Two students with places at prestigious Oxford and Cambridge Universities have led a significant advance in achievement at a Middlesbrough academy.

Ryan Ward, who gained five A* grades and an A in this year’s A Levels, and Leon Matthews, who achieved four A*s, are the toast of The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham.

Ryan’s A*s were for mathematics, further mathematics and additional further mathematics, as well as physics and the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), and his A was in chemistry.

Ryan, 18, of Marton, also excelled nationally by gaining the most coveted ‘1’ scores in all three STEP mathematics papers – an exceptionally rare achievement.

He said: “My results were a bit above what I was expecting. I realised I was good at maths in Year 8 at The King’s when I had a really good teacher, Mr Ahmed. He must have seen something in me because he kept giving me more and more work, but the more he gave me the more I enjoyed it. Maths just makes sense to me.”

With plans to go into research, Ryan admitted that his parents, mum Samantha who is a ward clerk at James Cook Hospital and dad Norman who’s a transport assistant, were not mathematicians.

“Mum has been more nervous than me. She was over the moon and started crying when I told her my results. The thing I’m most looking forward to about Cambridge is just getting stuck into the maths,” he added.

Leon’s  A*s were in biology, chemistry, mathematics and the EPQ, as well as an A in German, and he will now read chemistry at Oxford University.

He said: “A couple of years ago I was involved in a summer school at Oxford where I did a taster course. I really enjoyed it, then I went back with the academy a few months later for an open day and ever since then I’ve had my heart set on it.

“It’s been really good at The King’s and Individual teachers, especially my chemistry teacher Dr Casson, helped me a lot with my personal statement and interview techniques.”

The students who gained at least three A*s-stars or A, among an overall academy result that saw 63 per cent of all grades being a B or better and with 37.2 per cent being A or A*.

The result is the academy’s best ever and will see a number of high achieving students who already have good university offers being able to go through the so-called “adjustment” process in which they can access even more challenging courses at more prestigious universities.

Other top performers were Jak Miller, three As and B; Mary Hunt and Elizabeth Scrafton, two A*s and an A; and Tribhuvan Gosain, Joseph McConnell, Aimie Stephenson and Jack Sutton, who achieved one A* and two As.

Elizabeth said: “Everyone I’ve spoken to got their first choice university, which is great. I wasn’t expecting to do so well at all, in fact I had all the numbers ready for clearing.

“It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked and it was more stressful with everything being focused on the exam but I’m really happy with my results. I thought I’d done badly in a couple of papers but it all came good in the end.”

Principal David Dawes put the improvement in the academy’s results down to a strong culture of aspiration and a positive climate for learning in the sixth form, where 90 per cent of students achieved at least three levels at grades A*-C.

He said: “I am delighted for our students who have shown an excellent work ethic and developed tenacity and determination during their time with us. Many even asked to come into school during the holidays to study, which reflects their sense of independence and drive to do well.

“This is supported by the outstanding quality of our teaching staff and sixth form leaders, who have created an environment for high achievement, consistency of support and a relentless message that hard work pays off. Our students have understood and responded to that and the result is the impressive results we see today.”