The tables relate to England's maintained and independent secondary schools and colleges, excluding special schools.
They are listed in various ways within each local authority: alphabetically, and ranked on key indicators from their GCSE and A/AS-level and equivalent results, and contextual value added measures for 2008.
The tables are based on statistics supplied by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in January 2009.
Smaller schools with fewer than 30 candidates are not ranked, although for completeness they are included in the alphabetical lists, while results are not published at all for those with fewer than 11 pupils.
Independent schools have (IND) after their name, academically selective state schools have (SEL). Schools which closed during the academic year are marked (SHUT).
The DCSF says results for pupils at the end of KS4 came from the exam boards and were checked with schools. The schools themselves provided results on graded exams.
Results were checked or provided by schools in early October. Some reviews (appeals) were not completed in time to be included so if you have an interest in a particular school's results you should check with the school.
The key GCSE-LEVEL indicator is the proportion of pupils attaining the Level 2 threshold - equivalent to five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C - including English and maths GCSEs.
The figures relate to pupils at the end of Key Stage 4, which in most schools will be those in Year 11 (aged 15 or 16) the year group in which pupils normally take their GCSEs and equivalent exams.
Many excellent independent schools appear to score little or nothing at all on this measure because they enter pupils for International GCSEs in maths and English - which are not recognised by the government in its tables.
As a tie-break in our listings, schools achieving the same rank are further ranked on the average point score achieved by students.
Independent schools do not have a local authority (LA) but are grouped with other schools in their geographical area.
The averages for an area are for the state schools in the relevant LA, though the national averages do include independent schools.
The key A/AS-LEVEL indicator is the average point score per student, calculated using the points system devised by England's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority for a range of qualifications. This assigns 270 points to an A grade A-level, for example, 540 to a double distinction in a BTec national and 1,050 to a score of 35 in an IB Diploma.
The tie-break is the number of students.
NA in the tables indicates that there are no data or that the category is not applicable, which might be for a number of reasons.
Contextual value added: pupils' improvement
The results incorporate two complex contextual value added (CVA) scores designed to show the progress children have made.
This is done by comparing their achievements with those of other pupils nationally who had the same or similar prior attainment.
This predicts what a given child's attainment should be based on the actual attainment of other children with similar prior attainment and similar backgrounds.
The idea is that how they actually performed - better or worse than the others - is down to the school's influence.
The pupils' individual scores are averaged to give a score for the school as a whole, to which another calculation is applied, finally producing a number based around 1000.
The DCSF 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 1000.
Care has to be taken when reading the rankings, with no great significance being read into small differences. A score which appears to be higher than another does not necessarily indicate greater progress.
The Level 2 and Level 3 CVA measures are calculated differently.
Level 2 CVA
This includes nine factors known to affect pupils' attainment but outside a school's control.
The absolute "bottom" to "top" range this year is 932.6 to 1084.5.
But the department's statisticians say that schools on 1030.4 and above are in the top 5% nationally and those on 974.04 and below are in the bottom 5%.
A # symbol indicates that less than half a school's pupils were included in the calculation, and the result is not published.
There are no CVA scores for independent schools because the department does not have the necessary data on their pupils.
Level 3 CVA
New in the 2008 tables, this differs from the Level 2 version in that it does not take account of socio-economic factors, such as ethnicity or deprivation. This is because the socio-economic data on the students are not available.
Instead it includes other factors shown to have an impact on students' attainment, such as the type of qualification studied and size of learning programme they attempted. So there are Level 3 CVA scores for independent schools.
The absolute "bottom" to "top" range this year is 918.0 to 1102.7.
DCSF statisticians say that institutions on 1033.1 and above are in the top 5% nationally and those on 964.1 and below are in the bottom 5%.
Page by page
After the school's name and address comes information about its TYPE, admissions policy and any specialism. See the end of this article for more detail on this.
Alongside this information is a RANKING box with links to compare this school's performance with others in the area.
The school's results are then presented as graphs as well as in figures. The graph bars allow a quick comparison between the school's results and the highest and lowest ranking schools in that category, as well as showing local and national averages where applicable.
The two CONTEXTUAL VALUE ADDED scores come first, with local averages.
At GCSE-LEVEL the number "eligible" to take the exams is followed by the percentage of them with special educational needs, with or without statements.
The next key figure is the percentage of pupils at the end of Key Stage 4 who achieved the Level 2 threshold - five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C or their equivalents, including English and maths.
There is then a science indicator, showing the percentage of pupils getting the equivalent of two good science GCSEs - part of the effort to promote the uptake of science.
However, if schools offer all three science subjects - chemistry, biology and physics - then pupils must have attempted all three or their results do not count, even though only those from two subjects are counted anyway.
For the first time this year the government has included a languages indicator, showing the percentage of pupils getting the equivalent of at least one good modern foreign language GCSE.
The RECENT PERFORMANCE OF THE AGE GROUP then shows this year's result on the old measure - attainment of 15-year-olds - with similar results for the previous three years.
The A/AS-LEVEL shows the average point score per student in those and a wide range of equivalent exams. On the coloured bars, the range this year is from 182.7 to 1359.
The points are those devised by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.
For the first time the previous two years figures are also shown in a three-year trend graph at A/AS-level.
The ABSENCE figures are the total percentage of half day sessions missed by pupils, and the new "persistent absence" indicator which shows the percentage who missed more than 27 school sessions in a term.
In the absence indicators, "negligible" means less than 0.05%.
There are then links to the alphabetical list of all schools in the same local education authority and to the official School Profile, which in turn has a link to the most recent Ofsted report.
Academy (City Academy) - independent state schools where sponsors invest in the building or modernisation of the premises and the state meets 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, which 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.
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 academic ability.
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, most schools now have one or more "specialist" subjects:
B&E business & enterprise
M&C mathematics & computing
RATL Raising Achievement Transforming Learning
YST school leadership programme
LEPP Leading Edge Partnership Lead School
TS training schools