Class and Differential Educational Achievement Notes

A set of notes on how class is seen to affect the educational acievement of pupils, includes sociologists and key terms. Sociologists are highlighted in green while key terms are highlighted in pink.

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Class and Differential Educational Achievement
Research continues to show that the higher a persons social class the more likely they are
to achieve higher qualifications, to remain in post compulsory education and to gain
university places.
Hasley et al's "Origins and Destinations"(1980) revealed clear difference, with boys from
the service class (professional background) being 10 times more likely to remain in school
until 18 than those from manual working class backgrounds. In the 1990's Gray and
Jesson's study of comprehensive schools found that children from "professional" families
were the most successful academically. Brynner and Yoshi (2000) showed that class
remains an influence with the gap between professional and working class backgrounds
remaining high. Recent data from the DES (2004) showed that using the GCSE 5A*C
benchmark that there was a 25% gap between performance of these groups. It should be
noted, however, that the achievements of all social classes have improved in recent years
with a 20% increase in such grades between 1989 and 2002. A similar trend can be seen in
numbers participating in higher education figures in "Social Trends" showed 51% of
nonworking class pupils in higher education compared to 19% of working class peers
(32% difference.)
Cultural deprivation theory suggests that working class children fail because their value
system "creates a self imposed barrier to and improved position" (Hyman.) Using surveys
and opinion polls, Hyman found that working class pupils valued high education and
occupational status less than their middle class peers. Sugarman develops this view of the
influence of working class subculture. Little value was placed on educational achievement
during socialisation, and there was an absence of role models. Fatalistic attitudes were
common place with an acceptance of their current situation. Words like "luck" were
frequently used by the working class in relation to fortune and misfortune, boys overestimate
their abilities and girls underestimate theirs. Gender can also be linked to social class as is
shown in the documentary "The Future is Female" which showed that boys'
underachievement in the North East poor working class linked to negative attitudes to
school, a feature which was not shared by girls.
Parental encouragement was identified as the converse of these negative influences by
Douglas' classic study "The Home and the School" with this found to be the single biggest
determining factor in external exam success of the uppermiddle class group. This group
achieved 77% passes in external exams compared with 37% of the lower working class
when high ability was a constant variable. In a later study, Feinstein found that parents of the
working class lack of interest were the main reason for their children's underachievement.
This was found to be more influential than material deprivation or inschool factors. Critics
such as Blackstone and Mortimer reject the view that working class parents are not
interested in their children's education. They found that these parents attended fewer
consultation evenings only because they were working longer/more irregular hours.
Brynner and Yoshi (2000) and Willis' earlier study "Learning to Labour" identified other
values such as immediate gratification with the "lads'" emphasis on fun in the here and now
clearly influencing the negative attitudes to school. It is worth nothing that the "earoles" in
Willis' study highlight the need to avoid stereotyping the working class per se as educational
failures with Willis distinguishing between "rough" and "respectable" working class.
Collectivism is another factor permanent in studies by Hargreaves and Lacey in which

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More recently, New Right thinkers have linked these
ideas to the emergence of an underclass with negative attitude reproduced through a cycle of
deprivation.…read more


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