportion of pupils getting at least five good passes. The tariff gives eight points for an A*, seven for an A, down to one for a G grade. The independent school tables of 587 fee-paying schools show that 175 schools had every pupil achieving at least five good GCSE passes, compared with 51 state grammar schools and two comprehensives. All but two in the top 10 are the same as last year, although most have changed places.

More than half (52.3 per cent) of exam entries from independent schools scored A* or A grades, up from 51.2 per cent in 2000, compared with 16.1 per cent nationally. More than a fifth, 21.6 per cent, achieved A*s, up from 20.2 per cent last year, against a national average for 2001 of 4.9 per cent.