But provisional A-level results for 528 fee-paying schools show a wide range of performance in private schools with around half doing less well than the top three comprehensives listed in last week's Independent survey.
The top school this year was Winchester College, (boarding fees nearly pounds 14,000 a year) which supplanted St Paul's School in London, last year's winner. Winchester's pupils scored an average of 31.7 points - equivalent to more than three A grades per pupil.
Under the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) scoring system an A gains 10 points and an E gains two.
The figures show that overall 31.7 per cent of independent school entries were given grade A, up from 31.4 to 31.7 per cent. The national average remains unchanged at 16 per cent.
Some well-known public schools such as Gordonstoun (16.3 points) where the Prince of Wales was educated and Bedales, the progressive co-educational school, (21.1 points) came below the top comprehensive in the Independent survey, Chase High School, Malvern (22.1 points).
Dick Davison, spokesman for the Independent Schools Information Service, which supplied yesterday's figures, said that the wide range of scores reflected schools' different admissions policies. "Those with the most spectacular A-level results are highly selective. There are lots of other kinds of independent schools, some of which will never appear in the top half of any league table."
James Sabben-Clare, head of Winchester, was modest about the school's achievement. "If there have to be league tables we don't mind coming top but they can be very misleading. We devote a lot of time to non-exam work. The fact that we are top gives people no idea what the atmosphere here is like."
*St Francis Xavier's College in Liverpool, said yesterday that since 1988 several of its pupils had achieved 13 grade As at GCSE, one with 11 stars. Yesterday the Independent reported that two Gateshead boys had been awarded 13 A grades.
The top thirty
School name Points
Winchester College 31.74
Westminster School 31.69
The Haberdashers' Aske's School 30.24
St Paul's School, London 30.23
The North London Collegiate School 29.4
Badminton School 29.29
Radley College 28.94
Eton College 28.74
Manchester Grammar School 28.34
Sevenoaks School (Int. Baccalaureate exams) 28.33
Oxford High School GPDST 28.28
Wycombe Abbey School 28.28
King's College School, London 28.23
King Edward's School, Birmingham 28.17
The School of St Helen & St Katharine 28.03
Withington Girls School 28.01
Rugby School 27.98
St Paul's Girls' School, London 27.93
The Lady Eleanor Holles School 27.67
James Allen's Girls' School 27.4
Haberdashers' Aske's Sch for Girls 27.3
The Godolphin & Latymer School 27.21
St Mary's School, Calne 27.13
Royal Grammar School, Guildford 26.95
Marymount International School (IB exams) 26.92
King's School, Canterbury 26.89
City of London School 26.77
South Hampstead High School 26.74
Malvern Girls' College 26.73
King Edward VI High Sch for Girls, Birmingham 26.67