The tables relate to England's maintained and independent secondary schools and colleges, excluding special schools.
They are listed in three ways locally and nationally: alphabetically, and ranked on key indicators from their GCSE/GNVQ results and their A/AS-level results for 2003.
The result on which the ranking is based is shown alongside the rank achieved.
Smaller schools with fewer than 30 candidates are not ranked, although for completeness they are included in the alphabetical lists.
Independent schools have (IND) after their name, selective schools have (SEL).
The national lists also give their local education authority area after their name.
Clicking on any establishment's name in the lists takes you to a page showing its results and other information.
Here, in detail, is what it all means:
After the school's name and address comes information about its TYPE and admissions policy.
Academy (City Academy) - independent state schools where sponsors invest in the building or modernisation of the premises and the state meets essential running costs.
Community school (formerly county school) - maintained by the local education authority (LEA), which is responsible for the school's admissions policy.
Voluntary aided - maintained by the LEA, with a foundation (generally religious) which appoints most of the governing body. The governing body is usually responsible for the school's admissions policy.
Voluntary controlled - maintained by the LEA, with a foundation (generally religious) which appoints some governors.
Foundation school (usually formerly grant-maintained) - may have a foundation (generally religious) which appoints some of the governors. Maintained by the education authority but decides its own admissions policy.
City Technology College or City College for the Technology of the Arts - an earlier form of Academy School.
IND - Independent school - mostly fee-paying.
Comprehensive - takes all pupils, usually regardless of their ability, aptitude, or whether they have been selected for a place at a selective school.
Secondary modern - takes pupils regardless of their ability or aptitude and who have not been selected for a place at a selective school.
SEL - selective - takes pupils depending on their ability or aptitude.
Non-selective - independent school which takes pupils usually regardless of their ability or aptitude.
Boys, Girls ... - shows whether or not the school's intake is single sex.
The age range is self-explanatory - though a school might have a sixth form which is not officially part of the school roll.
In addition, many schools have a "specialist" status:
business and enterprise
mathematics and computing.
The Absence figures are the percentage of half day sessions missed by pupils, with and without the school's authorisation: "negligible" means less than 0.05%.
The school's results are presented as graphs as well as in figures. The graphs allow a quick comparison between the school's results and the highest ranking school in that category, as well as showing local and national averages where applicable.
For the GCSE/GNVQs, the results for the previous three years are also listed.
Independent schools choose whether or not to be included in the performance tables. They do not have a local education authority (LEA) but are grouped with other schools in their geographical area.
The averages for an area are for the state schools in the relevant LEA. The national averages do include independent schools.
NA in the tables indicates that there is no data or that the category is not applicable.
The reasons for this vary: for example it might not have had any relevant exam entries in a particular year.
The GCSE/GNVQ figure is the traditional measure - the percentage of pupils who achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C or their GNVQ equivalents.
The DfES defines the group as being those who were 15 at the start of the academic year, but counts their results from whenever they were taken even if they have since moved to a different school.
As a tie-break in the listings, schools achieving the same rank are further ranked on the number of pupils eligible to sit the GCSEs, then on the proportion getting five or more results at any grade.
The number "eligible" to take the exams is followed by the percentage of them with special educational needs, with or without statements.
The A/AS-level shows the average point score per student at the end of two years' study. On the bar, "top" is 520 points.
This year for the first time the Department for Education has included points from the "key skills" tests everyone has to do - so comparisons cannot be made with previous years.
Most people study for AS-levels in their first year then A-levels in the second. The results for the two most recent years are given - though where someone did an AS and an A-level in the same subject, only the A-level is counted.
The points are those used by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas). As an example, an A-level grade A scores 120 points, an AS-level grade A is 60 points.
In the rankings, ties are broken on the number of entrants - more is better - then on the number of points per exam entry.
Key Stage 3 to GCSE/GNVQ value
The results incorporate a complex measure designed to show the progress made by a single group of children.
This is done by comparing their achievements with those of other pupils nationally who had the same or similar prior attainment in their test results at age 14 in 2001.
The pupils' individual scores are averaged to give a score for the school as a whole, represented as a number based around 100.
The "bottom" to "top" range is 77.0 to 113.5. Those on scores of 105.5 and above are in the top 5% of schools nationally, those on 94.7 and below are in the bottom 5%.
The Department for Education says that if every pupil in a school achieved the median (middle) outcome for pupils with their level of prior attainment, the school would score 100.
Differences of up to 3.1 should not be regarded as significant in the case of comparisons between schools with up to 50 pupils. For about 100 pupils, differences of up to 2.2 should not be seen as significant.
If less than half a school's pupils were included in the calculation, the result is not published.
For 2003, the department finally has data tracking an entire year group from Key Stage 2 (at the end of primary school) through to their GCSEs - allowing for the first time a single, "all through" measure of their progress.
It has published pilot results with a view to complete publication in the 2004 tables.