A-level students were today celebrating after beating last year's results with a rise in the number of overall pass grades in the West Midlands.

A staggering 75,509 A-levels were taken at schools and sixth form colleges across the region - and 98.1 per cent of those achieved A* to E.

The figure is a 0.3 per cent increase on the 97.8 per cent of A-level grades that were E or above in 2013/14 when 74,583 A-levels were taken.

However, there was a 0.3 per cent drop in the number of A* or A grades, with 23.3 per cent of those taken this year achieving the top results compared to 23.6 per cent in 2013/14.

A breakdown of the region's figures reveal that 7.2 per cent of the A-levels taken resulted in A*s, 16.1 per cent were As, 26.7 per cent were Bs, 25.7 per cent were Cs, 15.8 per cent were Ds and 6.6 per cent were Es. Just 1.9 per cent of entries failed.

Schools and colleges across the West Midlands were celebrating record results but head teachers insisted it was not down to A-levels getting easier.

The results come as tough new reformed A-levels, which will be purely exam-driven with no coursework, come into full effect in September.

It follows earlier reforms that have "done away" with the opportunity previously enjoyed by students to re-sit exams in January.

Government ministers say the reforms were needed to stop "grade inflation" which undermined A-level's reputation as being the "gold standard".

Mark Shingleton, principal at independent sixth form college Mander Portman Woodward in Edgbaston, said he was "immensely proud" of his pupils - with 37 per cent of its A-level grades being either A*s or As, up six per cent on the 31 per cent that attained those grades last year.

He added: "With reforms and the opportunity to retake exams in January taken away, I would say things have become slightly more challenging for students - more so than people really appreciate.

"Despite this backdrop, our results keep getting better and I think a lot of that is down to our methodology and fantastic standards in teaching.

"Our students sit weekly tests which is old school but it is really working and means they are very prepared when it comes to sitting their exams."

He said he was "philosophically in favour" of the reforms but added they had been "clumsily" introduced creating problems as schools struggle to separate AS and A-levels which would no longer be connected or count together towards final grades.

Chris Keates, general secretary of Birmingham-based teaching union NASUWT, also expressed her concerns.

She added: "Our young people are working hard under tremendous pressure and, despite poorly planned reforms, constant criticism, cuts to teachers' pay and a rising tide of excessive bureaucracy and workload, teachers are continuing to deliver the best for pupils.

"Today's results will have been achieved despite the Government's reforms not because of them."

Meanwhile, dozens of schools were sharing their success stories, including Saint Martin's Girls' School in Solihull which had an overall pass rate of 100 per cent.

Head Nicola Edgar said: "At the end of my first year in post, I am thrilled to see how hard work, commitment and perseverance, coupled with excellent teaching, has paid off."

There were tears of joy from pupils at Cadbury Sixth Form College, in Kings Norton, which was celebrating an overall pass rate of 97 per cent.

This academic year saw students sitting exams across almost 50 subjects and they achieved a 100 per cent pass rate across 22 of those subjects - including economics, English, sociology, history, physics and French.

Q3 Academy, in Great Barr, achieved a 100 per cent pass rate while jubilant sixth formers at Sandwell College were celebrating a top set of A-level results for the second year running - with a 99 per cent pass rate overall.

The independent Solihull School also had record-breaking results, with 88 per cent of its pupils achieving all A* to B grades and 35 pupils gaining three A* or A grades.