ST OLAVE'S Grammar School, Orpington, has been named State Secondary School of the Year in the latest Sunday Times Parent Power – its guide to the best state and independent secondary and primary schools in Britain.

As well as assessment of all academic results on a school-by-school basis, Parent Power enables parents to compare the performance of a given school with other schools in the same town, local authority, region or nationally.

The rankings in the secondary school league tables, in which St Olave's came fourth nationally, are determined by the percentage of entries gaining A and B grades at A-level in 2008 (which is given double weighting) and the percentage of entries returning A* and A grades at GCSE.

The top two state secondary schools in London are The Tiffin Girls’ School, Kingston-upon-Thames, and Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, followed by St Olave’s in third place.

St Olave’s is beaten by just three state schools nationally, but earns its award chiefly as a result of the sharp improvement in results this year, which sees it climb from 15th place in last year’s national rankings.

St Olave’s hit the headlines in 1996 when Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour party, chose to send her son to the selective grammar school, which draws its pupils from across south east London and north Kent.

The school fares well in other tables, not just academic ones such as those in Parent Power. Head teacher Anthony Jarvis takes particular pride in the school’s “value-added” record. Nationally, St Olave’s is in the top 10 per cent of schools for value added, when comparing the grades achieved at A-level to those at GCSE.

Mr Jarvis says: “We don’t just take youngsters who are naturally bright (though they are) and leave them to get on with it, we actually add value. We do well between 11 and 16, but the results in the sixth form are outstanding. If we were just getting 70 per cent of A and B grades at A-level, we wouldn’t be adding value, but we do so much better than that.”

He adds: “There is a real buzz and sense of fun here. I am incredibly proud of our students because, whatever their background, they come here and achieve brilliantly. Even better, they have a great time doing it.”

Greater London schools account for no less than six of the top 10 highest-achieving state secondary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and account for 10 of the top 20 overall.