This year's secondary performance tables show that schools overall are continuing to improve their results, with a notable leap in scores achieved by city technology colleges.
The proportion of 15-year-olds achieving five or more GCSEs grades A* to C has increased by 1.2 percentage points to 46.3 per cent, after two years in which the rate of progress has been around one percentage point.
However, the Government's target to lift results to the point where half of 15-year-olds achieve five good GCSEs or GNVQ equivalent depends on schools sustaining the present rate of improvement year on year to 2002.
The Government had to abandon its attempt this year to produce a fairer measure of schools which takes account of pupil performance against results achieved in tests at 14, but it has produced a set of broader indicators. The tables include an average points score for every school, alongside the benchmark for five higher grade GCSEs.
The average GCSEGNVQ point score for all schools in England has gone up 1.1 per cent to 37 since last year.
The search for a workable way of presenting information showing how schools have performed at GCSE, given the results of tests taken by the year group when aged 14, has proved problematic. In the face of protests from schools that complained the results penalised those with high test scores at 14, the indicator was dropped.
The remnants of the exercise are the 25 per cent of schools - many of them in the inner-city and urban areas - that carry a tick to show they were rated to have made good progress at GCSE when account was taken of the earlier test results.
Around half the schools in the table of those have made the most improvement over the past three years also merit a tick for results for having achieved results better than the test results at 14 would have indicated.
The table showing average points score per pupil gives a broader measure in that all exam grades are counted, (A* is 8 points to 1 point for G).
However, heads are complaining schools can boost their point scores by entering pupils for large numbers of exams. John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, is suggesting the score should be calculated on pupils' best results in seven exams, including maths and English.
The TES analysis (right) shows the order of schools at the top and at the bottom changes according to whether they are ranked on the basis of five higher-grade GCSEs or the average point score. Six of the top 10 schools on the basis of five GCSEs grades A* to C are not among the top 10 when ranked by average point score.
The results are beginning to demonstrate the achievements of city technology colleges, which are required to ensure their intake reflects the cross-section of ability in their catchment area. The Thomas Telford school in Shropshire recorded the highest points score of any comprehensive and was ranked second according to higher-grade GCSEs.
Its head, Kevin Satchwell, believes the school's success owes a great deal to the extended week (35 hours compared with the national average of 25) and performance-related pay for teachers.
Schools in Manchester, the city recently heavily criticised by the Office for Standards in Education, show a faster rate of improvement than the national average. The city's proportion of schools achieving five higher-grade GCSEs rose by 2.4 per cent to 28.7 per cent.
Overall, girls continue to outperform boys, with 51.5 per cent achieving the higher grade benchmark compared with 41.3 per cent of boys. The numbers leaving school without any qualification have fallen by 7,000.
GCSE HIGHER GRADES: TOP 10 COMPREHENSIVES
Percentage of pupils passing 5+ GCSEs at A* - C
Old Swinford Hospital Stourbridge GM 98
Thomas Telford School Telford CTC 97
Hertfordshire amp; Essex High School Bishop's Stortford GM 95
St Edward's College Liverpool GM 95
Coopers' Company amp; Coborn School Upminster GM 94
Dame Alice Owens School Potters Bar GM 92
Watford Grammar School for Girls Watford GM 91
St Albans Girls' School St Albans C 90
Emmanuel City Technology College Gateshead CTC 88
King's School Peterborough GM 88
GSCE AVERAGES: BOTTOM 10 COMPREHENSIVES
GCSEGNVQ point score per 15 year old pupil (%)
Mary Linwood School Leicester C 12.4
William Crane Comprehensive School Nottingham C 13.1
All Hallows RC High School Liverpool VA 13. 4
Eccleshill Upper School Bradford C 13.6
Merrywood School Bristol C 13.7
St Paul's GM Community School Birmingham GM 13.8
Pen Park School Bristol C 14.0
Perronet Thompson School Hull C 14.1
Wycliffe Community College Leicester C 14.4
The Earl of Scarbrough High School Skegness C 14.4
GCSE HIGHER GRADES: BOTTOM 10 COMPREHENSIVES
Percentage of pupils passing 5+ GCSEs at A*-C
Middleton Park High School Leeds C 0
Coteland's School, Ruskington Sleaford C 2
Merrywood School Bristol C 2
Wycliffe Community College Leicester C 2
Keldholme Comprehensive School Middlesbrough C 2
The Ridings School Halifax C 3
Sir Henry Cooper School Hull C 3
Campion Boys' RC Comprehensive Liverpool VA 3
Langbaurgh Comprehensive School Middlesbrough C 3
All Hallows RC High School Liverpool VA 4
GCSE AVERAGES: TOP 10 COMPREHENSIVES
GCSEGNVQ point score per 15 year old pupil (%)
Thomas Telford School Telford CTC 70.2
Emmanuel City Technology College Gateshead CTC 69.0
Sacred Heart of Mary Girls' School Upminster GM 59.4
The Coopers' Company amp; Coborn School Upminster GM 59.3
Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School London GM 58.8
Lady Margaret School London VA 58.5
Brooke Weston CTC Corby CTC 58.0
The King's School Peterborough GM 57.6
Bishop Luffa School, a CofE Techn Coll Chichester VA 57.1
Old Swinford Hospital Stourbridge GM 57.0
COMPREHENSIVES: HIGHEST FAILURE RATE
Proportion of pupils with no GCSEs at any grade (%)
Copperfields College Leeds C 33
Glaisdale Comprehensive School Nottingham C 33
William Crane Comprehensive School Nottingham C 32
Breckfield Community Comprehensive Liverpool C 31
St Vincent de Paul RC High School Manchester VA 30
Waltheof School Sheffield C 30
Willesden High School London C 28
Queensbridge School Birmingham C 27
Merrywood School Bristol C 27
Selsdon High School South Croydon C 27
Sir Henry Cooper School Hull C 27
Ducie High School Manchester C 27
Moreton Community School Wolverhampton C 27
Cockburn High School Leeds C 27
Agnes Stewart CofE High School Leeds VA 27
The complete secondary school amp; college performance tables are published in a 40-page special section in today's TES.
The tables can also be accessed over the Internet at the Department for Education and Employment website.