National Grammar Schools Association
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Selective schools fill 18 of the top 20 place in Mail's A-level league

16th August 2002 - Daily Mail

By Sarah Harris and Laura Clark
A GRAMMAR school threatened with closure by Left-wing activists yesterday broke records with its A-level results.

Queen Elizabeth's School in Barnet, North London, tipped the Daily Mail's prestigious table of nearly 600 schools for the third time in four years.

It achieved the highest A plus B grades combined total in the ten-year history of the results tables. Opponents tried to close the school in 1999 by launching a petition aimed at forcing a ballot on scrapping selection.

They acted using legislation brought in by former Education Secretary David Blunkett and gave up only in July 2000 after failing to persuade the 20 per cent of parents they need for support. Now the boys-only school's 109 A-level students have embarrassed anti-selection campaigners by passing almost 90 per cent at grades A and B.

The school restored flagging male pride by forcing last year's winner, another grammar, The Tiffin Girl's School in Kingston Upon Thames, South-West London, into second place.

Grammar schools dominate the table by claiming 18 of the top 20 places, further underlining the excellence of selective education.

At third-place Colchester Royal Grammar School, 83.6 per cent of exams were passed with top grades.

Next came King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys in Birmingham, where nine pupils scored five A-grades and 41 - nearly half the year - got three or more.

Queen Elizabeth's headmaster Dr John Marincowitz, 51, said turning his school into a comprehensive would have been 'an act of cultural vandalism'.

'It would have been a national tragedy if grammar schools were tampered with in any way,' he said. 'The divide between the private and state education sector is worse by far here than any other country in the world.

'Grammar schools provide education for children irrespective of parental income. They are a national necessity.

'I was amazed at the huge support of the school when this campaign started. No one wanted to see its demise.

'Ours is not a grubby state school. It's a business-like environment with an entrepreneurial spirit.'

Dr Marincowitz, who is considering introducing the International Baccalaureate as an alternative to A-levels, added: 'I believe that the key to our success is that we teach way beyond the curriculum

'We motivate the boys towards university.'

John Harris, vice-chairman of the National Grammar Association, said he hoped the resounding success would finally silence critics who have attempted to close the country's remaining 164 schools.

'Let's hope that their energies are diverted into more useful ways of improving everyone's education,' he said of the critics.

'Hopefully they will recognise the role that many different schools play in increasing diversity.'

Labour signalled that it was ending its 40-year war on grammars last December by announcing plans to share their expertise.

They allocated £500,000 to link grammar and comprehensive schools in 28 areas in an attempt to break down barriers between the two sectors.

Although there were some striking stories of individual success for boys into this year's results - with one pupil getting seven straight As and another six - nationally the gender gap has widened as girls leap further ahead in most subjects.

The number of A grades for girls went up from 19 per cent to 21.9 per cent this year, while boys managed a 1.1 per cent rise from 18.2 per cent to 19.3 per cent.

This was also a record-breaking year for A-level results overall, with the pass rate rising by 4.5 percentage points to 94.3 per cent - the largest yearly rise in the exam's 51 year history.

It is predicted that no one will fail their A-levels by 2004 if current trends continue, which has led to accusations of the 'gold standard' being dumbed down.

Former chief inspector of schools Chris Woodhead has lambasted the record results as demonstrating a 'corruption' of the system.

'The philosophy that all must have prizes is making a mockery of the A-level exam,' he said.