The public schools that come bottom

THE FEES are pounds 835 per term, it boasts 10 acres of pleasant grounds and aims to 'provide a liberal education in the arts and sciences for boys and girls of average or above average ability'.

But with an average of only 1.4 A-level passes per pupil, judged solely on its exam results, Wellington School in the Wirral could be the worst fee-paying school in the country. Ironically, it is within commuting distance of at least two Liverpool state schools that offer considerably better examination possibilities.

A-level results published last week by the Independent Schools Information Service showed that, overall, pupils achieved better results in the fee-paying sector. The pass rate for state and independent schools together was 79.6 per cent, in the independents alone it was 91.9 per cent.

But parents can be paying thousands of pounds a year for a school whose results are far outstripped by state schools, for which no fees are paid.

According to a ranking in the Financial Times, bottom of the class are Wellington (not to be confused with Wellington College); Embley Park, in Romsey, Hampshire; Pierrepont School, in Farnham, Surrey; Cokethorpe School, in Witney, Oxfordshire; Kingham Hill, in Kingham, Oxfordshire; Read School, in Selby, North Yorkshire; Grenville College, in Bideford, Devon; and St Michael's Burton Park, in Petworth, West Sussex.

Wellington, which says in The Equitable Schools Book 1992 that art and music are its strongest departments, scored an average of 6.1 UCCA Points per pupil, based on a score of 10 points for an A grade, eight for a B, six for a C and so on.

Many state schools are way ahead: the Royal Grammar in High Wycombe had an average of 23.2 points; the Judd School, in Tonbridge, Kent, and Colchester County High in Essex both scored 23 points and the Hasmonean Boys High, in Barnet, north London, a comprehensive, 21.8.

In Liverpool, within commuter distance of Wellington, the King David High School, a co-educational state school, had an average UCCA score of 19 points. Nearby the voluntary-aided Blue Coat School scored an average 17.3 points.

By contrast, Embley Park School (fees pounds 1,540 per term for day pupils, pounds 2,355 for boarders) averaged 1.7 A-level passes and 7.4 UCCA points. According to the Schools Book, it boasts a 'phenomenal record of success in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme'.

Pierrepont School charges pounds 1517 per term for day pupils and pounds 2523 for boarders. It has a strong Combined Cadet Force and warns that those 'caught smoking cannabis on the premises might expect expulsion'. Its results put it in England's bottom five, averaging 1.5 A-levels and 7.3 points.

Cokethorpe School, (fees pounds 9,666 per year for boarders, pounds 6,444 for day pupils) averaged only 1.9 A-level passes. At Grenville College, where boarding fees are pounds 7,965 per year and pounds 3,906 for day pupils, it was 1.8 A-level passes and eight UCCA points. Read School, in Drax, North Yorkshire, averaged 1.7 A-level passes and 7.9 points.

John Rae, former headmaster of Westminster School, said league tables provided a service by showing that some comprehensives were better than some fee-paying schools.