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A-levels: passport to careers - and holidays

They are the gateway to good universities, good jobs and the good life. They are the reward of two years of hard work, a badge of honour to be worn with pride.

And, now, decent A-level grades are also the key to a cheap holiday.

Intrepid Travel, an adventure-holiday company, is offering significant discounts to pupils who have done well in their A-levels this year.

Anyone with more than 300 Ucas points, equivalent to three Bs, is entitled to a 20 per cent discount on Intrepid trips. Those with 250 points, just below a B and two Cs, earn 15 per cent off the cost of a trip. And anyone with 200 points - a C and two Ds - is entitled to 10 per cent discount.

An 82-day Intrepid trip to Nepal and India, destinations of choice for the legions of gap-year students who equate seeing the world with wearing tie-dye, costs #163;2,210. So well-qualified backpackers could save almost #163;500.

Gillian Pearsall, of Intrepid Travel, believes that grades-related rewards are particularly welcome in a year when A-level passes do not necessarily guarantee much else.

"There are going to be quite a few people unplaced at university this year," she said. "So a lot of people have decided to take a gap year. Many parents offer their children monetary rewards for doing well in exams. Really, it's just to say, 'well done. You did very well'."

She added: "Travel gives you a perspective about how other people live. It's a good way to broaden your horizons and your CV."

While rewards for good grades are a longstanding tradition among parents, several schools have also experimented with the idea. In 2007, the City Academy in Bristol awarded a total of #163;23,000 to A-level and GCSE candidates, but has since abandoned the scheme.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, welcomed the idea of bargain breaks funded by a travel company.

"Most parents have no problem with the principle of bribing their children," he said. "If they respond to bribing, by all means bribe them.

"And students who take a gap year very often do better at university afterwards. So if it makes gap-year opportunities cheaper, why not bribe them?"

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