BRISTOL'S schools and colleges are celebrating another year of recording-breaking A-level success.
After two years of hard work, thousands of teenagers punched the air in delight yesterday morning after discovering they had landed a place at their dream university.
Students were wracked with nerves when they anxiously arrived to open the all-important envelopes containing their grades.
Some were delighted to discover they had achieved outstanding results, others only scraped the grades they needed and many more were left disappointed. But most made their parents proud.
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One of the most remarkable academic achievements in the city was celebrated by St Brendan's Sixth Form College student Rachel Hayman, 18, from Saltford, who notched up an incredible five A*s at A-level.
Her amazing feat was only outdone by St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School student Tom Finerty, 18, from Ashton, who went one better by securing five A*s and one A.
The beaming teenager was one of 12 students at the school's sixth form to land a place at Oxford University – an unprecedented achievement for a Bristol state school.
Not far behind for Oxbridge entrants was the North Bristol Post-16 Centre, which saw nine of its most gifted students take up offers from Oxford and Cambridge after gaining spectacular results.
Elsewhere, one of the top performers in North Somerset was Sammy Ford, who could hardly believe she had landed five A* grades in maths, further maths, biology, chemistry and physics to seal her offer of a place at Balliol College, Oxford.
In Bristol, the provisional A-level pass rate for local authority sixth forms, schools and academies was 97.7 per cent. Some 45 per cent of passes were at grades A*-B, matching the city's achievement last year.
Leading the way for top marks was St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School (64.5 per cent), followed by North Bristol Post-16 Centre (54.4 per cent), Bristol Cathedral Choir School (48.2 per cent), and Colston's Girls' School (46.4 per cent).
Commenting on the results, Clare Campion-Smith, the city councillor responsible for education, said: "The city is very proud of its young people. These results reflect the dedication and talent of our young people and their teachers.
"In the current economic climate it is more important than ever that our young people have the best foundation possible to progress to the next stage of education, training or employment.
"Achieving good grades in A-levels and other qualifications such as BTECs and NVQs is a vital stepping stone. I congratulate them wholeheartedly on their results."
Bradley Stoke Community School and Oasis Academy John Williams in Hengrove received their first ever sets of A-level results yesterday morning.
Delighted with the students' performances, the academy's principal Rebecca Clark said: "Our students are celebrating a 100 per cent pass rate in the academy's first ever set of post-16 results.
"Thirty-two per cent of students following BTEC National Diploma qualifications, which are given the same value weighting as three A-levels, were awarded distinction or distinction* grades – these individual student achievements are equivalent to securing three A-levels at grades A-B."
At Bradley Stoke, almost 100 per cent of exams were passed and head teacher Dave Baker said the school was full of "happy faces" as nervous school leavers collected their results.
Many of the teenagers who arrived to collect their results avoided a shock when they opened their envelopes – after receiving an early-morning email from admissions service UCAS informing them whether they had secured their preferred university place.
Those who discovered they had failed to reach their expected grades went into clearing, with 164,749 students eligible for the process this year across the country, down on last year, when 191,833 students were eligible.
Nationally, the proportion of A-levels awarded at least an A fell for the first time in more than 20 years.
This summer's results reveal that 26.6 per cent of exams were awarded an A or A*, down from 27 per cent in 2011 – a drop of 0.4 per cent.
It is believed to be the biggest fall on record.
The A* to A pass rate stalled at 27 per cent last year, and the last time it fell was between 1990 and 1991.
Some 7.9 per cent of exams have been awarded an A*, a drop from 8.2 per cent last year.
But the overall A* to E pass rate has risen to 98 per cent from 97.8 per cent.
Exam chiefs insisted that the drop is down to more students, and a broader range of candidates, taking A-levels.
As well as traditional A-level subjects, dozens of students in Bristol picked up their results in a new qualification, the extended project. The qualification comprises an independent research project and 5,000-word essay with a presentation.
Bristol Grammar School student Luke Grenfell-Shaw, from Stoke Bishop, got an A* in the extended project qualification on the topic of curing the perfect ham.
A keen triathlete hoping to compete in the Olympics, Luke also notched up A*s in biology, chemistry, maths and Russian.
Other independent school students whose results shone through included Phillippa Robinson, who with three A*s was one of 16 Clifton College pupils to receive Oxbridge offers, and identical twins Georgia and Ella Comrie, who earned top A-level and international baccalaureate results at Red Maids, to secure places at Oxford and Southampton.