In his latest column, George Monbiot advocates a brilliantly simple and effective fix for the blatant inequality of opportunity in this country, based on an earlier idea by Peter Wilby. I'll tweak it slightly but the essence is the same:
If only x percent of the year group can go to the best universities, make sure that each and every secondary school gets places for the top x % of their students. I.e. if x is 5, our local state school with some 200 students per year doing A levels, would get 10 guaranteed places at Oxbridge. No more Apartheid in the schools system, as ambitious parents would seek out schools with fewer successful pupils to let theirs have a better chance, so within a few years the whole system would be homogenised and everybody would get ahead purely on the merits of their performance.
The only real problem I can think of is that competition between pupils for the fixed number of places could become nasty.
Other than that there are of course a few political problems meaning that it will never happen, such as the fact that it would remove the heritable privileges of those who are monopolising power and wealth in this country. Also, I think they do it similarly in France (at least I seem to remember that the important figure at the end of your school career is a ranking, not a mark, but not sure), so it can't be right.
So watch out for politicians studiously ignoring this proposal.
George Monbiot: Universal Cure (24.5.2010, printed in the Guardian on 25.5.)