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Thursday, 24 August, 2000, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Students celebrate top scores
Mark Richardson is congratulated by fellow successful students
Kisses for top scorer Mark Richardson
Many students who collected their results on Thursday were celebrating long lists of top grades.

Mark Richardson was among the day's highest scorers, achieving 12 A* grades and one A grade.

"I couldn't believe it, I think my heart must have stopped," he said.

"I thought I was going to do quite well with five or six A*s, but I never expected this.

"I think the secret is to relax and not get worked up. I didn't actually do all that much revision."

League tables

The 16-year-old, of Emmanuel College, Gateshead, plans to stay on at school to do four A-levels, and hopes to go on to read psychology and theology at university.

His head teacher, Nigel McQuoid, said Mark had done "extraordinarily well" across a broad range of subjects.

Early success: Sarah Bowden
Early success: Sarah Bowden

"He must be in the top four or five results in the country."

In Essex, Sarah Bowden was thrilled with her results - 10 A* grades - which she achieved a year early, at the age of 15.

But her grades will not count when government performance tables are compiled, as they use only the results of those who were 15 at the start of the academic year - when Sarah was 14.

Elizabeth Ward, head teacher of Sarah's school, Colchester County High School for Girls, said: "It's an absurdity. I don't think they thought it through properly when the system was implemented.

"It will mean that our percentage of A* to C grade passes is something like 96% in the tables, when really it is something like 98%."

Twin celebrations

Sarah, who now plans to study for five A-levels, said: "I couldn't believe it when I saw the results."

"I'm not 16 until October. I've always been young for my year. It's because I started school when I was four."

Nicola and Suzannah Robertson
Nicola and Suzannah Robertson compare results

Sarah's fellow pupils also celebrating success included identical twins Nicola and Suzannah Robertson, whose results could only be separated by a single star grade.

The 16-year-olds both got four A* grades and six As in the same subjects, but Suzannah managed an A* in her design and technology GCSE short course, compared with Nicola's A.

Overcoming brain surgery

Two months before sitting her GCSEs, Judith Dunthorne underwent a serious brain operation, and during the exams she felt tired, listless and suffered headaches.

But on Thursday, the pupil of King Edward VI Handsworth School in Birmingham discovered she had notched up eight A* grades.

Judith, who celebrated her 16th birthday on Wednesday, had suffered from headaches since the age of seven but her condition, known as a hindbrain hernia, was not diagnosed until January.

Judith Dunthorne
Judith Dunthorne: Brain surgery no barrier

She had a corrective cranio-vertebral decompression operation in February, and was forced study in hospital and later at home.

Her condition, and an associated meningitis infection, meant she had to drop two of the subjects she had planned to take.

She said: "I wanted to prove you could have brain surgery and still get good grades at GCSE.

"It was a hindrance in some ways, but it gave me the reassurance that if I didn't do well everyone would know why. It gave me confidence because I didn't have to worry about the exams so much."



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