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Students should apply to University after results day and start in January, says GSA president

The president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) is calling for a post-qualification application system to be introduced, as well as for the traditional nine-term degree to be reduced to eight terms.

The university admissions system should be overhauled so students start in January in order to minimise mental health problems, a leading head has suggested.

Samantha Price, head of Benenden School in Kent and president of the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA), said using predicted grades to secure university offers can put students under an “enormous amount of pressure” during their final year of A Levels.

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Ms Price is calling for a post-qualification application system to be introduced, as well as for the traditional nine-term degree to be reduced to eight terms.

She said that students could use the autumn term to secure work experience and focus on building skills in certain areas before starting degree courses in January.

In her first comments as she took up her new GSA post, Ms Price said: “I don’t think our current assessment system is any longer fit for purpose and I don’t think our university application system is fit for purpose.

“I don’t think it’s fair across the sectors and I also don’t think it caters for young people’s mental health.”

In June, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson told MPs he would like to introduce a system in which university offers are made to students after results day in the summer without the need for legislation.

The Department for Education (DfE) recently held a consultation on moving to a post-qualifications admissions (PQA) system in England amid concerns about the accuracy of predicted grades, with one option being considered would see students still apply in the usual way during term-time, but university offers would only be made after results day.

Another option would see students apply to university and receive offers from institutions after A Level results day in the summer, but then the start of university could be pushed back to later than September or October.

‘We have to recognise that there is a mental health crisis in our country’s young people’

Addressing the current university admissions system, the GSA president said: “You’ve got young people frantically worrying about what their predicted grade is going to be, what the school is going to give them, and there’s always a degree of negotiation with the school about your predicted grade.

“So your predicted grade can quite quickly become an aspirational grade and the pressure to then achieve that aspirational grade if you get an offer I think puts some young people under an enormous amount of pressure.”

She added: “We have to recognise that there is a mental health crisis in our country’s young people. Doing away with predicted grade offers and moving to a post-qualification system would minimise the negative impact of striving for the ‘holy grail’ of grades.”