Pupils break records with thirteen As and a string of stars

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The Independent Online
Records tumbled yesterday as nearly 600,000 GCSE candidates celebrated or sobbed over their exam results. John Chapman and Garry Florance from the same Gateshead school scored 13 grade As - seven each at A* - thought to be the highest-ever number of As at GCSE.

For Heather Florance, Garry's mother, who left school at 15 and is now a directory inquiries operator, his success was "quite frightening".

She said: "We are just ordinary working-class people. I can't believe it. I am on cloud nine. I knew he had worked really really hard, but I didn't expect this. He is just a normal boy, he is football-mad and supports Manchester United."

Both boys attend Emmanuel City Technology College, where teachers said that Garry had been in middle-ability sets when he started secondary school but had forged ahead in the last two years.

John, who has just qualified as a lifeguard, said he was surprised to do so well because the exams were much harder than the "mock" exams, particularly the German.

The last time a candidate scored 13 A grades in a 16-plus exam at a single sitting was in 1975 in the old O-level.

In Birmingham, a girl who sometimes cannot even hold a pen because of a nerve problem in her arms heard that she had ten A* grades. Mehreen Ali, aged 16, a pupil at King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar, was allowed to use a computer for her exams because she finds writing so painful. The disorder, which has baffled doctors, also causes migraines.

She said: "The computer kept crashing during the exams. It froze during both Latin exams, both religious studies exams and three English exams and I had to repeat what I'd already done."

In Somerset, Arthur Lovell, a pupil at Whitstone Community School in Shepton Mallett, scored 12 A*s. Arthur is the eldest of six children, and his family has no television. Besides his academic prowess, he also plays the violin in Somerset County Youth Orchestra and is painting a mural on a school wall.

Seven-year-old Nisha Santhiraraja from north London became the youngest person to pass a GCSE when she achieved grade C in computing studies. Two 11-year-olds from Grove primary school, Birmingham passed maths with C grades. The school pointed out that neither had secured the top grade in the 11-year-old national tests, suggesting a mismatch between the two exams.

Andrew Watford's delight at his nine As, six at A* , was mixed with sadness. His father died just three days before the exams but he had placed a pounds 50 bet on the results. Yesterday, the family picked up his winnings of pounds 450.

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Leading article, page 17