West Suffolk schools this year bucked the national downward trend by improving upon or at least maintaining their pass rates .
As students cheered their success, the schools patted themselves on the back as they not only saw overall good pass rates but, in many cases, rises in numbers getting top grades.
County Upper School in Bury St Edmunds recorded a 99.6 per cent pass rate and 88 per cent achieving A*to C.
Head Vicky Neale said: “These are another excellent set of results and I am particularly pleased that the results have held up at all levels despite this being the first year of the new tougher examinations system.
“The most important thing about today is that the students have the grades they need and, once again, the overwhelming majority do.”
High achievers include Ruth Newton, recent winner of the Princess Diana Award, who got three A*s and one A and will study physics at Durham. She said: “I am very excited to be going to Durham, I cannot wait.”
Head girl Beth Soman, who arrived home from a volunteering trip in South Africa late on Wednesday night, got two A*s and one A and will study theology and religious studies at Robinson College, Cambridge. She said: “I’m very happy, and relieved. I can’t quite believe it.”
Beth’s brother Jonathan, a former County Upper student, studied music at Oxford.
“Jon has always done his best, and he has inspired me,” said Beth. “We are both very thankful to County Upper.”
St Benedict’s Catholic School improved on last year’s overall result, with a 100 per cent pass rate, 52 per cent achieving A*to B and 80 per cent getting A*to C.
Michael Rawson achieved three A*s and two As and will study computer science at Robinson College, Cambridge, and Fenella Snudden’s two A* and four As, will take her to Bath to study architecture.
Head teacher Hugh O’Neill said: “As ever, we salute a wonderful group of students who have done superbly. I congratulate all of them.”
King Edward VI School in Bury had 98 per cent of its 163 candidates pass, of which 56 per cent achieved grades B or higher and 10 per cent were awarded A*s.
Of his four A*s, Aleksandr Bowkis said: “I thought I’d done well but I wasn’t really sure to be honest. Now I’m pleased.”
Head boy Jonathan Wise got three A*s, while Tom McDonald had two A*s and an A. Both sat A-levels in maths, further maths and physics.
Jonathan’s mother, Leslie Berger, said: I’m so proud of him. This school is amazing. I thought he might get two, but three is incredible. I’m quite emotional.”
Head teacher Geoff Barton said: “Yet again our students have achieved stunning results. Congratulations to them all.
“This year’s Year Group has exemplified a spirit of a character-building and leadership based on strong values. Their results show that they have done themselves and our school proud.”
Geoff’s son, Matt, was among students collecting results. He got an A* and two Bs and will be going on to study sports science at Exeter University.
For Matt, Wednesday night was tough - his father got to learn the outcome of his exams before him.
“I know now he’d never tell me, but I was trying to read his poker face,” said Matt.
“I‘m seeing it through the eyes of a parent - it’s the worst one I’ve done in 12 years,” said Geoff.
Of 130 students who sat exams at Thurston Community College, 99.5 per cent passed, with 75 per cent achieving grades A*to C.
Katie Ruffell, the school’s top performing student, received three A*s while Beth Cotton and Jack Seaton both got an A and two A*s.
Principal Helen Wilson said she was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the results.
“The statistic I’m most proud of is that 130 students took 450 exams between them and of those 450 exams, more than half achieved a grade B or above,” she added.
Mildenhall College Academy has not only seen a one per cent rise in overall pass rate, to 98 per cent, but its 70 A-level students have also given it a significant improvement in higher grade passes with A* to B up from 23 to 40 percent and A* to C rising from 48 to 67 per cent.
Principal Susan Byles said: “I am exceptionally pleased with this year’s results for our year 13 students.
“We’re investing £400,000 in moving our sixth form to another centre and when we get results like this you realise it’s well worth it.”
Some of the college’s top students lacked faith in their own abilities.
Lucy Croft has overcome health problems to get A* in history and the extended project qualification, plus As in sociology and general studies, securing a place to read history at the University of East Anglia.
But she said: “I didn’t expect to go to university this morning. The last two of my exams didn’t go well.”
Daniel Cusack was hoping for three As and admitted: “The night’s sleep was pretty bad but when I checked my emails and it said I’d got in [to university] I calmed down.”
In fact he had A*s in maths and physics with As in further maths and EPQ ensuring his place to read physics and astro-physics at Sheffield.
Adam Serpant did not check his emails so he arrived still ‘sweating on getting B in politics’. He got that along with As in English literature, history and EPQ, so will read History at Royal Hoilloway.
“I used to live three minutes from Royal Holloway so it will be like going home,” he said.
Stowupland High School has acheived its highest performance figures ever and an Oxford double.
The overall pass rate was 98 per cent with 40 per cent of candidates getting A* to B and nearly 70 per cent A* to C.
Head teacher Karen Grimes said they had a steady stream of students entering Cambridge for maths and science, while Alice Harrison’s four As plus an a* and b at AS-level will take her to Brasenose, Oxford, to study law with French law and Eloise Silkstone’s two A*s and A and A* and two a grades at AS-level secured her place reading philosphy and theology at Lady Margaret Hall.
In addition Bethany Andrew will read natural sciences at Durham or Leeds thanks to four As. With an A* and two As each, Harry Collings goes to Bristol to study maths and Fiona Howard goes there to study history. Mark Hughes two A*s and A and a C take him to Warwick for English and French.
This year saw students taking the extended project qualification for the first time but all gained A* to C grades with 73 per cent getting A* or A.
Mrs Grimes said: “This qualification is highly prized by top universities as it demands intellectual rigour, creativity and high levels of self discipline.
“It is clear that Stowupland students are going to thrive both in employment and higher education. Their families should be justly proud of their achievements and as a school we feel privileged to have been able to support such outstanding young people.”
Stowmarket High School has seen its A* to C pass rate rise from 77 per cent last year to 82 per cent, with 51 per cent gaining A* to B grades, which was up nine per cent over last year. In addition, 26 per cent of the 102 candidates achieved grades A* or A.
Almost all of those going to university have made the required grades.
They include Jordan Ayden going to Queen Mary College, London, to read psychology with two A*s and A and a C. An A* and three As each are taking David Butt to Durham for natural sciences, Leif Bjornson to Warwick to tread history and David Newman to Exeter for physics.
An A* and two As take Tim Chappelle to Sessex for American studies while three As each see Amy Henke go to East Anglia for history and Olympic torch carrier Abi Whitfield studying Geography at St Andrew’s.
Thetford Academy achieved its best results ever, with 98 per cent of the school’s 42 pupils passing their exams, a 26 per cent improvement on last year, and 65 per cent obtaining grades A* to C.
Adrian Ball, executive principal, said: “I’m incredibly proud of the results students have achieved.
“I’m looking forward to next year - may the great work and great results continue.”
Thetford Grammar School received an overall pass rate of 100 per cent, with 76 per cent of students receiving grades A*to C.
Oustanding performances included Jade Whitehurst and Sam Howell, who both achieved four A*s, and Jessica Steward with two A*s and one A.
Headmaster Gareth Price said: “I am delighted with the success of these individuals.”
Culford School’s 57 candidates had an overall pass rate of 98 per cent with 61 per cent getting A* to B and 83 per cent with A* to C.
Headmaster, Julian Johnson-Munday, said, “We are delighted with this set of excellent results, which are just reward for the significant amount of effort pupils and teachers alike put into preparing for these important examinations.
“The high number of very good individual results is very pleasing, as is the value added”.