The top 13 independent schools, ranked according to the proportion of candidates gaining grades A to C, are all girls' schools, bar one. The only boys' school to appear among them is the Whitgift School, in Croydon, south London.
Seventeen of the top 20 schools with the highest percentage of A grades were girls' schools. Margaret Kenyon, headmistress of Withington Girls' School, Manchester, and president of the Girls' Schools Association said: 'We are thrilled, absolutely delighted. The girls have done spectacularly well. We seem to have swept the board.
'Girls do work hard at this age, they are very focused, and they come to maturity earlier than the boys.' She rejected any criticism that the exams had become easier. 'Some of them were really quite testing. There is generally much higher motivation all round.'
But she expressed some concern about the new starred-A grades. 'There are some anxieties about this new move. It would be a shame if we did anything to devalue the A grade. Everyone would be very concerned if young people felt they had failed if they did not get a starred-A,' she said.
The tables, published by Isis, the Independent Schools Information Service, show that 39.6 per cent of entries were grade A or starred A, up from 37.8 per cent in 1993. Nationally, 13.2 per cent of entries were grade A or starred A. Almost 9 out of 10 entries (89.4 per cent) achieved grades starred-A to C. This compares with national figures of 53.1 per cent.
The North London Collegiate School, in Edgware, is one of four where 100 per cent of candidates achieved five or more starred-A to C grades. Joan Clanchy, the headmistress, said: 'We got 81 per cent of passes at A grade, and of these, nearly 30 per cent got stars. This is a fortunate school. We select at 11, we have wonderful facilities, a wide range of subjects, and highly motivated and well-qualified staff.
'Single-sex education is very effective and the atmosphere is conducive to academic progress. But I am very sorry to see the introduction of starred-As. It has devalued the A grade. We do not need to have this extra spur. It will lead to nervousness and cramming, which it will be very hard to resist.
'I think standards have improved because the children are working harder. Course work is very motivating and the pupils have responded, 'she said.
The King Edward V1 School for girls in Birmingham, the Queen's School in Cheshire, and Loughborough High School in Leicestershire all achieved 100 per cent success at grades starred-A to C. Ena Evans, headmistress at King Edward V1, said: 'There is expectation among the girls, the staff and the parents that there will be high achievement. The level of achievement has gone up because the girls are working harder.'
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