Universities could be told sixth-formers' grades in individual A-level papers under radical changes to the admissions system being considered by exams regulators.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is in talks with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service about how to help tutors differentiate between top candidates. The change, which could be brought in next year, is being favoured over the introduction of a starred A grade.
The proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade has trebled in the past 20 years, to 21 per cent in 2003, leading to claims that A-levels are failing as a university entrance test. Last week, a study by the AQA exam board revealed that, in some subjects, private-school candidates would be five times more likely than their state counterparts to achieve an A-star grade.
However, Geoff Lucas, general secretary of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference, and Sheila Cooper, general secretary of the Girls' Schools Association, said private schools were not necessarily in favour of the star grade.
Jess Enderby, acting deputy chief executive of Ucas, told The TES that technical problems would need to be worked out before the idea could be introduced.
Universities would be given students' grades in the six modules of each A-level, meaning tutors could access 18 grades for the typical applicant.
One concern is that by providing more information to universities the potential for errors could increase and lead to more students appealing against their results.