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Alastair is A* pupil... 13 times over

By Lindsay Fergus

He may not watch television, play sport or own an Xbox, PlayStation or Wii like the majority of teenage boys, but what 16-year-old Alastair Herron does have is 13 A* grades at GCSE under his belt.

But anyone hoping to emulate the success of the Royal Belfast Academical Institution student will have to take a leaf out of Alastair's book.

The Inst pupil did not rest on his laurels, but studied round the clock - and even over his school lunchbreak - for his exams.

Alastair's bedroom is a shrine to his studies. Instead of posters he has a noticeboard, he favours radio over TV and his desk is piled with past exam papers and books.

His dad Gareth said: "We could not get him out of his bedroom. I was telling him to get some fresh air and he told me 'the windows are open'."

Alastair explained: "I did work hard - I studied every day and at the weekends. I am thrilled with my results. In the end, all the hard work paid off."

His diligence was rewarded - Alastair got A*s in biology, chemistry, physics, maths, additional maths, French, German, Latin, Greek, astronomy, English, English literature and RE. He celebrated on Thursday by going to Starbucks with his schoolfriends for a mug of tea.

But even whizzkids are not exempt from a bout of anxiety: "The night before I got my results I felt a bit nervous," he admitted.

Though his mum Gillian had no such qualms.

"I never doubted his ability," she said. "Even from an early age he was interested in books."

Alastair is now planning to return to Inst to take six or seven A-levels with the aim of getting into Oxford to possibly study chemistry.

However his proud parents, who both work in the Civil Service, are adamant that their only son has not inherited his brains from them.

"I went to Orangefield Boys and didn't even get one A, so I don't know where he got his brains from," said Gareth. "I am not particularly academic and I don't think Gillian is either. He's just naturally intelligent and has been since he was young, with this unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

"But I know for a fact he's our son because he didn't leave our side from the moment he was born and they put on his name tag," he laughed.

Even on a recent family holiday to the US, Alastair - a former pupil of Ballymagee Primary School - used the experience to read up on American history and visit some of the country's Ivy League universities.

"I would think about studying at Columbia or MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)," said Alastair.

And despite the $55,000 price tag per year for the privilege, Alastair's parents - who live in a detached house in a middle-class area of Bangor - are fully supportive of their eldest child's education.

"In some ways his grades were expected because he was working so hard. We are very proud of Alastair and certain there will be more to come from him.

"We want to try and support him as much as we can so he can achieve the best he can. We do not want to put obstacles in his way," said his dad.

Despite being highly intelligent, the teenager is modest, with his feet firmly on the ground.

Conscious of those in Inst who did not do as well in their GCSEs, he insists there was "a lot of competition" in the school.

Alastair also has a witty side. When asked has he ever been disappointed, he retorted: "Last year when I got an A in a RE module."

But it's not all hard work for Alastair. He takes time out to enjoy music - including classical and sounds from the 1950s, reading Agatha Christie, cooking and going to the cinema.

"I quite like James Bond movies," he said, adding that Sean Connery was the best actor to play 007.

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