THE head of the comprehensive with the best A-level results in England has delivered a stinging attack on the Government's education policies.
Richard Bloodworth, head of Durham Johnston school, in Durham, accused New Labour of backtracking on the comprehensive ideal since taking power in 1997.
Durham Johnston school outperformed all conventional comprehensives in the 2002 league tables for post-16 performance, which were delayed to this week following last year's A-level regrading furore.
The school is in a relatively prosperous area close to Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency. It can lay claim to being the archetypal community comprehensive, taking pupils from disadvantaged neighbourhoods as well as from comfortable homes.
Mr Bloodworth said it had failed to benefit from a string of government initiatives, missing out on Excellence in Cities cash and on other money for schools in challenging circumstances.
The Government, he said, had decided against helping all comprehensives, in favour of promoting a "proliferation" of categories of schools.
"I'm deeply concerned about New Labour's education policies. They seem to be backtracking on all the things that we hold dear: the comprehensive ideal and providing a good education in a neighbourhood school," said Mr Bloodworth.
The school is facing a pound;300,000 shortfall this year, mainly because the numbers admitted to its lower sixth fell from 337 to 300 last year.
Mr Bloodworth, who is still trying to identify savings, said of the league-table result: "I'm delighted. It's a bit of good news in a very naughty world."
Around a quarter of the school's sixth-formers come from other secondaries, including the independent sector. Among its "selling points" are supervised private study periods for pupils.
John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, is Mr Bloodworth's predecessor at Durham Johnston.
But despite welcoming his old school's success, Dr Dunford condemned the tables as a "major irrelevance", particularly as this year they come after parents have chosen their children's schools for September.
Durham Johnston came second among schools ranked according to their A-level scores and officially categorised as comprehensive. But the top-scorer, Watford grammar school for girls, selects 35 per cent of its intake.
The TES chose to rank the schools this year according to the average points score each student got per exam, rather than the average points score per candidate, which favours schools which enter students for extra exams such as general studies.
Unlike January's GCSE tables, schools have not been ranked by the Government according to a value-added measure.
The list of the top-performing schools of all types was dominated by independents, with St Paul's girls, the selective pound;10,000-a-year day school in Hammersmith, west London, landing the top spot.
Hills Road sixth-form college, in Cambridge, once again topped the table for colleges. The top grammar school was Queen Elizabeth girls' school, in Barnet, north London.
And, unsurprisingly, local education authorities in the prosperous South-east came to the fore when results were ranked according to council area. Sutton, in south London, came out on top.
WHO TOPS THE POST-16 2002 LEAGUE TABLES?
TOP 10 SCHOOLS OVERALL
1 St Paul's girls' school, London
2 Westminster school, London
3 North London Collegiate, London
4 Haberdashers' Aske's school for girls, Herts
5 Alton convent school, Hants
6 Wycombe Abbey school, Bucks
7. St Paul's school, London
8. Winchester college, Hants
9 St James independent school for girls, London
10 Cheltenham ladies' college, Cheltenham, Gloucs
(All are private schools)
1 Watford girls' grammar, Herts
2 Durham Johnston comprehensive, Durham
3 Watford boys' grammar, Herts
4 Hasmonean high school, London
5 Roundwood Park school, Herts
6 Dame Alice Owen's school, Herts
7 Lady Margaret school, London
8 Cardinal Vaughan Memorial RC school, London
9 Hitchin girls' school, Herts
10 JFS school, London
1 Hills Road sixth-form college, Cambridge
2 Greenhead college, Kirklees
3 Woodhouse college, London
4 King Edward VI college, Dudley
5 Sir John Deane's college, Northwich, Cheshire
6 Richard Huish college,Somerset
7 Leeds college of music, Leeds
8 Peter Symonds' college, Hants
9 Godalming college, Surrey
10 Shrewsbury sixth-form college, Shropshire