HARD work by pupils and staff was the key to a Cheltenham school being named as the best state secondary in the country.
That's the view of Russel Ellicott, headteacher at Pate's Grammar School after it was handed the accolade in the Sunday Times Good Schools Guide.
It was the first time since the inception of the awards 21 years ago that a school from the South West had been awarded the title.
Mr Ellicott said: "We are delighted and thrilled to be awarded such a prestigious honour. It is the result of hard work and dedication from our outstanding teachers and is a public reward for their efforts.
"Any plaudits we are given are down to the hard work of the staff and the students, who are amazing."
Originally founded by in 1574 by Richard Pate, the voluntary-aided school now has 1,000 pupils. This year, 27 won places at Oxford and Cambridge universities – only four below its record figure.
Mr Ellicott is very proud of the numbers going to Oxbridge from Pate's, and said: "We have a team of staff who work with students to ensure they have the best possible preparation for their university application." He added that he was equally delighted that its pupils invariably go to their first-choice university, regardless of where that is.
In awarding the honour to Pate's, the Sunday Times said: "A remarkable 95 per cent of A-level entries this summer gained A* to B grades, while 89.1 per cent of GCSEs were given an A* or A.
"A regular in the upper echelons of our league tables, Pate's moves from sixth to fourth place and it is this consistently strong academic record that wins it our UK State Secondary School of the Year award."
Mr Ellicott took over from Shaun Fenton as head at Pate's in September, after four years as its deputy head.
He said: "We pride ourselves on our high aspirations. We are lucky that we have bright, very able students."
Pate's is a specialist languages and science college and was named the best science department in the country at the 2011 National Business Awards.