Class Differences in Achievement


Cultural Deprivation Theory

Intellectual stimulation:

  • Working class parents are less likely to give their children educational toys & activities that stimulate learning & are less likely to read to them, thus affecting their intellectual development.


  • Berstein - working class use a restricted speech code (less analytic & more descriptive, limited vocab, simple sentences/ gestures, particularistic).
  • Middle class use an elaborated speech code (more analystic, wide vocab, complex sentences, universalistic).

Parents' education:

  • Fernstein - parents' own education influences their children's acheivement.
  • Educated parents emphasise consistent disclipline, high expectations, active learning & exploration. Less educated parents' inconsistent discipline reduces motivation.
  • Educated parents are more aware of how to help their child progress.
  • Educated paretns communicate with an elaborated speech code.
  • Educated parents use their income to promote children's development.
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Cultural Deprivation Theory and Criticisms

Working-class subculture:

  • Immediate gratification - wanting rewards now rather than be willing to make sacrifices & working hard for future rewards (middle class have deferred gratification).
  • Fatalism - a belief that 'whatever will be, will be', working class children don't believe that they can improve their position.
  • Low value on education - Hyman working class don't value education as they don't eblieve they will benefit from it so don't try. Douglas - parents show less interest & give less support.


  • Ignores the importance of material factors.
  • Ignores the impact of school factors.
  • Blames the victim for their failure - the working class are not culturally deprived, just have a different culture from the school, so puts them at a disadvantage.
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Material Deprivation

  • Poor housing - overcrowding or damp makes it harder for pupils to find a quiet place to study.
  • Poor diet - can lead to illness & absence & lack of concentration due to hunger.

Financial costs of education:

  • Poorer families have fewer educational opportunities & may be stigmatised or bullied.
  • Callender & Jackson - working class students are more debt averse & receive less financial support from their families at university.

Cultural capital theory:

  • Bourdieu - middle class pupils are more successful as there parents possess more capital.
  • Economic capital - wealth.
  • Cultural capital - attitudes, values, skills & knowledge.
  • Educational capital - middle class use their greater economic & cultural capital to give their children an advantage by using it to gain educational capital - qualifications.
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School Factors and Achievement


  • Becker - teachers label middle class students as 'ideal pupils' and prefer to teach them than working class pupils.

The self-fulfilling prophecy:

  • Labels attached to pupils become true - 'what teachers believe, pupils achieve', teachers believe middle class pupils to be bright so they succeed, whilst working class are labelled negatively so fail.


  • Lacey - differentiation/ a way of separating different abilities.
  • Douglas - the IQ of pupils labelled as less able & put in the bottom stream fell over time, whereas those in the top stream increased.
  • Those in lower streams may be denied access to the same curriculum.

Educational policies:

  • E.g. marketisation, grants, maintenace allowance, compensatory education, school leaving age.
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School Factors and Achievement

Pupil subcultures:

  • Pro-school subcultures - accept school's values & goals.
  • Anti-school subcultures - reject the school's values & often invert then.
  • Lacey - lower stream pupils form anti-school subcultures as deprived so create own status hierarchy.

Class identities and achievement:

  • Archer - middle class defines own habitus as superior so used in education.
  • School commits symbolic violence by devaluing working class pupils' habitus.
  • Leads to pupils creating alternative class identities & gain symbolic capital from peers.
  • Succeeding in school mean sbeing inauthentic & changing how you present yourself to fit in.

Working-clss identity and educational success:

  • Ingram - fitting in was difficult for working class grammar school boys as conflict of habitus'.
  • Evans - even successful working class girld faced hidden barriers e.g. not fitting in with the habitus of elite universities.
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