Today's Argus reports that three Brighton and Hove state schools - Portslade Community College, Falmer High School, and Hove Park School - have been named as being among the worst in the entire country.
That's not really fair. Parents and pupils will be alarmed, and they needn't be, really. There are all sorts of reasons why performance, measured in terms of exam results alone, don't really provide a very useful measure of whether a school is a good one or a bad one. All three serve socially mixed areas, with some pupils experiencing serious deprivation, in areas of the city where the cost of living is high yet wages are low. All three schools have undergone massive management disruption this year - and all three are improving. That's not to say they shouldn't improve more - and quickly: of course they should. That needs an injection of cash - and of course Brighton Council and the Government should find it.
But the same Argus story reveals one reason why the divide between the richest and the poorest is growing wider every year: the privately-run Brighton College has been named as one of the best in the country.
By my sums, enrolling a child at Brighton College for the length of a school career costs just over £150,000. For that money, you'll buy not just smaller class sizes and better facilities but, it seems, better chances of doing well in your exam, and, probably, a longer life and higher future earnings into the bag. It hardly seems fair, does it?
What am I supposed to say to my five-year-old son when he asks why he can't go to the school over the road (I live opposite Brighton College) - but instead has to get the bus to Coombe Road every morning? 'Oh well, son, you can't go there because I'm not rich enough: sorry! By the way, it's not just that you've got a longer trip to school that's the issue - you'll almost certainly do worse in your exams too...'
I think the sooner the state has the courage to nationalise private schools - just as it has done, to excellent effect, in parts of Canada - and make them available to everyone, at the same time as massively increasing investment in every school to ensure all pupils can enjoy the very best (yes it'll cost a bit more but it seems the government can find the billions alright when it wants to, say, bail out the banks, or fund an immoral war, or an outdated nuclear deterrent, or the latest hair-brained scheme they dream up in Whitehall).
Funding for improving education, and stamping out the inequalities in society promoted by hiving off the wealthiest kids, often those with most to contribute to everyone else's education too, out of the state system? Is that really that extreme a solution?