AS Sociology Education Revision cards (AQA)- Class differences in achievement

To help revise for the education sociology exam

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  • Created on: 02-04-11 20:26

Explaing class differences

Social class backgrounds can influence child's success chance in education:

  • Middle class pupils do better in education on average then working class pupils. 
  • The achievement gaps grows as the pupils go through all the Key Stages in education. 
  • Middle class students tend to do better in GCSE, stay in full time education longer and take the majority of university places.  
  • Private institutions another explanation for differences in educational success rates for the Middle class --> parents can afford it.


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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation

Cultural Deprivation theorists believe:

  • Basic values, attitudes and skills --> learnt through primary socialisation to have educational success.
  • Thus developing the 'cultural equipment' such as language, self- discipline and reasoning skills.
  • The working class possess cultural deprivation as they lack the basic values, attitudes and skills thus do not have educational success.

3 main aspect to cultural deprivation:

  • Intellectual development
  • Language
  • Attitudes and values
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

Thinking and reasoning --> to problem solve and use ideas and concepts

  • Working class homes lack educational books, toys and activities to stimulate childs' intellectual development --> thus start education behind many middle class pupils and developing intellectual skills needed to progress.
  • J.W.B Douglas (1964) --> Working class scored less than middle class on ability test. 
  • Linked this to WC parents not supporting child's intellectual development --> not reading or participating in educational activities.
  • Bernstein and Young (1967) --> mothers influence childs's development. Middle class mothers had educational toys that enhanced thinking and reasoning skills--> preparation for education (School). 
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

  • Bereiter and Engelmann (1966) --> WC use deficient language through gestures, single words or disjointed phrases; fail to develop proper language skills thus miss out on opportunities school offer.
  • Bernstein (1975) believes in 2 types of languages: Restricted code (WC) and Elaborated code (MC).
  • Restricted code: Limited vocab, short, unfinished, grammatically incorrect sentences, single words and gestures, descriptive and assumes the listener shares the same experiences--> (context bound).
  • Elaborated code: Wide vocab, longer, grammatically correct and complex sentences, abstract ideas and context free
  • Gives MC students advantage due to it being used in schools, texts books and exams --> essential educational skill
  • Critics--> Bernstein WC speech inadequate and can also be blamed on teachers and schools fail to teach WC elaborated code.
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

  • Douglas --> WC parent placed a low level of value and attitude to their child's educational achievement 
  • Feinstein (1998) WC pupils under achievement due to lack of parental interest which was more than financial hardship or internal factors
  • MC students do better as parents provide motivation, discipline and support
  • Cultural deprivation theorists believe that WC people are in subcultures thus have different goals, beliefs, attitudes and values to the rest of society --> why children fail in education
  • Hyman (1967) --> WC subculture 'self imposed barrier' that ensures they neither achieve educational success nor know how to get it through putting a low level of value and attitude on education as they feel they cannot get a high status job to advance individually
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

Sugarman (1970) WC subculture, 4 key factors that keep the barrier to educational success:

  • Fatalism: (FATE) 'Whatever will be will be' and nothing can change that or status. However MC believe you can change your social position through own efforts
  • Collectivism: Value group success and not individual success.  MC value individual success and believe that this is more important and should not be held back due to group loyalties
  • Immediate gratification: Wanting everything now rather than sacrificing now for the future greater pleasure.  MC sacrifice now for greater rewards later
  • Present time orientation: The present is more important than the future so they do not have a plan for future.  MC plan for the future in the present time as they see it as being important
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

  • WC children learn the beliefs and values of the subculture through the socialisation stage thus learn to fail in the future educational system
  • Values exist (Sugarman) MC jobs are secure and offer job prospects, whereas WC jobs are not secure and have less promotional job prospects which the children pick up
  • Cultural Deprivation theorists parents pass on values and attitudes through the primary socialisation stage --> MC (set up kids to be successful)  WC (set up kids to fail)
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

  • Policy to tackle cultral deprivationin deprived areas through intervening during the socialisation stage
  • In the USA --> Operation Head Start (1960's) introduced pre-school education in poorer areas and aimed to have 'planned enrichment'
  • Included parenting skills, setting up nersery classes, health home visits, educational psychologists and learning programmes such as Sesame Street to teach children (punctuality, numeracy, literacy and general knowledge) to enhance intellecutal development for school
  • UK --> Educational Priority Areas (1960's), Education Action Zones (1990's) and Sure Start (2000) which was like the one in the USA but did not imporve health of the children
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Explaing class differences- Cultural deprivation (

  • Keddie (1973) 'myth' and believes it is a victim blaming theory. She says WC are not culturally deprived but culturally different and are being failed by the education system that is dominated by the MC
  • Schools should work with WC students and tackle teachers working class prejudices
  • Troyna and Williams (1986) its not the child's language but how the teachers/ schools deal with it --> language hierarchy --> middle class, working class, black speech
  • Blackstone and Moetimore (1994) the parents are interested but they work longer or irregular hours, intimidated by middle class teacher atmosphere, lack knowledge and education to help child be successful and poorer performing schools do not keep in contact with parent often due to less effective systems
  • Compensatory education --> smokescreen for real reason which is social inequality and poverty.  Some believe that poverty and material deprivation is the real reason for differences in educational success
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Explaing class differences- Material deprivation

Material deprivation refers to poverty and lack of material necessities --> proper housing and income

Links to under- achievement

  • 2006 --> 33% pupils on free school meals gained 5 or more GCSEs against 61% not on free school meals
  • Flaherty (2004) non attendance caused by lack of money  
  • Exclusion and truancy more likely in poorer families, leads to excluded students not returning to school and frequent truants not getting any qualifications
  • 90% of failing school in deprived areas
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Explaing class differences- Material deprivation


  • Affect child's education indirectly and directly 
  • Direct--> overcrowding, less work done, less space for educational activities, affects sleep thus concentration during lessons
  • Families in constant temporary housing may find themselves moving meaning school changes and disruption to educational achievement
  • Indirect--> suffering from ill health and more accidents.  Temporary accommodation --> more psychological distress, infections and accidents resulting to being absent from school more
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Explaing class differences- Material deprivation

Diet and health

  • Howard (2001) --> poorer children take in less energy, vitamins and minerals, thus leading to low levels of energy and immune system resulting in absences from school or difficulty concentrating
  • Wilkinson (1996) --> poorer children more likely to have emotional or behavioural problems among.
  • He found among 10yrs old, the lower the social class the more hyperactivity, anxiety and conduct disorders result in negative affect on education
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Explaing class differences- Material deprivation

Financial support and the costs of education

  • Without financial support poorer students miss out on experiences to enhance educational success
  • Bull (1980) --> 'the costs of free schooling'
  • Tanner et al (2003) --> study found cost of transport, uniforms, books, computers, calculators, sports, music, and art equipment are expensive and place burden upon WC families
  • Can result in stigmatised or bulling by peers due to unfashionable equipment or clothes which is essential for self-esteem to 'fit in'
  • Ridge (2002) found the same thing in her study of poverty from a childs' perspective such as 12yr old Bella
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Explaing class differences- Material deprivation

Financial support and the costs of education

  • Flaherty --> 20% allowed school meals do not take it due to stigmastisation
  • Ridge --> income families children tend to take on jobs such as baby sitting which has negative impact on schoolwork
  • Fear of debts cause poorer families not to apply for university or those that do attend tend to leave with greater debts than their MC peers
  • WC students tend to dropout of university than MC
  • National Audit Office (2002) WC 2x as much time working to pay back debts than MC
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Explaing class differences- Material deprivation (

  • The fact some WC students achieve outlines the material deprivation theory as a factor and not the main cause
  • Cultural, political or religious may play a part in the child's motivation
  • The state of the school may also enable the child to achieve
  • Mortimore and Whitty (1997) --> material inequality greater effect than school factors
  • Robinson (1997) tackling child poverty could boost achievement
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital

Bourdieu (1984): 3 types of capital

  • Educational capital (having the qualifications)
  • Cultural capital
  • Economic capital

Capital refers to wealth and Bourdieu believes that the MC possess all 3 which is why they achieve better in education and have the majority of the better jobs

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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital

Bourdieu's point of view 

  • This refers to the knowledge, attitudes, values, language, tastes and abilities of the MC
  • Bourdieu and Bernstein --> MC children learn through socialisation to analyse and express abstract ideas which lead to an intellectual interests and understanding what is needed to be successful in the education system
  • MC at advantage due to their interest and abilities as education favours the MC values
  • WC feel that education labels them as inferior or 'rough' so 'get the message' --> education is not meant for them so truant, leave education early or do not try
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital (Educ

Bourdieu's point of view 

  • Educational, cultural and economic capital inter link


  • Cultural capital makes MC children equipped with the right values to meet school requirement and want to achieve good qualifications
  • Economic capital allows MC children to go to private school and have extra tuition
  • Leech and Campos' (2003) --> study found parent could afford to move to the best school catchment areas known as 'selection by mortgage'
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital (a te

Sullivan (2001) --> study for 4 school and 465 students to assess their cultural capital, vocabulary and knowledge of cultural figures

Found that -->

  • Those who read complex fictions and watched TV documentaries had better knowledge and wider vocabulary. They were children of graduates and were more likely to do better in GCSE due to having greater cultural capital
  •  However where different classes had the same cultural capital the MC still did better
  • Conclusion --> greater resources and aspirations of MC explains the differences in class achievement
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital (Gewi

  • 'Education market' introduced by Education Reform Act (1988) which has lead to more parental choice
  • Gewietz (1995) examined 14 London schools to found out about parental choice through interviews with teachers and parents and using secondary data such as school documents (Using Bourdieu to conclude)
  • She found that the differences in economical and cultural capital affects the choice a parent has on a secondary school . She identifies 3 types of choosers:
    • Privileged- skilled choosers
    • Disconnected- skilled choosers
    • Semi-skilled choosers
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital (Gewi

Privileged- skilled choosers

  • MC professional parents who used economical and cultural capital to gain educational capital for their children.
  • Prosperous, confident and well educated parent took full advantage to choice best schools
  • MC parents who knew how to play system such as how to approach school, present and mount case, maintain pressure, make impact to be remembered, putting better school first, meeting deadlines, and using appeal procedures.
  • This was important as it looked to future for child and they had to take time to visit all school of interest that were high on league tables
  • Use of economical capital to get better schools such as travel expense or moving home
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital (Gewi

Disconnected- skilled choosers

  • WC parents who lacked economic and cultural capital so had a restricted choice
  • Could not manipulate system to their own advantages such as being less confident when dealing with schools, do not understand admissions procedures, and less aware of their options open to them
  • Looked more at safety and facilities of school rather than position in league tables or long term ambitions
  • Limited to local comprehensive school due to lack of fund for long distance travel --> most realistic choice
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Explaing class differences- Cultural capital (Gewi

Semi-skilled choosers

  • Mainly WC but ambitious for child to go to a good school
  • Still did not fully understand admissions procedure and relied upon other peoples opinion of schools
  • Frustrated with inability to get their child into school of choice
  • Also lacked cultural and economic capital

Gewirtz concludes:

  • MC with ecnonmic and cultural capital get better advantage as they can manipulate system to benefit them
  • Better system for all but only for those who have the right capital
  • Whitty (1998) marketisation has not benefited WC children but made the MC use their wealth and knowledge more effectively than before
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Class differences in achievement- Summary

Middle- class pupils tend to achieve more than working- class pupils.  Some explanations focus on external factors outside school.  These include Cultural Deprivation- working- class pupils are seen as lacking the right attitudes, values, language and knowledge for educational success (e.g. they lack deferred gratification).  Material Deprivation means working- class children aremore likely to have poorer diets, health and housing, and parents who are less able to meet the hidden cost of schooling.  The middle class have more Cultural capital.  They are better placed to take advantage of the choices offered in a marketised education system.

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Good alot of detail


Thank you tiffany


Really good! A true copy to the Sociology book but summarised ;) Really does help!  

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