Class differences in Educational Achievement.



  • Attach a meaning or definition to someone. 
  • Teachers often attach labels regardless of pupils actual ability, instead label pupils on the basis of sterotyped assumptions about class backgrounds. 
  • Middle Class - Postive 
  • Working Class- Negative. 
  • Becker 1971 - Interviewed 60 Chicago High School teachers and found that teachers judged pupils according to how closely they fitted the imagine of the 'ideal pupil.' 
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Self- Fulfilling Prophecy

- Interactionists argue labelling can affect pupils achievement by creating a SELF- FULFILLING PROPHECY. 

1. Teacher labels a pupil, and on the basis of this label, makes predictions. 

2. Teacher treats pupil accordingly, acting as if the prediction is already true. 

3. The pupil internalises the teachers expectation, which becomes part of self- image. 

Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968)-  Told the school they had new test designed to identify those pupils who would 'spurt' ahead. The test was infact a standard IQ test. Tested all pupils and picked 20% at random. Told the school these children were identified as 'spurters' 
1 year later- Amost half of those idenified as 'Spurters' had made significant progress. 

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  • Seperating children into different ability groups called 'streams.' 

Studies show self- fulfilling prophecy is likely to occur when children are streamed. 

  • Working Class Children = likely to be in lower streams. 
  • Once streamed it is difficult to move up into a higher stream. 

Douglas - Children placed in a lower stream at age 8, has suffered a decline in their IQ score by age 11. 

  • Middle Class Children = benefit from streaming. Likely to be placed in higher streams, reflecting teachers view of them as ideal pupil. 

Douglas- Children placed in higher stream at age 8, has improved their IQ score by age 11. 

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Pupil Subcultures

  •  Group of pupils who share similar values and behaviour patterns. 
  • Emerge as a response to the way pupils have been labelled. 

Lacey (1970) - concepts of Differentiation and Polarisation explain how subcultures develop

Differentiation -

  • Process of teacher categorising pupils on how they perceive their ability. 
  • Steaming is a form of Differentiation.

 Polarisation - 

  • Process in which pupils respond to streaming by moving towards one of two opposite 'poles'

Laceys study of Hightown boys' grammar school, found steaming polarised boys into 'pro- school' and 'anti-school' subcultures. 

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Anti School Subculture

Lacey- those in low streams- suffer loss self- esteem: school has undermimed their self- worth. 

  • Label of 'failure' pushes them to search for alternative ways of gaining status. 
  • Pupils form 'anti-school subculture' gaining status among their peers.
    EG- Not doing homework/ smoking & drinking. 

=> Joining an anti-school subculture is likely to become a self- fulfilling prophecy of educational failure. 

Nike Identities

Pupils conscious that society and school looked down on them. Symbolic violence => alternative ways of creating self-worth, status and value. 

  • Investing heavilty in styles such as 'Nike' 
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Pupil Responses to Labelling and Streaming

Wood (1979) - other responses are also possible.

1. Ingratiation - Being the 'teachers pet' 

2. Ritualism - Going through the motions and staying out of trouble. 

3. Retreatism - Daydreaming and mucking about. 

4. Rebellion- Outright rejection of everything the school stands for. 

Furlong (1984) - Pupils are not committed permanetly to one response, acting differently in lessons with different teachers. 

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A- C Economy and Educational Triage.

Gillborn and Youdell - publishing of league tables called 'A- C economy' 

  • Schools ration their time and effort concentrating them on pupils who they perceive as having the potential to get five Grade C's at GCSE to boost the League Table Position. 

Gillborn and Youdell - call this process 'educational triage' 

  • The A-C economy produces the educational triage.


1.  ' those will pass anyway' 

2. 'those with potential' 

3. 'hopeless cases' 

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Bartlett (1993) - argues that marketisation leads to popular schools: 

1. CREAM SKIMMING- selecting higher ability pupils, who gain the best results and cost less to teach. 

2. SILT- SHIFTING- off-loading pupils with learning difficulties, who are expensive to teach and get poor results.

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Symbolic Capital

- Schools have a middle- class habitus

- Pupils that have been socialised at home into middle-class tastes and preferences gain 'symbolic capital'/ status and recognition from the school and are deemed to have worth/value. 

- Schools devalue the working-class habitus, so working-class pupils' tastes are deemed to be worthless. 

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  • Learned or 'dispositions' taken-for-granded ways of thinking and acting that are shared by a particular social class. 
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Material Deprivation

  • Inability to afford basic resources , which effects pupils' educational achievement.
    EG- Sufficent Food, heating and educational resources. 
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Cultural Deprivation


- Many working-class and black children are inadequatley socialised and therefore lack the 'right' culture needed for educational success. 

EG- families do not instil the value of deferred gratification.

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Cultural & Economic Capital

Cultural Capital 

Knowledge, attitudes, values, language and abilities that the middle class transmit to their children. 

  • Bourdeui - educational success is largely based on possession of cultural capital, therefore middle - class children have advantage. 

Economic Capital 

Money and wealth that gives you access to educational opportunities. 

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