Sixth-formers across the borough are today finding out if their hard work and effort has paid off as they wake up to their A-level results.

Students will be heading to their schools and colleges from this morning to collect their long-awaited results.

For many, success in the exams will mean a prized place at university, an apprenticeship or other training scheme, while those who achieved less than expected are likely to be considering their options.

Youngsters who do better than expected will also be deciding whether to change their plans, and "trade up" to a different university or degree course.

Last year, just over one in four entries (26.3%) scored an A* or A, down 0.3% on the year before. The fall was believed to be the second biggest drop in the history of the qualifications.

A* - the very top grade - also dipped last summer, with 7.6% of exams scoring the mark, compared with 7.9% in 2012, while the overall A*-E pass rate rose by 0.1%. to 98.1%.

The national picture also showed that boys pulled further ahead in the highest grades in 2013, with 8% of boys' entries attaining an A* compared with 7.4% of girls. In 2012 the gap between the sexes was just 0.1%, with young men doing better.

Girls were still slightly ahead in A*-A grades combined last year, but their results dropped half a percentage point to narrow the gulf between the genders. They also continued to do better in terms of A*-C grades.

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said he did not anticipate major changes in this year's results.

"Given the change to take out the January exams and the drop in the number taking A-levels, it looks as though, if anything, the results will be a bit lower than they were in 2013."

 As part of reforms to the system, students can no longer sit papers halfway through the academic year, in January, with all exams now taken in the summer.

One union said it hoped students had not been disadvantaged by the move.

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary for policy at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: "We hope that Thursday is a day of celebration for thousands of young people when they get their AS and A-level results.

"We hope they get the grades they need to go to university, get a training place or find a good job. And we congratulate the teachers who continue to do their best for their students, despite all the upheaval in the system.

"However, we wait to see what the impact of the removal of January exams has had on students who could not take one unit early this year.

"This change will have put students under a lot more pressure as January exams gave them the chance to complete part of their course and track their progress."