toni magg: I can understand why you ended up at a Public school and I have sympathy for the family reasons which made boarding useful. However, where boarding is not a neccessity and where a pupil is bright enough not to be coached I just think that it is the parents' and pupils' moral responsibility to choose to go to the local comprehensive (hats off to roundabout!)
That is really the only way that you can improve the school system by making comprehensives more representative of class and intelligence percentages throughout the country.
To pick up where roundabout left off, I chose as my first choice my local comprehensive which had 20% (and is still at 20%) 5A*-C and subsequently went into Special Measures (toni: failing according to Ofsted!). I achieved 8,8,7 at KS3 - above my peers from primary school who were equally clever/same background and went to much better secondary schools (grammars and Public).
I am awaiting GCSE results but I don't expect them to be very good (relative to my peers) because I didn't bother revising very much. I achieved an A* in ICT a year early (yes even 'bog standard' comprehensives let you take exams early if you're good enough) but this year I didn't work very hard and my brain didn't turn on in many of the exams so am expecting a maximum of 6A and 5B (maximum).
My point is - it a student is actually clever they can do well anywhere if they are prepared to put in a little bit of work. And I concur with roundabout that I have widened my horizons by mixing with the 'dangerous' working class. Although admittedly I have missed out on extra-curricular sport/music etc.
By having a few agreeable, 'unstupid' middle class children with their aspirational, supportive parents (who often become governors): teachers become better motivated. My dad, for example (along with new senior management and headteacher), has helped (as Chair of Governors) to get the school out of Special Measures through his energy and belief that the local school should be first choice for all parents in the vicinity. Myself and others who take pride in their learning have also helped the cause through the School Council and helping at school events; and when we appointed the new (excellent) headteacher as well as deputies and subject teachers as part of the Student Panel.
This body of pupils and parents has helped change the aspirations and attitudes of the entire school including other parents and pupils. The pupils should also help turn around academic results which will lead to a greater proportion of middle class aspirationals and so on - suddenly the school is on the way up and is no longer deemed a failure! [The school came out of Special Measures last term.]
The irony is that my parents went to Oxford and Manchester university, and grammar and Public schools, respectively, which granted them the opportunity to become middle class lefties and hammer into me these left-wing values.
I don't wish this post to sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet (1A*, 6A, and 5B at GCSE on this forum is hardly blowing one's trumpet!). My situation is just an example to show that if you have the right mindset and a certain amount of ability you can achieve something wherever you end up and for that reason we should be trying to do something to help the community by helping the local comprehensive school, failing or not.