A school boasting traditional values, with Carpe Diem – seize the day – as its Latin motto, was celebrating yesterday after being ranked as the country's top comprehensive for A-level results.
Audenshaw School in Manchester, which counts Mick Hucknall from Simply Red among its former students, saw each pupil score an average of more than three A grades at A-level. John Eaden, the school's assistant headteacher, said: "We are a traditional school with traditional values and we think we offer an education of a high standard which gives our students all the chances they need to succeed."
The school, a former grammar which went comprehensive in the 1970s, has an academic focus and doesn't offer vocational courses in its sixth form. "We run quite a tight regime and students who want to come to us must attend for the whole week, all day every day," Mr Eaden said. "It's not like a college where you can just drift in and out. We have had a really very good cohort of bright, hard-working young people this year. Fifteen out of our 97 candidates achieved four or more A grades."
The top comprehensive overall was one which does not teach A-levels. Pupils at Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, achieved an average worth more than four A-grades at A-level, making it the highest-achieving comprehensive school.
The college – one of the UK's few state boarding schools – has ranked at the top of the table for the last three years, since a new points tariff allowed its International Baccalaureat (IB) results to be accurately compared to A-level exam grades. IB candidates study six subjects, including a foreign language, maths and a science, to ensure that students gain a broad range of knowledge.
The IB has been growing in popularity among both state and private schools that have become increasingly unhappy with A-levels. However, most offer it alongside traditional A-level courses. Hockerill is unusual in that it has never taught A-levels, and the IB has been the only qualification on offer since the school opened its sixth form in 1998.
This year's top grammar school was King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford, with the equivalent of nearly five A-grades per pupil.
Robert Birke, the assistant head of the all-boys' school, said he was delighted with the results his students had posted. "It's been a good year for us. There is a lot of talk about girls achieving so well at GCSE but I think our boys can hold their own at A-level."
Colchester Royal Grammar School, where pupils scored an average of 574 points, was the second-placed grammar, ascribing its success to an ethos of aiming high.