The exams watchdog Ofqual is asking schools to have “greater flexibility” on grades when deciding who to admit to the sixthform, the BBC reports.

The regulator says schools should put "slightly less weight" on pupils getting "one or two lower grades" in their GCSEs, given that they were not able to take the exams as normal this year.

Grades this summer are being awarded on the basis of a mixture of teachers' predicted grades, results in previous exams, performance of the school in previous years and how well the pupil was expected to achieve in relation to others.

The government has offered pupils the option to take exams this autumn if they do not get the grades they want, although this would be too late for those who planned to start their A-level courses in September.

In her letter, chief regulator Sally Collier writes: “If a student has missed one grade, you may want to consider the profile of their grades and put slightly less weight on the one or two lower grades.

“Or you may wish to consider giving slightly more weight than usual to other robust evidence in admissions decisions, for example if you already know a student and their potential well or can determine this from speaking to their previous school or college.”

Ofqual said last week that exam results would be more generous this year - with 2 per cent more pupils receiving A grades or above at A-level and 1 per cent more earning a grade 4 or above at GCSE.