The table-tops in the school hall were covered in the traditional tapestry of white envelopes as students began arriving on the dot of 8am to learn their fate.
“A*, A and A,” said a delighted Xara Zabihi Dutton, ending her stint as one of the head girls at Lady Margaret School. Her high grades in, respectively, English Lit, History and Religious Studies mean she’s guaranteed her offered place at University College London.
She joins 35,000 students at the buzzy central London uni, studying English Literature. “They’ve already given us the book list, so I’ve been reading all summer,” said the 18-year-old. “I’ve been in Russia for two weeks – to Moscow and St Petersburg – so I’ve also enjoyed reading some Russian literature.”
Just like Oxbridge unis, UCL has a tutorial system, which clinched Xara’s choice. “I went for an interview there, and they have tutorials, which I love; the course is really interesting – you get to do criticism and theory in the first year.”
70 per cent A* to B grades
Headteacher Elizabeth Stevenson dispensed congratulations, hugs, encouragement and – for the rare disappointed student – sympathy and wise counsel as she paced the hall and surrounding corridors.
“In a year when many were sitting ‘new’ A levels we are particularly proud of the achievements,” she said. “School is about helping the girls to step out with confidence, despite all the things that are happening in the world. With these girls going out into the world, there really is hope!”
Overall, 70 per cent of the grades at the Parsons Green school were A*-B (a two per cent rise on 2016), with 100 per cent pass rate at A*-E, and 36 per cent success of passes being either A or A*…another two per cent improvement on last year.
Art is one of Lady Margaret’s outstanding subjects. Eight of the 15 sixth-formers taking it at A level gained A*.
One was Mariel Gane of Shepherds Bush, who turned up with her proud dad in tow on results day.
“I love drawing, especially portraits, and the textiles became really fun towards the end of the course,” said the 18-year-old, who transferred to the Lady Margaret sixth form having taken GCSEs at Sacred Heart in Hammersmith Road.
Lady Margaret has a large external sixth-form intake each year, with more than half the students sharing the experience of joining at A level.
“They definitely made me welcome; the girls were so friendly and it was a different atmosphere to my last school. It felt more academic, but Lady Margaret is more arty,” she said.
Her A* in fine art, A* in art textiles and B in maths have paved the way to a one-year art foundation course at Oxford Brookes, before she decides on a speciality.
Her father, Declan Gane, said that, from a parent’s point of view, he thought Lady Margaret had been “excellent”.
He added: “We were a bit worried about her moving to a new school, but it’s been lovely to see her flourish. Mariel’s results have been fantastic – the best in the family!”
Another flourisher is Saskia Gangadin Guinness, 18, from Putney, with an A* in History, A in English and A in Philosophy. “We revised together,” said Saskia, giving her pal Xara a huge embrace. “I’m now going to Sussex to study Philosophy… which will probably lead me nowhere, but it’ll be fine!”
A house captain at Lady Margaret, Saskia grinned and described her stay at the school as “ridiculously comfortable”, adding: “I wouldn’t have picked anywhere else.”
For Sarah Riches, in a bright pink T-shirt, three straight As in Biology, Maths and History mean the 18-year-old student is heading for Edinburgh to study Economic History.
Why Edinburgh? “I love the city; I’ve got some family up there and I visit it a lot. I’ve been at Lady Margaret since Year 7; I’ve always known it, and have some really good friends here. It’s a very friendly place.”
Her gift to herself for getting good grades will be to replace the cracked screen on her mobile.
First, though, there was the little matter of returning a hefty carrier bag of school textbooks. “What will I do after university? I’ve not a clue – honestly, not a clue,” she said.
Before they all go their separate ways, there’s the little matter of the Lady Margaret School centenary birthday party at the end of September; a final chance to chat, hug and reminisce before stepping out into that uncertain world.
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