and JUDITH JUDD
A former secondary modern school which was due to close 20 years ago has topped the Independent's survey of the country's best comprehensive schools.
The Anglo European School in Ingatestone, Essex, achieved better A-level results than many selective and fee-paying schools. Its 109 upper sixth- formers achieved an average of two A-grades and an E-grade in this year's exams.
The school was set to close in 1973 when a referendum confirmed Britain's future in Europe and it was given a new flavour by Essex County Council. Since then all pupils have learnt at least one language and have had the chance to go on a foreign trip each year. One-third of sixth formers take the International Baccalaureate, which is scored alongside A-levels on an officially-recognised points scale.
The Independent surveyed 200 comprehensive schools and colleges, chosen on the basis of past performance. Replies were received from 140, the best 50 of which are shown in the table on this page. Points were awarded on a scale ranging from 10 for an A-grade down to two for an E-grade. Selective schools were not included, but independent schools will publish their own results next week.
The survey was not exhaustive, and many very good schools will have been missed out: a full list of exam results will be published by the Government in November. It did not include the results of general studies A-levels, which are taken by some schools and not by others. Nor did it include A/S levels, which have the same depth as A-levels but half of the content.
Some schools declined to take part. A number object to league tables on principle, saying that they give an unfair impression and judge schools on only one aspect of their performance.
All those whose schools scored highly in the survey said they had an all-ability intake but a mixture of hard work and strong motivation by both staff and students had helped to boost their achievements.
Among the top 10 were two single-sex boys' schools and two single-sex girls' schools. Hasmonean, a Jewish school in north London, has girls and boys but teaches them separately.
David Barrs, deputy head of the Anglo European School, which has now opted out, said pupils from the local village were given first preference for places but others travelled from great distances to attend.
"Basically our kids are like any other kids. This year was a good year: there weren't lots of astonishing performances but there was quality across the board," he said.
The London Oratory, the grant-maintained school which will be attended from September by Euan Blair, son of the Labour leader, came ninth in the survey. Its star pupil this year was Philip Smeaton, who gained four grade As and two distinctions in his special papers and who will go to St Anne's College, Oxford, to read maths.
Its head teacher, John McIntosh, said: "We have high expectations and those expectations are reinforced each year by success. Pupils who come into the school at 11 see that the sixth-formers are doing well and a high proportion go on to university. They know that is expected of them."
At Hasmonean, which came second in the survey, a strong commitment to education was noted by schools inspectors who visited recently.
Its head teacher, Dena Coleman, said: "Education is very highly valued by the school, by the students and by the parents. Exams are important and everybody works very hard. The teachers are dedicated and the parents are supportive."
Additional research by Mark Jagasia, Tim Reid, Leala Padmanabhan and Philip Pank.
How the best schools performed
NAME OF SCHOOL number of average candidates points
Anglo European School, Essex 109 22.5
Hasmonean High, London 86 21.4
Queen Elizabeth School, Barnet, Herts 68 21.3
Watford Grammar, Herts 118 21.2
Durham Johnston 126 20.8
Richmond, N Yorks 87 20.2
Cardinal Vaughan, London 56 20.1
Dame Alice Owen's, London 117 19.4
London Oratory School 117 19.3
Croesyceiliog, Gwent 73 19.2
Woodhouse College, London 272 19.2
Penglais, Dyfed 44 19.1
Malbank, Cheshire 119 19.0
Wales High, Yorks 63 19.0
Cardiff High SchooL 102 18.8
King Edward VI School, Lichfield 101 18.7
King's School, Peterborough 95 18.4 St Nicholas RC High, Cheshire 61 18.4
Wymondham High, Norfolk 37 18.2
Alsager School, Cheshire 104 18.2
Lawrence Sheriff, Rugby 109 18.1
Jews Free School, London 112 18.0
Queen Katherine, Cumbria 79 17.9
Howard of Effingham, Surrey 102 17.8
Guildford County, Surrey 67 17.8
St Francis Xavier College, Liverpool 59 17.8
King Edward VI, Stourbridge 423 17.7
Hinchingbrooke, Cambs 125 17.5
Dallam, Cumbria 38 17.4
Cookstown High, Co. Tyrone 58 17.4
Bishop Stopford, Northants 109 17.3
Eirias High, Clwyd 47 17.3
Catle School, Avon 71 17.2
Ilkley Grammar, Yorks 99 17.1
Rosebery, Surrey 73 17.0
Old Swinford Hospital, W. Mids 76 17.0
Harrogate Grammar, Yorks 172 17.0
Charters School, Berks 77 16.8
Ursuline Convent, Essex 62 16.8
Llandloes High School, Powys 15 16.8
Blue Coat School, Oldham 88 16.6
King David High, Liverpool 42 16.6
Bishop of Llandaff, Cardiff 121 16.5
St George's, Harpenden 94 16.4
Copthall, Mill Hill, London 79 16.4
Copthall School, London 79 16.4
Prince Henry's High, Worcs 72 16.4
Prince Henry's Grammar, Otley, W Yorks 56 16.4 Thomas Mills, Suffolk 90 16.4
Egglescliffe, Cleveland 81 16.3
Christleton High, Chester 106 16.2
Queen Elizabeth Cambria, Dyfed 55 16.2
Denbigh High, Clwyd 40 16.1
Montsaye, Northants 63 16.0
Llandrindod High, Wales 55 16.0
Calder High, Halifax 54 16.0
Ranelagh, Berks 85 16.0
Blue Coat School, Liverpool 125 16.0
Prince Henry's high, Worcs 72 16.0
Nailsea School, Avon 85 16.0
Wymondham Coll, Norfolk 99 16.0Reuse content