This is a scary thread to jump into, but I really want an answer - are A's at A-level really that easy to get? Is having the superior teachers and resources, as provided by the private schools, enough to get someone the straight A's needed to apply (never mind be accepted in) to Oxbridge?
I would say it is a fact that, in Scotland, the Advanced Highers depend upon your ability to work alone. The teachers could be crap and the textbooks falling to pieces and the library filled with pregnant 14yr-olds discussing contraception, but the exams could be passed anyway. If you put in the effort at home you could get the A grade. Maybe at a private school you can get better GCSE's (or SG's), but does that really matter?
Some of the arguments / presumprions above are simply ridiculous:
(i) Why is BBB at a Comp better that AAA elsewhere? On the basis that teachers in a Comp are less committed / capable? There is NO proof that that is the case. In fact, DfES / Ofsted research suggest the opposite.
(ii) Much teaching in private schools is merely cursory. Much A-level attainment is down to the student working independently anyway.
(iii) Much of the intake in private schools is comprehensive in ability terms, if very selective in socio-economic terms. Much of the intake in state schools is not comprehensive as originally intended; e.g. all state schools in cambridge are 11-16 and then students go to e.g. Hills Rd for A-level. This worthy establishment is truly an exam factory with the best, most highly-paid teachers one could imagine. Why is this less 'elitist / selective / etc' than a random private school?
(iv) What makes you think that someone getting 10A* at GCSE in a private school couldn't have achieved the same at any comp? Or that a student with BBC from a comp would have got AAA in a private school?
(v) Students at state comps do NOT receive less support from family and school than private students. All other things being equal, I would suggest that the incidence of marital breakdown, long working hours and rampant materialism, and that type of 'disruption' is higher among private school toffs.
I think, to be honest, some respondents to my posting are simply biased against difference. If we accept students from different school-types, and accept that different school types should exist (and be funded from general taxation), then all students should be assessed on the basis of achievement and not on the basis of unrealised potential (which is unassessable surely). For example, if all state comps are treated ab initio as places where student attainment is lower BECAUSE teachers are weaker etc, and have to be 'compensated for' in the admissions process, then why continue to fund them? Why not 'privatise' - not in a Thatcherite sense - all schools (using tax rebates say and funding for poorer students to attend) and immediately raise attainment? Answer: in my opinion, because attaintment would NOT increase. Low student attainment is not due to school TYPE, but to other causal factors in the background, that are being masked by puerile argument and bigotry.
And what about MY 'unrealised potential'? Just because I got all A* at GCSE doesn't mean that's the limit of MY achievement. If I had been allowed, I might have 14 A* and 7 A at A-level. Why is a student from a state comp assumed to have unrealised potential but a student from a private school is assumed to have over-achieved?
Finally, I have two questions from those who responded so truculently to my original posting. They are unpleasant questions, but let the truth out:
(i) Has the % of working class students gone down or up since comprehensivisation? Was the % of 'poor kids' higher or lower under the state run grammar system? Even at £35K p.a., I come from a working class background and PROUD of it. But I'm fed up with social engineering platitudes from the chattering classes.
(2) Is no part of school achievement due to inherited / genetic book-intelligence? Surely some? In which case, why is it not axiomatic that more university students will come from one 'educational background' more than another? You see, if it's social engineering you people want, then the way to do it is select on the basis of parental qualifications! If on the other hand , like me, you find that REPULSIVE, then select SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF MERIT, and stop trying to be smart-assed!
Remember Kant's categorical imperative: "if you wouldn't like something to become universal, then don't support it." Would you all really be in favour of anything other than a pure meritocracy? Anything other is Stalinist, in my opinion. Interviews give ample opportunity to assess students other than tweaking their actual results.