I read your leader ‘Class is permanent’ with a sense of sadness.
The solution to enabling educationally talented children from less wealthy backgrounds to flourish and have the benefit of what is now an exclusively private education for the wealthy was in our hands until the mid 1970s. That was when the Direct Grant system of funding was abolished, resulting in 134 such schools (out of 179) becoming private. The remainder (almost exclusively Roman Catholic diocesan schools) joined the state sector.
The Direct Grant system allowed the selection of pupils on a pure merit basis; fees were payable (if at all) on a sliding scale based on family income. No one was excluded on the basis of means and no one was selected other than on academic merit.
Such schools, by way of example, gave us at least one lord chief justice (Peter Taylor, Newcastle Royal Grammar School) and one lord chancellor (Jack Straw, Brentwood School). Other examples are doubtless known to your readership.
The schools were a massive aid to social mobility and allowed those from across society to overcome the barriers to entry into the professions, or progress within them, that your leader column laments.
Was it the entire solution to the persistent problem? Clearly not. Did it assist? Undoubtedly.
As you may have guessed, I speak as a substantial beneficiary of the system. It is sad that it was a Labour secretary of state who abolished this merit-based opportunity for those who could not afford high school fees and thus sowed the seeds of the increased exclusivity within the professions that we now see.
Michael Ord, employment judge, Somersham, Cambridgeshire