"A-level exams should start at Easter"

The Independent newspaper reported yesterday:
Bringing exams forward to Easter would restore the credibility of A-levels by allowing the brightest pupils to be selected for university places, according to Cambridge University's head of admissions.

Geoff Parks said A-levels should be completed by the end of the Easter term to allow all youngsters to get their results before they apply to university, rather than force admissions officers to rely on predicted grades.
Parks goes on to say that Universities cannot move their own term date back to make time for the post-results admission process, so schools must make the time for the marking and applications process.

The ATL has chipped in on the BBC with:
Four years ago an official report found that it would be fairer for pupils to have their A-level and other results before making university applications.

"Predicted exam grades are notoriously unreliable," said the ATL education union general secretary, Mary Bousted.
I can see the value of applying on the basis of final grades, but how will shortening A-Level courses in schools help students prepare for university? With much of January already lost to Unit exams and their associated preparation, the second year of A-Levels would have to be taught in little over half a year. This may not be a problem for independent schools that already have short terms and more resources, but state Sixth Forms will struggle.
One solution would be to increase the number of markers to speed up the whole process. Scrapping the Key Stage 3 SATs at age 14, or reducing them to smaller scale random sampling, will release lots of secondary school teachers to mark the time critical A-Level papers.

On the ATL comments, predicted grades, notoriously, do not correspond exactly to the final grades, but the exam grades are not very precise themselves, with a typical error margin of plus or minus a full grade. I see little evidence that grade predictions in themselves are less reliable as a measure of ability. Certainly, the fact that the two grades are not identical proves little about their relative merits.

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