Lucy’s incredible journey to academic excellence at Haughton Academy in Darlington began when she and her mother Yanping left their home in China for family reasons to seek a new life in England.

When she started at Whinfield Primary School in Darlington, she only knew a few English words such as “Good morning”.

But the sadness and fear she felt back then has been replaced with joy after achieving six A* and six A grades in her GCSEs at Haughton Academy.

“I still remember my first day at primary school, seeing all the faces, and feeling homesick and scared but I am very happy now. Everyone has been so nice and supportive and my results are better than I thought they would be,” she said.

She said her mother and her family members back in China, including her father Lei Tao – a surgeon – would be “very proud”.

Leia Sunter is another Haughton pupil who has overcome the odds to produce outstanding results.

Leia, who has high-functioning autism, achieved 12 A*-C grades, including maths and English.

She said: “I’m really proud of myself because I always tried to pay attention in class and do my best.”

Leia, who comes from a farming family near Sedgefield, now plans to study engineering at the new University Training College at Newton Aycliffe.

And there was double cause for celebration in the Ellwood family home when twins Ross and Jacob managed 15 A* and A grades between them.

Ross said: “We were quite competitive when we were younger but that’s calmed down now and we’re just really pleased for each other.”

Overall, the results at Haughton Academy have shown a year on year increase of more than 12 per cent.

Last year, the school had 46 per cent of its pupils achieving five A*-C grades, including English and Maths. This year, that key benchmark has risen to 58.3 per cent, ahead of last year’s national average of 56 per cent.

Principal Jonathan Lumb, who took over as principal for this academic year, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the year-on-year improvement which is due to the hard work of the students and the dedication and commitment of the staff in giving them sustained support.”