RECORD numbers of East Lancashire students passed their A-level exams yesterday — and many left college with the new A* grades.

But for some the anxiety of the day was heightened by the scramble for places through the clearing system, with more than 180,000 students fighting for the least places ever on offer.

The bid to find a course for at least three quarters of those teenagers is expected to end in disappointment.

Nationally the pass rate rose for the 28th year in a row, with 97.6 per cent of entries marked as at least an e, up from 97.5 per cent.

And the increase was mirrored at East Lancashire’s colleges.

Top of the class were Burnley College and Westholme in Blackburn with a 100 per cent pass rate. Nelson and Colne College had 99.5 per cent, St. Mary's College 99.4 per cent, Blackburn College 98.9 per cent and Thomas Whitham Sixth Form 97 per cent.

Nationally, one in 12 exams was marked an A* grade. This works about at 69,302 entries.

Nelson and Colne College principal Lyn Surgeon said: “I am thrilled for all of our students who have worked extremely hard this year and are fully deserving of their excellent success."

Thomas Whitham Sixth Form headteacher, Stuart Smith congratulated his pupils: "They have not only benefited from our committed and highly talented team of staff but also from the superb new learning environment here at Thomas Whitham Sixth Form."

Burnley College Sixth Form Centre Principal, Hugh Bramwell, said: “These excellent results, once again amongst the best in East Lancashire, are a credit to our dedicated students and also a tribute to our highly qualified teaching and support staff."