Despair, pride and unconfined joy at moment of truth: Fran Abrams reports on the mixed fortunes of some A-level candidates who learnt their fate yesterday

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The Independent Online
A few moments ago Angela Schauer was wreathed in smiles after hearing that she had three 'A' grades in French, German and design and a place to read modern languages at Sheffield. Now she is comforting her friend Sally Burton, who has failed her French.

For better or worse, the relief is palpable as students at Westwood High School in Leek, Staffordshire, compare A-level results. Even for those who did not make the grade, the waiting is over.

Angela and Sally were among 300,000 candidates who received their results yesterday. This year's record pass rate of 82.9 per cent brought good news to many students, but complicated the lives of others. More were able to take up their first choice of university place, but those who just missed their grades would have to look further afield for alternatives.

Angela confessed that she did not expect to do quite so well. 'People said I could do it but I didn't think I would. I do feel a bit depressed for some of the others, though,' she said.

Sally has a place at Leek College to do a leisure and tourism course, so her lack of A-levels is more of an emotional setback than a practical one.

Rachel Parr has already dashed off to phone Keele University, which offered her a place to read geography and maths with the equivalent of two Bs and a D. She needs to know whether her B in general studies will count: without it she has just missed, gaining a B in geography, C in French and D in maths.

She returns looking flustered, having been told that no one can tell her what she needs to know at the moment, and that she should try later.

Others plan to take a little time to think. With a B, a C and a D, Jamie Bateman has missed his first choice offer, and is not sure whether he will be accepted by his 'insurance' university, Central Lancashire, which demanded three Cs to read marketing.

'I'll be ringing up today, then I'll have a few days' wait. But I might just consider things for a while,' he said.

George Wiskin, the head teacher, is handing out copies of a news sheet bearing advice from yesterday's Independent and his home telephone number, as well as the names of staff who will be in school to help. He is pleased with the results, slightly above the national average, but believes a change in the system to allow applications to be made after A- levels would be a good thing.

'Some people become medically unwell as a result of the stress and disappointment. There has to be a better way of doing it than this,' he says.

(Photograph omitted)