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Teachers left off taskforce

Unions reacted with anger this week after learning that no teacher will be on a new government taskforce investigating changes to the university applications system.

Not a single classroom professional will join a 23-member group examining how to introduce a new system of post-A-level applications. Six members are heads or college principals, and the group also includes university vice-chancellors, admissions officers, exam board leaders and bureaucrats.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said ministers were yet again ignoring teachers' views and listening only to heads. She said: "The Government's new relationship with schools is becoming a new relationship with headteachers."

As predicted in The TES last week, a commission led by the Secondary Heads Association has proposed a new, two-stage model of university applications, designed to tackle perceived unfairess in the present system.

Students would have until April 30 to indicate their two preferred universities but these decisions would not be binding.

A-levels would be brought forward by a week to early May, results released on July 15 and first-year university terms put back to October 1, to let candidates to make their final applications after their results were known.

Some exams could take place in summer half-term to move results day forward, said the paper.

Universities would conduct interviews and open days after the exams, but before results were out. The new system, which addresses complaints that half of predicted grades used to offer university places are inaccurate, would be introduced in 2008.

Ministers have indicated they support change and have set up the taskforce to examine the SHA proposals in detail by next spring.

Dr Bousted said she supported the SHA paper. But it should have recognised that scheduling exams in half-term would take many teachers' holidays away, as conscientious staff would want to be in school to support students. The plans had major implications for classroom teachers and she was "extremely concerned" that they would have no input.

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