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A-levels could be earlier

Sixth-formers could take some of their A-level exams during the summer half-term holiday under proposals to introduce a new university admissions system within four years, The TES can reveal.

A-levels would start earlier in May, results day would move forward to mid-July, and first-year undergraduate terms would start on October 1 to allow students to apply to university after they received their grades, ministers will be advised next week.

The changes, drawn up by a commission led by the Secondary Heads Association and including leading private school heads, will now be investigated by a Government task force. Ministers in Westminster have already indicated that they favour a new system of "post-qualifications applications", although the issue has barely been raised in Wales.

If accepted, they could bring to an end years of complaints about the current system, whereby students are given provisional offers in the autumn term. Teachers are expected to question the loss of at least a week's teaching time associated with the changes.

Under the proposals, from 2008 most of the applications process would occur after results were released. A-levels would be moved forward by a week, to start in mid-May and exams would be timetabled in the half-term. Teachers asked to work would be given time off in lieu later on.

Exam boards would take advantage of technological improvements, including the electronic distribution of papers for marking, to bring forward results day from mid-August to mid-July.

Students would have as little as five days to apply to universities. But next week's report will argue that the current system is unfair because it is based on predicted, rather than achieved, grades.

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