Seaton Nick Seaton of the Campaign for Real Education says university should pick the best applicants – not discriminate against those from good schools in the name of "fair access."

Some of the country's top-performing schools are discouraging pupils from applying to Durham University, reports The Sunday Times.

Durham  and other top universities  are offering places, not on applicants' raw exam results and suitability, but on results that have been 'standardised' according to the performance of the applicant's school.  So candidates from a high-performing state or independent schools are losing out to candidates with inferior results, simply because the latter attended a bad school.  'Fair access', the government calls it!

Oxford has also meekly submitted to this social engineering, though Cambridge, to its immense credit, is resisting to maintain its intellectual integrity.

As The Sunday  Times points out in a comment piece by Chris Woodhead and in its leading article, this should not be a matter for the universities. The root of the problem – and the solution – is in schools.

As far as possible, everyone wants youngsters from less-privileged backgrounds to have the  same opportunities to succeed as anyone else. But using crude political and social engineering to further that aim is a clear admission that the government's school reforms have not been effective.

This is where local authorities come in.

Central government can be a force that benefits or hinders local schools. But prime responsibility for failing schools must rest with local authorities.

How many local councillors (or local party members), for instance, check the results of all their local schools on the Department for Children, Families and Schools website?  How many know how the performance of their local schools compares with other local authorities?

It's a five minute job and very easy, especially for secondary schools: Go to  Choose 'School performance tables'  under 'Tables and Statistics' about half way down on the right hand side of the homepage.

  • Choose whether you want 'Primary', 'Secondary School GCSE and equivalent', or 'School and College Post-16'.  Then choose a local authority and click 'Search'.  Your local results should appear.
  • For secondary level, the government's own basic measure of a failing school makes an excellent starting point: 5 or more grade A*-C GCSEs including English and maths.
  • To see these, you need to click on the 'KS4 Results' tab, after which the first column of percentages is the one that counts.

Here you can see at the top how your local authority average compares with the national average. Then look at, and compare, your individual schools' results.  Any school whose average is below 30% is seriously failing. Whoever is the portfolio holder for children and schools needs to answer some serious questions.

Nationally, around 1 in 7 secondary schools is officially classed as failing and schools don't sink to these depths in a couple of years. Someone near you, whether an elected member or a senior council
officer, has underperformed too.

For the sake of children in your area, bring them to account – and quickly!

Basic? Yes. But isn't neglect of the basics the key to the problem?