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State schools elite shows Oxbridge entrance expertise: Fran Abrams looks at the background of the new Cambridge intake (CORRECTED)


TWO COMPREHENSIVES are among the top 10 state schools sending pupils to Cambridge this year, a survey by the university's student newspaper, Varsity, has found.

Cherwell School in Oxford and Harrogate Grammar School in North Yorkshire each won eight places this year, putting them ahead of many selective and fee-paying schools.

Public schools still hold a dominant position, however. Almost half this year's Cambridge freshers are from independent schools, which take about 10 per cent of the country's pupils. The top 10 took up 233 of the 3,000 available places.

This is the second year that the newspaper has conducted a telephone survey of schools with exceptional A-level results in order to find out how many had translated examination success into university places.

Steven Mathieson, editor of Varsity, said that independent schools were able to dominate the entries by giving their charges the right kind of coaching for exams and interviews.

'It isn't the old school tie any longer, but it is about how well those schools prepare their students for admission to Cambridge. There is also now an elite of state schools which have got this expertise in training students for Oxbridge entrance.'

Harrogate Grammar became a comprehensive 20 years ago. Although it has not changed its name, and retains a strong academic ethos, it is committed to remaining mixed-ability.

Kevin McAleese, the head teacher, said the school had a tradition of Oxbridge entry going back at least a decade. It also trained its pupils in public speaking and gave them mock interviews, which helped them to succeed in the tough entry procedure. 'We are not saying Oxbridge is the best place to be, but we are saying that if our students think they would benefit then they should try. There is no doubt that we have a favoured entry for a comprehensive, and we put that together with high quality teaching.'

David Summerscale, headmaster of Westminster, said his pupils were becoming more willing to try for a wider range of universities, but Oxford and Cambridge were still the most popular. 'I think it probably remains the prime target for a lot of the most able, but by no means for all. Oxford and Cambridge are very desirable - they like the collegiate system and they know where they stand in that sort of world.'

----------------------------------------------------------------- TOP STATE AND INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS SENDING PUPILS TO CAMBRIDGE ----------------------------------------------------------------- (Last year's position in brackets) INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS STATE SCHOOLS 1. Westminster - 44 (2) 1. Royal Grammar, High Wycombe - 16 2. St Paul's Boys' - 34 (3) 2. Methodist College, Belfast - 13 3. St Paul's Girls' - 25 (6) 3. Latymer, Edmonton - 12 4. Royal Grammar, Newcastle - 20 (-) 4. Colchester County High, Essex - 10 5. King Edward's, Birmingham - 19 (5) 4. Chelmsford County High, Essex - 10 5. Bradford Grammar - 19 (-) 6. St Olave's, Kent - 9 7. Manchester Grammar - 18 (-) 6. Dr Challoner's Grammar, Bucks - 9 7. Haberdasher's Aske's, Herts - 18 (3) 8. Harrogate Grammar - 8 7. King's, Canterbury - 18 (8) 8. Cherwell, Oxford - 8 10. Eton - 17 (4) 10. Several schools with six entrants -----------------------------------------------------------------


Aylesbury Grammar School in Buckinghamshire was omitted from yesterday's list of Cambridge entries from state schools. The school sent 10 pupils to Cambridge this year, placing it joint fourth on the table compiled by the university's newspaper, Varsity.

(Photograph omitted)