South-east students get best results

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The Independent Online
ONE-THIRD of the top A-level candidates in England were based in the South-east, according to figures released yesterday by the country's biggest examinations board.

The Associated Examining Board, which is based in Guildford, Surrey, but which covers the country, found that more than 100 of the top 300 entries were from London or the Home Counties.

Yesterday, the board released a list of the candidates who gained the top five marks in each subject. Its analysis of the results showed that 10 of the top papers came from inner London, 11 from outer London and 83 from the Home Counties and Sussex.

However, southerners did not have a monopoly on good results. Fifteen of the best candidates came from Yorkshire, and a further 19 from Greater Manchester.

The students will all receive a congratulatory letter from the chief executive of the board, John Day, who hopes the new scheme will avert government plans to bring in a new 'starred A' grade at A-level.

John Patten, the former Secretary of State for Education, was determined to introduce the new grade for the top few per cent of A-level candidates after an increase in the number gaining an A-grade. The proportion gaining the top grade this year was 14.7 per cent, compared with 12.8 per cent just two years ago.

Examination boards, teachers' representatives, universities and the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA) have all protested that there is no need for an extra grade, saying that it would be ignored by higher education and would simply put extra pressure on candidates.

Despite this, Mr Patten still seemed wedded to the idea when he left office. His successor, Gillian Shephard, has made no comment on the issue.

The AEB, which examines around one third of A-level entries, piloted the scheme in 1993 and extended it to cover most subjects this year. Mr Day said schools and colleges had welcomed the initiative last year. 'It is the preferred way of recognising outstanding performance in A-levels rather than the 'starred A' grade favoured by the former secretary of state.'

Charlotte Thompson, a student at Norwich High School, ended her life after disappointing A-level results which threatened her ambition of a career as a physiotherapist, an inquest in the city was told yesterday.

Ms Thompson, 20, of Northrepps, Norfolk, travelled to the school with her cousin Simon Gurney on Thursday to find out her results. She is said to have become upset but agreed to keep an appointment with friends at Norwich Cathedral. She had taken four A-levels and is understood to have achieved a B, a C and two Ds. Ms Thompson, who had fought back to fitness after breaking her back in an accident two years ago, needed four Cs to read physiotherapy at Newcastle University.

Then she said she wanted to be alone and was going to the city centre. That afternoon Mr Gurney returned to her home to find her hanging from a beam. Adjourning the inquest until 1 September, the coroner, James Hipwell, said: 'It is singularly devastating to hear of a young person of 20 on the threshold of life taking such a step on account of her A-level results.'

Letters, page 11

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