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A-level girls and boys have ALL done us proud; BRITAIN'S MOST AMAZING EXAM STORIES.

Byline: DOROTHY LEPKOWSKA Education Correspondent

THE annual debate over standards at A-level has become as predictable as England losing the Ashes.

Are exams getting easier - or are our teenagers becoming more intelligent? Or, even more controversially, perhaps, are teachers doing a better job?

There is no simple answer. Certainly the demands on young people are different now from what they were 20 years ago.

Exam questions are more analytical, and there is less scope to be either right or wrong.

Targets and league tables have put pressure on teachers and pupils, and almost certainly resulted in a rise in standards.

And, crucially, so far there has been no conclusive evidence that, over time, there has been a drop in standards.

Hundreds of thousands of youngsters picked up their results yesterday. It has been another record year, with pass rates hitting almost 90 per cent.

Once again, girls have out- performed boys, scoring more A grades, particularly in the new AS-levels.

But thousands of young men bucked the trend.

Probably the best set of results in the country were achieved by Frederick van der Wyck, 18, from Westminster School in London, who gained A-grades in seven subjects.

He scored top marks in Dutch, German, history, mechanics, physics, pure maths and statistics - and then played down his achievements.

"Dutch doesn't really count because my parents are Dutch, and maths is really one subject not three," he said, modestly.

"I had hoped for seven A grades but I didn't expect it, really. Now I'm just pleased that I can relax.""

Frederick plans to read maths at St John's College, Oxford.

Close behind him, with six grade As, was Jennie Peachey, with top marks in biology, chemistry, English literature, art, Japanese and general studies.

Jennie, from Colchester County High School for Girls, is the girl with everything. A model and emerging TV star in Japan, she has deferred her entry to Cambridge for a year.

SHE said: "I'm taking a gap year now before going to Pembroke College to do anthropology and archaeology.

"Eventually I'd like to work for the United Nations. It would be great to do charity work or something related to the Aids crisis in Africa.

"I'm thrilled with my results. This is such great news. But I don't feel particularly special, because doing well was the norm in my school.""

Identical twins David and Andrew King, of Wickersley Comprehensive School in Rotherham, South Yorks, both notched up five straight As in maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and general studies.

They will study medicine - Andrew at Oxford and David at Leeds.

Meanwhile, young whiz-kids Rupal Patel and Kieran Dayah went from textbooks to record books, passing A-level maths at the age of 12.

The friends did their course at Leicester's Montessori College and stunned the exam board by bagging As.

Yesterday, Kieran told how he had to pluck up the courage to open the envelope containing his precious grade. The youngster, who wants to be a doctor or a scientist, admitted: "I didn't want to know. I was going to open it by myself later on, when no one else was around. But now I've done it I'm really pleased."

Rupal added: "I was always hoping I might get an A, but obviously I wasn't sure."

THE pair were invited to try an A-level after each got a GCSE in maths at 10 - Kieran with an A*, Rupal with an A.

Two 14-year-old boys were also celebrating being among the youngest A-level successes. Faisal Rachid and Andrew Hersee each got a grade B in computing four years early and after just nine months' studying.

The boys studied part-time at the Ryde College, near Watford, Herts. Andrew said he took the subject just as a hobby. "I was pretty nervous when I arrived at the college," he said. "I put a lot of work in and now I've got something to show for it. My friends have been calling me 'boffin', but I know they're only joking."

In Trowbridge, Wilts, the champagne corks were popping after a grandfather and grandson both passed A-levels. Super-swot Terry Tyacke bagged his 28th A-level at the age of 75 with a grade D in maths, while grandson Chris Zych, aged 19, got an A in design, B in business studies and D in physical education.

Mr Tyacke, who left school at 15 without any qualifications and is already an exam record-holder, said: "It was great fun studying with my grandson. He helped me with my homework. I can't stop taking exams. It's like a drug and I'm addicted.""

These are just a few of the amazing success stories to emerge from this year's results.

They show that today's teenagers are hard-working and conscientious. They strive for success and they know what they want.

They have interests and ambitions, and are sensible, articulate and well-rounded.

Both girls and boys have done the nation proud. Perhaps it is time the sceptics gave them a break.



LEVEL BEST: Fred got seven As; PROUD: Kieran and Rupal; WORLD CLASS: Jennie, with six grade As, wants a job with the UN; A TEAM: The King twins
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 17, 2001
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