NINETEEN of the country's leading private schools have withdrawn from this week's A-level league tables over concerns about the accuracy of exam marks.
Famous names such as Haileybury, Stonyhurst and King's Canterbury, all of which cost parents around pound;15,000 a year, will not appear in tables published by the independent sector this weekend.
The Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, which represents many of the UK's best-known independent schools, made participation voluntary for the first time this year amid anxiety about the quality of marking and a growing number of appeals.
But predictions that more than a third of schools would join the boycott proved wide of the mark. Of a possible 512, the Independent Schools'
Council expects to publish results for a total of 484. A few schools that are not members of HMC also withheld their results.
The boycott comes as the ISC revealed that 99 per cent of A level entries from pupils at its member schools had passed with grades A to E, well ahead of the national average of 94.3 per cent.
Results also showed that numbers of A and B grades far exceeded the national average.
The proportion of A grades was roughly double the country-wide average, and a typical candidate could expect to achieve results such as ABB.
At Kingswood School in Bath, which is not making its results public at present, headmaster Gary Best said: "Many schools are frightened that if they do not appear in league tables it will count against them."
Mr Best said the school, alma mater of actor Tim Curry, had requested re-marks for all its students in four subjects. "We are finding an increase in results that have to be challenged because we do not think they are correctly marked," he said.
"This has very significant implications when it comes to statistical analysis." He said the school would make its results known once it was sure they were correct.
But he added that league tables could be misleading and that parents should take other factors into account when choosing a school. "League tables do not necessarily tell you about the quality of the school - they tell you about the nature of its intake," he said.
At Bristol Cathedral School, headmaster Kevin Riley decided not to publish his A-level results despite the fact that they were the best for years.
"Our results this year are the best since 1996," he said. "We had a 95 per cent pass rate with 48 per cent A or B grades. But I am sticking by my principles and not shoving the results in at this late stage." He said he would release the final results later in the year.
Most of the schools which withheld their results told the ISC they were doing it on principle, although some simply failed to get in touch while others were awaiting the results of outstanding queries.
HMC SCHOOLS NOT TAKING PART
Bradfield College, Berkshire
Bristol Cathedral School
Elizabeth College, Guernsey
Kelly College, Devon
King Edward VI School, Southampton, Hampshire
King Edward's School Witley, Surrey
King's School, Canterbury, Kent*
King's School, Ely, Cambridgeshire
King's School, Rochester, Kent
Kingswood School, Bath, Somerset
Rendcomb College, Cirencester, Gloucestershire+
St Columba's College, St Albans
Stockport Grammar School, Cheshire
Stonyhurst College, Lancashire
Wells Cathedral School, Somerset*
Worksop College, Nottinghamshire **
Worth School, West Sussex+
Wrekin College, Shropshire
* Have not contacted the ISC
+ Awaiting resolution of outstanding issues with exam boards
** Withdrawn due to concerns about lack of weight given to vocational qualifications