'Ignore new A* grade', admissions tutors told

October 2, 2008

Universities should ignore the new A* A-level grade when selecting students for "a few years" after it is introduced, a report to be published by the Prime Minister recommends.

The recommendation is one of seven made in the report by the National Council for Educational Excellence, which Gordon Brown was due to launch after Times Higher Education went to press.

It is understood that the report raises concerns about the lack of data on the reliability of students' predicted A* grades. It recommends that universities delay using the grades until data are available, which will take at least two years.

The report is also understood to stop short of recommending that schools be ranked according to their record in getting pupils into university. But it will advise the Government to develop ways to benchmark performance in this area in the future and will recommend that pupils' progress be monitored as part of school inspections.

Other recommendations include advice that universities take "all measures possible" to identify the best students, including using contextual data such as the school they attended. It is understood that the report will not actively recommend that entry requirements be lowered for promising pupils from poor-performing schools.

It will also: suggest that links be established between primary schools and universities to ensure that all pupils in low-participation areas gain experience of what higher education can offer; address the need to improve the information, advice and guidance offered at school and university level; and support proposals for universities to submit their widening participation policies to the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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