The best state schools in the country are fantastically well run by talented people. However, the schools are crippled by the regulatory environment they operate in. The evidence shows state school is a disaster for average kids.
The issue is not necessaily with the quantity of regulation but with the ideology behind it. UK state school academic education policy is governed by the principle that 'no one may run until everyone can walk even if it means no one ever gets a chance to run'.
Comparing children at 11 in the top 10% of state schools with the top 30% of largely unregulated private schools in terms of reading, maths general academic and personal development the state school kids are 2 years behind for kids of the same intelligence – there is no point in calling me a bigot or showing me spun government statistics to disprove it because I have been and seen it for myself as a parent. The data is on the internet.
When it comes to competing against kids who have been privately educated up to 11 years old, only 1 in 4 state school kids who try to get into the top third private schools through the 11+ entrance level system make the grade because they have fallen so far behind even though the kids are of the same IQ. The academic gulf starts to be pronounced at 7 year olds but accelerates rapidly and from 9 onwards grows far faster than most state parents would imagine. It takes 18 months supplementary private tutoring from 9 years onwards in an avarage state school in order for state school kids to catch up in time for the 11+ private school entrance exams.
The best private schools have remarkable performance and results but have class sizes of 24+ kids which is a lot more than the 20 the Libdems propose to fix state schools. The top private schools performances exceed the 'poshest' expensive schools like Eton, Harrow, Rodeen etc. Hence it is neither about social class, wealth or funding but the way the schools are run and function.
The problem is that state schools are not allowed to teach kids faster than the very slow pace set by the state. It is frustrating as a parent having to supplementary home teach kids the basics because they go to school, get their work done in the first 10 minutes of class and then sit around bored. Teachers know this issue but their hands are tied by red tape. Schools are not allowed to give kids reading which stretches them and kids have to be taught the national curriculum at a rate at which the lower third of kids can keep up with.
As an example of the way schools can function, private schools often have classes which last 30 minutes, i.e. 10 minutes less than state schools, so that they do an extra lesson per day. It does not cost anything extra but does mean the kids learn more content quicker. This would be prohibited by law in the UK state system because it would be unfair to the kids who are disruptive or who might find they have to work hard to keep up.
The problem gets much worse from 11 onwards. The top secondary secodary state school in my county (one of the top 5 in the UK) has done an experiement and found that it can miss out a year teaching kids (they skip the 12 year old year and make it up at 11 and 13) and it makes only a 5 % difference to grades doing GCSEs a year early. In other words, for no extra cost they can get kids to do 2 to 3 more GCSEs. But comparing this top state school to private schools generally, state education is a disaster for average kids who get less than half the GCSEs and at much lower grades — comparing like with like kids.
By the time a kid is 13 years in the state system it is too late to repair the damage and it sticks with them for the rest of their life. This is reflected in what they do in later life.
Attacking the private sector is simply 'I dont have therefore you wont have either'. The answer is to allow state schools to teach better.