STUDENTS at a Darlington college arrived yesterday to find a good news message flashing on television monitors.

Interspersed with routine information, they saw: "Well done QE - top college in North-East again."

The pat on the back came from Mr David Heaton, principal at Queen Elizabeth sixth form college, who was thrilled at its success, regionally and nationally.

The college, which also topped the North-East league two years ago, also had the kudos of being in the top ten out of 400 colleges nationwide in terms of points scored per student.

He told the D&S Times: "We are delighted to be top college in the North-East. We are at the leading edge of post-16 education in the country and hope the people of Darlington share our pride in the college."

The results were not a total surprise for the college, which had outstanding A-level results this year.

It had more than 1,600 A-level subject entries and an overall pass rate of 94.3pc - more than 4pc above the national average.

In the league tables, this equated to 20.9 points per student and meant that, on average, each one attained better than grades B, C and C at A-level.

At GNVQ advanced level, the points score was 12, equivalent of each student, on average, gaining a merit.

Some schools in the region fell victim to the restrictions of the foot-and-mouth outbreak because pupils from remote areas could not attend for lengthy periods.

Teesdale school in Barnard Castle and Staindrop comprehensive both experienced a drop in the number of pupils who gained five or more A*-C grades, which put them lower down the performance league tables published by the Department for Education and Skills.