One success leads to another
But this year it was also among the highest-scoring non-selective secondary in the A-level league tables, ranking among the top 15 state schools.
The Shropshire school, which last year had 1,286 applicants for 168 places, was the first comprehensive in England where all pupils achieved five or more A*-C GCSE grades. In part, this was because all pupils took GNVQ ICT, worth four GCSEs. But Sir Kevin Satchwell, its head, points to the A-level results as proof that his pupils' achievements are genuine. "Part of the reason for our continuing A-level success is that we do well at GCSE," he said. "Self-esteem is high. But we also use the approach of a successful university. Twenty-five per cent of the week is spent in independent learning. They have to organise themselves and draw up learning plans.
Those sorts of things contribute to A-level success."
Thomas Telford's A-level results have been improving consistently since the introduction of AS-levels five years ago. Sir Kevin believes that these exams help his pupils make the transition between GCSE and A-level more easily.
But he insists that a combination of vocational and academic courses can also contribute towards A-level success. "We package together appropriate courses to meet the needs of youngsters," he said. "A broad curriculum makes things more interesting."
And league-table success has had a positive impact on the attitudes of pupils and parents.
"I wouldn't say performance tables are the be-all and end-all," Sir Kevin said. "But if you ignore them, you're burying your head in the sand."
A-level pupil Ellen Ingalis, 17, said: "Our free time is targeted towards learning. You revise on your own, and structure your own studies. Everyone here works hard, so they deserve the grades they get."