(Original post by ChemistBoy)
Personally, I think the government should only subsidise those that have attended a state school at university, and put in stringent codes of conduct to ensure that each admission is treated on merit - that would increase the number of disadvantaged students in our top universities - by reducing the number of public/private school wasters who are merely at uni as a rite of passage.
No, I totally disagree with you here. What if you went to a rough comprehensive in a bad area and were mercilessly bullied for wanting to work hard and do well? Just imagine your life was made a misery on a day to day basis, and so your parents decided that the only alternative was to send you privately. So your parents both start saving every penny they have and you never have anything nice. You can never go on holiday, you can't buy new clothes all the time, your parents both have to drive clapped-out old cars and when it comes to birthdays and Christmas, you just don't get as much as your friends do. Your quality of life is poorer because your parents are putting all the money they have into your education. Is it then fair to say that you can't have any university funding from the government, just because you didn't stick it out in a school that made you miserable? I know lots of people in this situation who moved to small, middle-class private schools, paying maybe £6000 per year, which meant that they could still go if their parents weren't rich, but it drained them financially.
Some people are just not tough enough to cope with comprehensives. Other people happen to live in areas where the local comprehensive is so bad it's simply not an option. It's a really, really stupid idea, possibly the worst I've seen in any thread relating to this topic.
The only real solution would be to completely re-vamp the whole education system as we know it today. For fairness, we need selective state schools across the country, not just in certain areas. Instead of three comprehensives in a town, there should be a grammar school for the high-fliers, an ordinary but nurturing kind of school for middle-of-the-range kids, and a more vocational, practical kind of school for kids who are just not suited to academic study.
In the grammar schools, students would take GCSEs and A-levels in traditional, academic subjects, or possibly a broader, baccalaureate type qualification so that they can obtain higher level qualifications in arts, humanities and sciences. They should all be required to take at least one modern language to at least GCSE level, and all the GCSE exams would be higher level papers.
In the intermediate schools, students would be required to take GCSEs in the full range of subjects, but perhaps not so many, perhaps not necessarily a language for example, and decent qualifications in skills such as IT, to help them get office jobs after they leave school. At 16, depending on their results, they could either take traditional A-level subjects or vocational A-levels, or just leave and find a job.
In the practical-type schools, students would take GCSEs in English, Maths and Science and perhaps two or three other subjects if they wanted to, with the emphasis on building up a strong set of core skills so that they were literate and numerate. Then they would also take different levels of vocational subjects in whatever area interested them, such as mechanics, hairdressing, catering, plumbing and electrics, agriculture etc to give them specific skills that they might actually use in their careers, rather than forcing them to study French or German, or History, or any other academic subject which they are just not interested in. They could perhaps have a four day week with compulsory work experience on the fifth day. They would all receive intensive IT and communication training, and their English GCSE (or equivalent qualification) would concentrate on teaching them how to write letters and other business related skills, rather than analysing a novel.
The system should also be fairly flexible, so that, intellect allowing, students could switch from one type of school to another without too much difficulty, as long as they did it at the right stage. This would avoid people being in the wrong type of school simply because they had one bad day and failed an exam. Conversely, if someone decided that the academic school was too much of a struggle, or if their family situation made it impractical for them to stay, or even if they were brilliantly clever but absolutely certain that they wanted to follow a certain career path for which it would be more appropriate to go to the vocational school, they could change too.
I know I've kind of drifted off-topic here, but this is really the only way to ensure fairness for everybody within the state system and would improve the quality of education in the UK beyond recognition. The government should stop trying to get 50% to go to university. They don't need to. Why not concentrate on giving people what's right for them? Why not just close down all the mickey mouse universities, thus giving the degree back its prestige, and allowing more funding for everybody? What's the point of subsidising someone to take a worthless degree, only to find themselves mocked and laughed at by potential employers, unable to find a job, and on the dole? Wouldn't it have been better to encourage them to take a different path earlier on, before all that money had been wasted?
From the point of view of university admissions tutors, this would make their job a lot easier, as they'd know that all the people applying would have received a fairly universal standard of education and that none of them had had a constant battle against disruption from badly-behaved students and teachers getting nervous breakdowns. It would also mean that a lot of private schools would become surplus to requirements, because they would no longer offer a better education. The only reason for going to a private school then would be if your parents were complete snobs who just had to keep up with the Joneses.