WORCESTERSHIRE'S education chiefs have given a cautious welcome to plans for a radical shake up of the school term system.

A report commissioned by English local authorities today recommended the number of terms in a school year should be doubled to six.

In a massive overhaul of the academic timetable, candidates could sit their A-levels and GCSEs in April and May in a bid to help Britain's 1.8m hay fever sufferers.

Other changes proposed in the report, commissioned by the Local Government Association, recommended a fixed two-week Easter break, moving the six-week summer holiday forward to the beginning of July and making term six a "cultural time" and starting point for next year's work.

The plans, the latest in a string of ideas for shaking up the school year, will need widespread support from councils, teaching unions and universities if they are to have any hope of being implemented.

"It has been shown to improve the attainment of schools with concentration being demanded for shorter terms," said Worcester MP Mike Foster.

"It would also reduce stress suffered by teachers currently having to work 13 or 14-week terms."

Students would be able to apply to university on the basis of their results rather than predicted A-level grades - a move welcomed by Worcestershire branch secretary for the National Association of Head Teachers, Alan Brodrick.

Mr Brodrick, also headteacher of Nunnery Wood High School, said the union favoured the idea of a six week term for "positive continuity of the learning process".

"But it doesn't accept that a wholesale reform is necessary just to accommodate the universities," he added.

"It also rejects the idea of staggering the summer holiday. It doesn't make any sense, particularly if you've got teachers working in one authority with children in another."

Councillor Dan Wicksteed, portfolio holder for education for the county council, said the authority would study the report in depth.

"I hope it will promote a debate that Worcestershire LEA will take full part in," he added.

"We will be interested to see what benefits a six-term year will have for our pupils."