Serial A-graders get seven of the best

Examining board denies school-leavers' ever-higher exam scores are a sign of falling standards
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A new phenomenon emerged yesterday - the serial A-grader. Whereas in the past students were content with three, perhaps four, A-levels, this year pupils were notching up to seven grade As.

Also, pupils who could not utter a word of English two years ago will be walking off to Oxbridge next term with an abundance of A-levels at top grades. George Turnbull, spokesman for the Associated Examining Board, the largest A-level board, said: "Seven A grades are very impressive. But this is not an indication of falling standards but improvement. In 1952 no one had climbed Mount Everest and at one stage the four-minute mile was a record but look at the situation now."

Philip Croker, of Weymouth, Dorset, achieved a grade A in statistics, pure maths, mechanics, physics, chemistry, music and general studies. Not shy about his achievements, the pupil at Kingswood School, Bath, Somerset, said: "I know it is a good result, but I didn't have to work flat-out. I don't do anything by half-measures. I'll celebrate with some friends but I'm not going to get drunk because I don't like to drink very much." His grades guarantee his place at Oxford, to study maths.

Tracey Sowerby struck a blow for sixth-form colleges, achieving six As. A pupil at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, Darlington, she excelled at German, maths, further maths, physics, history and general studies, ensuring a place at Oxford. She said: "When I looked at the bit of paper it was probably the best feeling I've ever had in my life. Now I have a reading-list of about 100 books to get through before I start studying for history at Oxford."

A string of foreigners who could barely speak English a few years ago earned top university places. Natalia Slaska, 17, came to Britain five years ago from Norway. In 1995 she gained 10 GCSEs at A grade and yesterday celebrated her four A grades, which have ensured her a place to study modern languages at Cambridge.

Polish student Boguslaw Kysinski, 18, despite being unable to speak a word of English when he joined Clifton College, Bristol, two years ago, achieved five A grades. He has now won a place at Cambridge University and is celebrating with his friends in Warsaw.

And a Russian boy who gained five A grades lived up to his name. Oleg Lerner came to Britain in 1991. In October he will take his place at Oxford to read biochemistry. "I guess you could say I'm a bit of a science boffin," he admits. "All my friends seem to have done quite well too, but I don't know exactly what grades they got, as I was plucked out of the queue to receive mine, as they were so good." Some households had a double helping of celebrations. On Merseyside, twins Tom and Geoff Johnstone, pupils of Merchant Taylor Boys School, in Crosby, each gained four A grades.

They shared their success with fellow student Michael Ledger-Lomas, of Freshfields, who was awarded the country's highest French mark by the Associated Examination Board. But he is to read history at Peterhouse College, Cambridge, after gaining A grades in five subjects. Twins David and Mark Johnson each scored three As - but will now be going to different universities.

The best performing schools

The Independent's A-level table features only state comprehensive schools. To ensure fair comparison, we do not include independent schools or those that select by ability.

The rankings in the table are based on the average points scored by candidates taking two or more A-levels, and do not include general studies. An A grade earns ten points, a B grade eight points, a C grade six points and so on.

We contacted most of the 200 top state schools according to the Government's 1996 A-level league tables. Our table offers a guide to the best performing schools, but should not be viewed as definitive.

Chase High School, Malvern 22.1

The Catholic High School, Chester 21.2

Redbourne Upper School, Bedfordshire 21.1

Caereinion High, Powys 20.6

Northallerton College, Norhtallerton 20.2

Richmond School, North Yorks. 19.9

The Castle School, Thornbury 19.9

Durham Johnston, Durham 19.7

Anglo-European School, Essex 19.6

London Oratory 19.6

Lady Lumley's School, Pickering 19.0

Lady Manners, Derbyshire 19.0

St Mary's RC High School, Derbyshire 18.8

King Edward VI School, Lichfield 18.8

Huntington School, York 18.8

Turton High, Bolton 18.7

Fallibroome High School 18.6

Alsager School, Cheshire 18.5

Tarporley County High School,Cheshire 18.4

St Nicholas RC High School, Northwich 18.3

Saffron Walden County High, Essex 18.1

Stokesley School, Stokesley 18.1

Upton-by-Chester County High, Chester 17.8

Guiseley School, Leeds 17.7

Old Swinford Hospital, Dudley 17.7

Wymondham High School, Norfolk 17.7

Ilkley Grammar School, Yorkshire 17.6

Llanidloes High, Powys 17.6

John Port School, Derbyshire 17.5

Sandbach High, Cheshire 17.5

Trinity School, Nottingham 17.5

Wilmslow High, Cheshire 17.5

All Hallows Catholic High, Cheshire 17.4

St Aidan's and St John Fisher

Associate Sixth Form, Harrogate 17.3

Tapton School, Sheffield 17.2

Holmes Chapel, Cheshire 16.4

The Becket School, Nottinghamshire 16.4

Allerton High School, Leeds 16.3

Churchill Community School, Bristol 16.3

The Minster School, Nottinghamshire 16.3

Ysgol Y Preseli, Pembrokeshire 16.2

Droitwich High, Hereford and Worcester 15.9

Pershore High, Hereford and Worcester 15.9

Rivington and Blackrod School, Bolton 15.9

Parrs Wood School, Manchester 15.8

The Lakes School, Windermere 15.7

Notre Dame School, Sheffield 15.7

Wolfreton School, Hull 15.5

Ormskirk Grammar, Ormskirk 15.2

Prince Henry's High, Evesham 15.2