WINCHESTER College has replaced Westminster school as the top performer at A-level, according to a table released by the Independent Schools Information Service, Isis.
Winchester, a Hampshire boarding school, gained an average points score of 29.5 per candidate, based on the Ucca scale giving 10 points for an A-grade down to two for an E-grade. Westminster was second with an average of 29.4 points.
St Paul's School in Barnes, south- west London, achieved the highest percentage of top grades, with almost 88 per cent of entries gaining As and Bs. North London Collegiate School in Edgware was the top girls' school, with 28.3 points and 86 per cent gaining A or B grades.
Last year, Westminster had the top average, followed by Winchester, St Paul's and King Edward's School, Birmingham.
The schools on the Isis list achieved a 93 per cent pass rate overall, higher than the national average of 81 per cent. This is usually because most independent schools are selective and parents are determined to get good results.
Winchester's triumph will be particularly welcomed by boarding schools after a year in which some were forced to close.
The school, which has the longest unbroken history in Britain, was founded in 1382.
It has always had a reputation for outstanding academic achievement, and its students, known as Wykehamists after its founder, William of Wykeham, have in the past been accused of arrogance.
Winchester has changed little in recent years. It feels no need to go co- educational, as many boys' boarding schools have, and has few assisted places - the scheme under which the Government pays part of the fees.
Among its old boys are Lord Howe, the former deputy prime minister, Viscount Whitelaw, former leader of the House of Lords, and Alasdair Milne, former Director- General of the BBC.
The school's headmaster, James Sabben-Clare, said he did not set too much store by the competition that league tables tended to foster.
'What we are trying to do is to provide the best education for intelligent children, and there is more to that than doing well in exams,' he said.
Westminster cannot lay claim to such a long history as Winchester, having been founded in 1542, by Elizabeth I. Nor can its pupils bask in such an atmosphere of calm, being expected to make their way to school by Tube and to negotiate the rush- hour traffic of central London.
Its old boys are a more mixed bunch than Winchester's. Among them are Tony Benn, the Labour MP, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the composer, Lord Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and John Brown, publisher of Viz magazine.
This year is the second in which Isis has published the A-level results of 500 secondary schools in an attempt to pre-empt privately-compiled tables which had begun appearing.
Last night Vivian Anthony, secretary of the Head Masters' Conference (HMC) - which represents boys' boarding schools and many day schools - said that although he had helped to design the table, he disliked league tables. Isis, of which HMC is a member organisation, ordered the results alphabetically.
'League tables give the impression that it is possible to compare the results of one school with the results of another. People are aware that the circumstances in which each school operates are very different,' he said.
Mr Anthony said that Sutton Valence School in Kent was to be congratulated as heartily as Winchester and Westminster. Its score was 38 per cent higher than its five-year average, showing it had improved its grades more than any other school.
Michael Haywood, headmaster of Sutton Valence, had mixed feelings about the honour. 'In so far as it goes, it is nice. But league tables have brought despair and frustration to heads who know they cannot reflect added value,' he said.
The top 200 independent schools
Source: Independent Schools Information Service
Haileybury School was inadvertently left out of the 'top 200' in the independent schools A-level league table carried on 28 August. It should have been placed 114th.Reuse content