Teachers could be asked to record the amount of lesson time each pupil has lost due to Covid disruption so that universities can offer lower entry requirements for the worst affected students.

The proposal, reported in the Sunday Times, is being considered after uproar in the education world over potential unfairness if England goes ahead with GCSEs and A-levels as normal next summer.

One in six secondary school pupils was absent last week, unwell or self-isolating. In Hull a quarter of students are off, with administrators saying the school system there was “on the brink of collapse.”

The move comes as headteachers spoke of "dramatic" levels of learning loss among exam cohorts this year  - revealed by mock exams and catch-up tests.

The government is expected to lay out plans – reportedly being considered by exams regulator Ofqual and the DfE – that would tell universities how much school individual students had missed.

According to The Sunday Times, Oxford and Cambridge have already written to schools to ask how much lesson time candidates have missed. Both universities start online interviews next month.

Samina Khan, director of admissions at Oxford, told the newspaper: “Oxford is working to understand how learning loss and educational disadvantage could affect 2021 undergraduate admissions, and what we can do to negate this effect.”

Last week Birmingham University said it would lower entry offers by one A-level grade across most subjects.

While the DfE is insisting exams will go ahead in England, Wales has already cancelled GCSEs and A-levels next summer and will replace them with “classroom assessments”.