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Role & Function - Functionalism

Human Capital = the stock of knowledge, skills, values, habits and creativity that makes someone an economic asset to society.

Hidden Curriculum = the informal learning processes that happen in school. It is a side effect of education that teaches students the norms and values of society.

Particularistic Values = values and rules which only apply to that particular person in a given situation (e.g. home).

Universalistic Values = values and rules which apply to all members of society equally.

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The 4 Functions of Education

Socialisation & Social Solidarity - Durkheim

The education system meets a functional pre-request of society by passing on the culture & values of society. This is achieved by the hidden curriculum and PSHE subjects. This helps to build social solidarity as it teaches students the core values of society.

Bridge Between Family and Society - Parsons

Parsons believed that schools provide a link between the family & wider society which allows students to move from the ascribed status & particularistic values of the home, to the meritocratic & universalistic values of wider society.

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The 4 Functions of Education

Developing Human Capital - Schultz

This suggests that investment in education benefits the wider economy. Education can provide a properly trained, qualified & flexible workforce. They argue that education makes sure that the best and most qualified people end up in jobs that require the most skill.

Role Allocation - Davis and Moore

The education systems provides a means to selecting & sifting people into the social hierarchy. In a meritocratic society access to jobs and power, wealth & status are directly linked to educational achievement.

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Ignores aspects of education which are dysfunctional, such as negative conflict.

Myth of meritocracy - private education.

Marxists - hidden curriculum reinforces social inequality and maintains ruling class ideology.

Feminists - hidden curriculum maintains and reinforces patriarchy, not meritocracy.

Wong - functionalists see children as passive puppets of socialisation, when the process is much more complex and involves teacher-pupil relationships.

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New Right View of Education


  • Similar to beliefs to functionalists but believe that the state takes too much of a role & free market policies (marketisation) would raise standards.
  • Schools should compete with one another & parents and pupils should be seen as consumers.
  • Chubb and Moe - education vouchers and parentocracy.


  • 1980s vocational education
  • 1988 education reform act: funding formula, league tables
  • New Labour - academies
  • Coalition government: free schools, privatisation of education
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Role & Function - Marxism

Ideological State Apparatus = a social institution whose main role is to pass on the dominant ideology of the ruling class.

Repressive State Apparatus = a social institution whose role it is to enforce the dominant ideology by force or threat of force - e.g. police.

Correspondence Principle = the ways in which the education system mirrors the world of work - e.g. hierarchy and punctionality.

Hidden Curriculum = the informal learning processes that happen in school. It is a side effect of education that teaches students the norms and values of society.

The main role of education is to maintain capitalism and reproduce social inequality.

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Reproduction of Social Inequality

  • Education deliberate engineers - WC failure in order to create an unqualified factory workforce
  • Private education prepares children of the elite for positions of power
  • Hidden curriculum is shaped to assist MC achievement and deter WC achievement

Legitimisation of Social Inequality

  • MC has access to more cultural and economic capital which puts them at an advantage
  • Education encourages students to blindly accept capitalist values, through the hidden curriculum
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Bowles and Gintis

Correspondence Principle

School processes mirror the world of work in order to prepare them for manual labour:

  • Wages not satisfaction
  • Lack of control
  • Obedience
  • Achieved status
  • Discipline and consequences
  • Boredom

Myth of Meritocracy

  • Education claims to be meritocratic but schools discriminate in favour of the middle class, - e.g. language
  • Hidden curriculum lowers working class ambitions
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Giroux - Neo Marxism 

  • Rejects the view that WC passively accept their position to become compliant workers
  • Existence of anti-school subcultures, truancy and exclusion suggest both the hidden curriculum and correspondence principle have failed
  • Marxists often fail to acknowledge that gender and ethnicity often combine with class to produce success or failure

Social Democratic

  • Halsey, Floud and Martin suggest that marxists exaggerate the effect the education has on working class achievement.
  • They point out that gov policies, such as comprehensivisation have improved the chances of the working class.

New Right

  • Saunders claim that middle class educational success is due to biological differences
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  • Chubb and Moe argue that the marxists fail to see how education has failed all social groups, not just the working class
  • They believe that education has failed to equip all students with the skills needed to be successful in the global market place


  • Marxists fail to acknowledge that education actually reproduces diversity, rather than inequality
  • Morrow and Torres claim the students create their own identities rather than being constrained by traditional structures like class. In postmodern societies, students are able to make their own choices about their identity - e.g. increasing numbers of trans students.
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Roles & Processes in Schools

Setting = placing students in groups according to ability in individual subjects

Streaming = placing students in groups according to ability acorss all subjects

Self Fulfilling Prophecy = when a pupil takes on the label that they have been given by the school and acts according to it

Ideal Pupil = the characteristics that a teacher subconsciously looks for in a good pupil


  • Female
  • White
  • Middle class
  • Quiet
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Bernstein - Language Codes

Restricted Code

  • WC
  • Limited vocab
  • Short, unfinished sentences
  • Grammatically simple
  • Context bound

Elaborated Code

  • MC
  • Wide vocabulary
  • Grammatically complex
  • Varied and abstract
  • Context free
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Pupil Subcultures

Anti-School Subcultures

  • Lower steams
  • Rejection of school values
  • Traunting
  • Disruption
  • Not doing homework

Pro-School Subcultures

  • Committed to school values
  • Gain approval/status through academic success
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Labelling Theory

Labelling theory suggests that teachers often attach a label to a pupil that has little to do with their actual ability. Instead, they form an opinion of the student based on how close the student fits the ideal pupil. Becker suggests that teacher/pupil interactions are based upon these labels and can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy where the students take on the label and act accordingly


Deterministic. Focuses on the negative effects. Labelling theory attributes too much importance to 'teacher agency' (the autonomous power of teachers to influence and affect pupils) - structural sociologists might point out that schools themselves encourage teachers to label students.


Rejection of the label - Margaret Fuller's (1984) research on black girls in a London comprehensive school found that the black girls she researched were labelled as low-achievers, but their response to this negative labelling was to knuckle down and study hard to prove their teachers and the school wrong.

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Labelling - Case Studies

Rosenthal and Jacobson

Fake IQ test given to students. Random 20% students labelled as bright (bloomers). Went back after a year and found that those students had made more progress then others.

Ray Rist

US primary school study. Teacher used home background to group/segregate students. Tigers - m/c, fast students. Cardinals - w/c, midding ability. Clowns - w/c, troublesome. Labels carried through later years.

Hempel Jorgenson

Ideal pupil varies according to the make-up of the school. Aspen - w/c school - discipline was a problem - ideal pupil is quiet, passive and obedient. Rowan - m/c school - few discipline problems - ideal pupil is defined by personality & academic ability rather than behaviour.

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Class (Internal)

Middle Class = occupations that are mostly white collar and professional jobs. Highly Educated.

Working Class = mostly clue collar and manual jobs. Low educational achievement.

Internal Factors = factors inside of the school which influence educational achievement.

Educational Triage = putting students into 3 streams - m/c in the top streams, w/c in lower streams.

A-C Economy = schools are judged based on the number of students who acieve A-C grades at GCSE.

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Impacts on Achievement

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy -> A negative label, usually placed on w/c students, can lead to students forming an anti-school subculture and underachieve at school. A positive label, usually applied to m/c students due to ideal pupil characteristics, can lead to a pro-school subculture and help students achieve at school.

Setting/Streaming -> W/C students are usually placed in lower streams/sets which can lead to lower self-esteem, and therefore underachievement. Being placed in lower streams can limit student achievement but not allowing them access to opportunities to achieve.

Pupil Subcultures -> W/C are more likely to be a part if an anti-school subculture where status is not achieved through educational achievement, but through disruptive behaviour, and therefore unlikely to achieve at school.

Pupil's Class Identity -> M/C have power to set the habitus of the school, giving M/C students an advantage. W/C habitus is devalued by schools and W/C students felt that they had to change who they are in order to be academically successful. W/C habitus sees HE as undesirable and unrealistic.

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Class (External)

External Factors = elements from outside of the school environment which will effect educational achievement.

Cultural Deprivation = having inferior norms and values, skills and knowledge that make it difficult to access education.

Material Deprivation = not having the resources or spaces available to do well in school - linked to poverty.

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Cultural Deprivation


  • The ways parents communicate with their children is an essential part of cognitive development. 
  • Hubbs-Tait suggested that parents who challenge their children to evaluate their thinking are more likely to have higher cognitive ability.
  • Feinstein suggested that this is more likely to happen in families where the parents are educated, and therefore middle class.
  • Bernstein suggested that the w/c and m/c have different language codes.
  • The w/c use a restricted code which involves simple grammar, limited vocab and gestures.
  • The m/c use an elaborate code which involves complex grammar, fuller sentences and more abstract ideas.
  • This puts m/c students at an advantage at school as teachers, textbooks and the education system tend to use the elaborate code.
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Cultural Deprivation


  • Douglas argues that parental attitudes to education and their own levels of education often have a big impact on educational achievement.
  • He argued that w/c parents place less value on education, and therefore are less likely to push their child academically and visit school less often.
  • As a result, the children will have lower levels of motivation and achievement.
  • Feinstein also states that parents level of education impacts achievement as m/c parents socialise their children differently, particuarly in terms of parenting style where m/c parents are more consistent in terms of discipline and educational behaviours.
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Cultural Deprivation


Sugarman argues that the w/c have a different culture to the m/c which is a barrier to educational achievement. He identified 4 elements of this subculture:

  • Fatalism
  • Collectivism
  • Immediate gratification
  • Present-time orientation

Sugarman also links this to the security of m/c jobs which have room for progression and encourages ambition and long-term planning, which is then socialised into children who apply it to their education.

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Material Deprivation


Material deprivation refers to poverty and lack of material necessities which aim educational achievement - this is closely linked with social class as it is more likely that the w/c are going to have low household income and inadequate housing which can lead to low educational achievement.

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Material Deprivation


  • Although education in the UK is provided free at the point of services, there are many hidden costs to education that can leave w/c pupils at a disadvantage.
  • Tanner points to the cost of transport, books, computers, uniforms, equipment and field trips - this can place a heavy burden on w/c families.
  • Flaherty also suggests that there is stigma attached to those on FSM which prevents some from taking up the entitlements.
  • Smith and Nobel also suggest that w/c pupils are at a disadvantage as they cannot afford private tutors or private schools.
  • Ridge highlights that w/c pupils might need to take on paid work whilst still at school in order to help the household, which takes time away from study.
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Material Deprivation


  • Housing and health can have both a direct and indirect affect on educational achievement.
  • For example, overcrowding can have a direct effect in terms of lack of space to study, disturbed sleep and lack of development play. It can also have an indirect effect in terms of a child's health and welfare as cold and damp housing can cause ill health.
  • Howard notes that children in poorer families have poorer diets and nutrition which leads to a lack of energy and higher absence rates.
  • Wilkinson also points out that there is a higher rate of hyperactivity and ADHD amongst 10 year olds who are from lower income backgrounds which can lead to issues with education.
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Bourdieu and Capital


Bourdieu states that there are 3 interlinked types of capital which combine both material and cultural factors to explain why m/c students do better than their w/c counterparts. These are:

  • Cultural Capital -> referring to the knowledge, attitudes, values. language and abilities of the middle class.
  • Economic Capital -> referring to money and household income.
  • Educational Capital
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Bourdieu and Capital


  • Bourdieu argued that the 3 types of capital could be converted from one to another and were interlinked.
  • For example, m/c have the economic capital (money) to be able to provide cultural experiences such as holidays abroad and trips to museums, which then leads to academic achievement and educational capital.
  • Additionally, economic capital can be used for private schooling and tutors to increase academic attainment.
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Bourdieu and Capital


  • Completed a study to assess students cultural capital.
  • She used questionnaires and got 465 pupils across 4 schools complete them. 
  • She found that those students who showed greater cultural capital were children of graduates and more likely to succeed at GCSE.
  • However, cultural capital was only part of the reason for differences in educational achievement by social class - access to resources and greater aspirations also have a big impact.
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Gender (Internal)


Starting School -> 2013 teacher assessments showed that girls were out performing boys in literacy, language, maths and PSED.

Key Stage 1-3 -> Girls continue to do better than boys, especially in English where the gap continues to widen, but the gap begins to narrow in science and maths.

Key Stage 4 -> The average gap at KS4 stands at about 10 points, but the gap is increasing.

Key Stage 5 -> The gap at A Level is much narrower than at GCSE but girls still out perform boys even in the so called 'boys subjects' such as maths and science.

Vocational Education -> Although boys are more likely to take a vocational qualification than girls, girls are still more likely to receive a distinction.

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Gender (Internal)


Government policies for education that have aimed to create more opportunities for girls to take part in what have traditionally been male subjects, for example GIST & WISE. The national curriculum also levelled the playing field as girls and boys had to study the same subjects.

Boaler suggests that these policies are the key reason for the changing in girls' achievement as they removed many of the barriers faced by girls and has made education more meritocratic.


In the last 20 years there has been an increase in the number of females taking up head teacher and senior roles which acts as role models for girls, showing them that they can achieve positions of importance and power.

By having role models to look up to in non-traditional positions, girls are more likely to work harder to achieve these goals themselves, which leads to them achieving more educationally.

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Gender (Internal)


Coursework was introduced in 1988. Gorard noted that the achievement gap was fairly constant between 1979 and 1989, however once coursework was introduced girls began to outperform boys and the gap widened.

Mitsos and Browne suggest that girls are more successful in coursework because they are more conscientious and better organised than boys which puts them at an advantage.


Peter and Jane French analysed classroom interactions and noted that teachers interact with girls and boys differently. Boys get more attention in the classroom but it is negative attention. Boys also tend to dominate in whole class discussions, whereas girls tend to be more democratic.

This negative interaction could explain why teachers respond more positively to girls, which could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, allowing girls to achieve and boys to underachieve.

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Gender (Internal)


The removal of gender stereotypes from textbooks and reading schemes has removed a barrier to girls' aspiration and achievement. In the 1970s and 1980s girls were portrayed as wives and mothers and textbooks would reinforce this image as well as putting girls off maths and science.

Weiner shows that since the 1980s there has been significant change with teachers and textbooks challenging the traditional stereotypes, which has led to greater achievement in girls as they are presented with more positive images of what they can achieve.


The introduction of league tables have made girls more desirable for schools as they are likely to achieve better grades. Slee points out that boys are more likely to have behavioural issues and 4x more likely to be excluded, whihc reflects badly on a school and the competitive nature of school.

Jackson links this desire for high achieveing girls to a self-fulfilling prophecy. League tables have created greater opportunities for girls, and the fact that they are desired more by schools means that girls take on a self-fulfilling prophecy and master status of higher achievement.

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Liberal Feminists

Celebrate the progress that has been made in education & achievement for girls, but believe that there is still work to be done. They see the need for continued equal opportunity policies, more positive role models and education against sexist attitudes & stereotypes in order for true equality in education to be achieved.

Radical Feminists

Recognise that girls are achieveing more, but they emphasise that this is in spite of the patriarchal nature of the education system, rather than due to major changes in education. They use the following as evidence of patriarchy in education.

  • 1/3 of 16-18 yr old girls said they have experienced unwanted sexual touching in school.
  • Women are hugely underrepresented in the curriculum - Weiner calls history a women free zone.
  • There are still many more men in positions of authority in education, espcially in secondary schools.
  • There is still the generalisation of subjects & career options which limit girls' choices.
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Gender (External)


The feminist movement has improved the rights of women as well as raising expectations & self-esteem for women. Women are no longer strictly bound to the 'mother/housewife role'.

Sue Sharpe interviewed girls about their career aspirations and concluded that, due to increased employment opportunities, females have become extremely ambitious and aim for 'high professions' such as Doctors and Solicitors.


Primary socialisation: perhaps more traditional 'female' socialisation is more suited to education than typical 'male' socialisation - bedroom culture. More lone parent families headed by women raises girls' aspirations.

Bedroom culture -> quiet, reading, submissive attitudes which are all favoured in schools - ideal pupil.

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Gender (External)


Mitsos & Browne (1998) highlight how the growing service sector/economy has created more 'feminised' career opportunities for women, e.g. in health care. teaching etc. Equal pay act etc open up more opportunities for girls.

The changes have encouraged girls to see their future as more than housewives & mothers, but as having greater career opportunities and financial independence. Aspirations to get these jobs push girls to do well in education in order to achieve these career goals.


Decline of traditional gender roles - stay at home dads. Individualisation - Beck & BeckGenshiem: independence is highly regarded in modern society in order to gain recognition and status.

In order to achieve the desired goals of independence & self sufficiency, girls now recognise the need for good ducation. Educational success becomes a central tenant to girls' identity.

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Glass Ceiling and pay gap still exists.

Traditional gender roles in regards to motherhood.

Diane Reay - class gender and ambition.

Myth of meritocracy.

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Impact of social class -> only 40.6% of girls from poorer families (eligible for FSM) achieved A*-C grades compared to 67.5% of those who are not on FSM.

Working class dilemma -> Archer believes that many w/c girls are faced with the dilemma of either gaining symbolic capital from their friends, or gaining educational capital by rejecting their w/c identity and accpeting & conforming to m/c habitus. These 2 identities are in conflict with each other. They underachieve due to the acceptance of symbolic capital over educational capital.

Successful working class girl -> Evans points out that although w/c girls are more likely to underachieve, there are those that achieve academically & go onto higher education. Study of 21 6th form gilrs in South London found that these girls wanted to go to uni to increase their earning potential, but it was to help their families. Skeggs points out that caring is a crucial part of w/c identity & although living at home during uni can be an economic decision, it is also a caring decision with girls wishing to stay close to family in order to continue helping out.

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Archer uses the term to refer to the status, recognition and sense of worth that girls receive from others. He found that w/c girls gained symbolic capital from their peers which put them in contact with the school ethos.

The conflict that is caused by the gaining of symbolic capital from peers leads to w/c girls failing to achieve education and economic capital, repeating the cycle.


Archer suggests that 1 way girls gain symbolic capital from their peers is through the construction of this identity which combined black urban American styles with unisex sports wear and **** clothes & makeup.

This identity can bring girls into more conflict with the school due to teachers seeing the preoccupation with appearance as a distraction from learning, but also the breaking of school rules with jewellery and makeup. This leads to labelling these girls as incapable of educational success. Bourdieu referred to this as symbolic violence - the harm done by denying someone symbolic capital by determining their culture as worthless.

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This is a second way that girls gain symbolic capital.

Archer's study found that having a boyfriend often lowered a girls aspiration and got in the way of their education. He found that when girls in the study group got a boyfriend, they often lost interest in attending uni or studying what was considered masculine subjects. Instead their aspirations changed to settling down, having a family and having local feminine jobs like child care.


A final way that some w/c girls gained symbolic capital was by adopting loud, assertive, outspoken and independent personas & they would challenge teachers authority and the school ethos.

This behaviour is often interpreted as aggressive rather than assertive and can lead to girls being removed from lesson, and possibly from school, which leads to lower attainment.

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DfCSF (2007) argue that the 'gender gap' is the result of poor literacy amongst males. Reading is seen as a feminine activity as it is generally mothers who read to their children. Bedroom culture - girls are socialised to talk & discuss which increases their vocab.

Lower vocabulary limits achievement through langauge code and the ability of students to express ideas coherently.


Due to globalisation, there has been a decline in heavy industries, such as engineering. Mitsos & Browne - decline in male employment opportunities has led to 'identity crisis'.

Results in a belief that they will not get a 'proper job' = low self esteem & motivation to get grades. Decline is mainly in manual jobs, which didn't need qualifications. Likely that disappearance of such jobs would impact on boys' motivation to obtain qualifications.

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Schools do not nurture masculine traits, such as competitiveness & leadership and instead celebrate qualities such as attentiveness in class & methodical working. Sewell thinks coursework should be replaced with exams & emphasis on outdoor education within the curriculum.

Boys become 'bored' with school.


Teaching is a feminine profession and schools lack many 'real' men role models. This is especially critical of primary schools where women dominate.

This could help explain why learning is seen as 'girly' by many boys & not worth their time.

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Boys gain symbolic capital amongst peers by joining ant-school subcultures. More disruptive - boys tend to get excluded more & seek status from exclusion. Doing well in school or asking for helps leads to bullying and a belief that they are weak.

Exclusion from school leads to underachievement.


Barber (1996) - boys see themselves as more capabale than they really are. This belief runs through to their GCSE exams where they fail to do as well as they imagined, but blame everyone but themselves. This overconfidence comes from living in a patriarchal society where men assume they will always succeed over women.

Over-confidence leads to a lack of preparation for examinations and class work. Accepting responsibility is showing weakness.

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Policies To Raise Boys Achievement

Raising boys achievement project -> 4 year project (2000-2004) which focused on issues associated with the apparent differential academic achievement of boys & girls at key stage 2 & 4.

National literacy strategy -> daily 'literacy hour' - 15 minutes sitting together working from a shared large print book, further 15 minutes focusing on certain words with the class, 20 minutes devoted to reading or writing on their own or in small groups, final 10 minutes in a group going over all the main points. The strategies have only been recommended, not compulsory.

Reading champions -> uses male role models celebrating their own reading interests.

Playing for success -> an initiative which aimed to raise literacy, numeracy & ICT standards amongst demotivated KS2 & KS3 pupils by holding out-of-school-hours study support centres at football culbs and other sports grounds.

Dad's and son's -> primarily aimed at fathers of boys aged 11-14 - its aim is to increase dads' involvement in their son's education.

Recruitment of male teachers -> recruitment events at universities across the country, which have been targeted particularly at male students in STEM subjects.

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Gender & Subject Choice



  • Maths
  • Physics 
  • Technology


  • Humanities 
  • Languages


  • English
  • Social sciences
  • Business
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Gender & Subject Choice

Trends in subject choice at GCSE -> very little choice given in the national curriculum & at GCSE, however trends can be seen in options, with boys taking more practical & vocational based subjects (e.g. business & technology), whereas girls opt more for the humanities & art subjects.

Trends in subject choice at A Level -> differences are much more apparent at A Level with wider choices available. Boys still tend to take more technical subjects (e.g. computing & physics), and girls take subjects such as sociology and english.

Trends in subject choice: vocational education -> gender segregation is very noitceable within this level, with girls opting for careers which are more caring & traditional (e.g. child care & health and beauty), whereas boys tend to go for more technical careers (e.g. mechanics & engineering).

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Gender & Subject Choice


Norman notes from an early age girls & boys are dressed differently and encouraged to take part in different activities which inform their ideas of what it means to be a boy & a girl. This initially starts with families but is reinforced in schools. Murphy & Elwood point out that this socialisation leads to different reading styles, with boys choosing hobby books & girls preferring fiction, which can explain why boys tend to go for technical subjects, and girls more art based ones. Browne & Ross - children create gender domains around what they see as male & female roles based on early experience of what they see adults doing.

Evaluation -> there is a move towards more gender neutral socialisation in early years and teachers have been trained to be more gender neutral.

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Gender & Subject Choice


The gender image of a subject affects who chooses it. Kelly argues that science is seen as a boys subject for a number of reasons, including that there are more male teachers & textbooks often use illutrations which focus on boys' interests like sports. Anne Colley backs this up by looking at computer science where she finds that the teaching style is more formal & abstract - puts girls off as well as the gender domain of working with machines.

Evaluation -> Gendered subject image seems to have less of an impact in single-sex schools. Leonard found that compared to pupils in mixed-gender schools, girls are more likely to choose english & languages, showing that the generalisation of subjects is a social construction.

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Gender & Subject Choice


Subject choice can often be closely linked with peer-group pressure. Pupils can often face extreme pressure to conform to gender stereotypes within school in order to be accpeted by their peer group. Paechter found that sport is often seen as a part of the male domain so girls will often opt out because being sporty is contary to gender stereotypes. Dewar also found that when girls did opt for subject that were considered part of the male domain, they would be subject to name calling & bullying. Within sports girls would be called lesbian or butch if they showed interest.

Evaluation -> this is not the case in single-sex schools, and in particular with girls as without boys being present girls may feel less pressure to conform to traditional female stereotypes.

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Ethnicity (External)


DfES (2007):

  • Only 24% of white male pupils who were on free school meals gained 5 A*-C grades.
  • White & Asian pupils on average achieve higher than black pupils.
  • Amongst Asians, Indians do better than Pakistanis & Bangladeshis.
  • Hastings (2006) - white pupils make less progress between the ages of 11-16 yrs old compared to Black or Asian pupils. If current trends continue, then white pupils will become the lowest performing ethnic group in the UK.
  • Within every ethnic group, m/c pupils do better than w/c pupils.
  • Among all groups other than Gypsy/Roma children, girls outperform boys.
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Cultural Deprivation


Arguments suggest that many ethnic minority groups (particularly black, low-income groups) lack adequate stimulation & linguistic development through their socialisation. Bowker (1968) - 'The Education of Coloured Immigrants' - a lack of standard english creates a huge barrier to UK education. Bollard & Driver - language problems cease to be a problem by the age of 16. The Swann Report (1985) - found that language differences had little impact on achievement.


Arguments suggest that different ethnic groups are socialised into different attitudes & values. Arnot (2004) suggests that the media have created a negative anti-school role model for Black pupils, in particular which he describes as 'the ultra-tough ghettoo superstar', reinforced through rap lyrics & MTV lyrics. Driver (1977) highlights how ethnicity can be an advantage in education, e.g. African Caribbean girls actually do very well in school.

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Cultural Deprivation


Many sociologists argue that the 'dysfunctional' family types are to blame for the underachievement of certain ethnic groups.

  • Murray (1984) - african caribbean lone parenthood to blame - lack of male role models - mothers struggle to socilise children adaquately.
  • Scrunton (1968) - low achievement = result of ethnic minorities failing to conform to uk culture.
  • Pryce (1979) - asian culture in uk is more cohesive than black culture - they are able to ignore racism more effectively, so not affected by it as much.
  • Hall (1992) - calls this 'culture of resistance' - the impact of slavery means that much of black culture has lost its language, religion, ancestory etc - black culture are much less likely to integrate with white m/c uk.
  • Driver & Ballard (1981) - asian families have much more 'pro-school' attitude than black families - asian familes are rarely lone parent families - bigger network of support for child.
  • Lupton (2004) - the 'adult authoritarian' asian family macthes that of the school.
  • Keddie (1971) - says that to blame culture is to blame the victims of educational failure.
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Material Deprivation

Flaherty (2004) ->

  • Pakistanis & Bangladeshis are 3x more likely than whites to be in the poorest 1/5 of pop.
  • Africans, Pakistanis & Bangladeshis are 3x more likely to be unemployed than whites.
  • 15% of minority ethnic groups live in overcrowded homes (2% for whites).
  • Pakistanis are 2x as likely to be in semi-skilled/unskilled jobs compared to whites.

Swann Report (1985) -> social class differences account for a high proportion of differences in achievement between ethnic groups.

This argument is paradoxical - we cannot tell if these groups underachieve within education because they are w/c, or if they end up being w/c because other factors lead them to fail in education.

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Racism In Wider Society

Marson (1995) - 'discrimination is a continuing & persistent feature of the experience of Britain's citizen of ethnic minority ethnic origin'.

Rex (1986) - racism leads to social exclusion & accordingly poverty. This is shown in housing, employment & education. Racism also leads to discrimination both inside & outisde the classroom.

Noon (1993) - sent identical letters to 100 top uk companies but alternated between the names 'Evans' & 'Patel' - the replies to the 'white' candidate were more helpful & informative.

Tronya & Carrington (1990) - the descriptions of some cultures are little more than racist stereotypes.

Cultural research can be used against certain groups - Sivanandan argues that afro-caribbean culture is used by some right-wing groups to justify the view that they are a problem for society.

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Ethnicity (Internal)


Racialised expectations -> Gillbourn & Youdell: teachers were quick to discipline black pupils than others for similar behaviour - teachers misinterpret behaviour & see black pupils as anti-authority. This creates conflict between teachers & pupils which reinforces stereotypes.

Discipline -> Osler: black students are more likely to be both officially & unoficially excluded. Bourne: schools see boys as a threat which leads to negative labelling & eventful exlusion.

Setting & Streaming -> Foster: teacher stereotypes of black students could result in them being put in lower sets, and therefore a self-fulfilling prophecy of under-achievement.

Asian Pupils -> Wright: study of multi-ethnic primary school - saw that Asian students also suffer labelling. She found that teachers held ethnocentric views - affected how they reacted to Asian pupils, including leaving them out of discussion or using childish language when speaking to them, leading to marginalisation.

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Pupil Identities

Archer: teachers often define pupils by stereotypical ethnic identities which often lack the favoured ideal pupil characteristics. This leads to negative labelling.


Ideal pupil identity -> white, middle-class, masculine identity, normal sexuality, achieveing in the right way through natural ability and talent. 

Pathologised pupil identity -> deserving poor, feminised identity, asexual/repressed sexuality, plodding conformist, slogger who suceeds through hard work rather than natural ability.

Demonised pupil identity -> black or white, working class, hyper sexualised, unintelligent, peer-led, culturally deprived, underachiever.

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Pupil Responses & Subcultures


Fuller studied a group of black girls in yr 11 in a London Comprehensive who were in lower streams yet were achieving highly. These girls did not conform to the values of the school but did value educational success enough to push themselves. 

Mac and Ghaill discovered similar findings in his study of black & asian a-level pupils.

Each of these studies show how labelling does not always follow the same negative pattern.

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Pupil Responses & Subcultures


Mirza highlights how some pupils are not able to develop coping strategies when faced with teacher racism & labelling - identified 3 types of teacher racism:

  • The colour blind
  • The liberal chauvinists
  • Covert racists

Black girls would avoid these teachers by being selective about who they asked for help, getting on with their work in lesson without taking part, avoiding certain options to avoid the teachers. This puts them at a disadvantage by restricting their opportunities, causing under-achievement.

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Pupil Responses & Subcultures



  • The Rebels -> the most influential group but still a minority. These rejected the values of the school & opposed the school by joining a peer group. These reinforced the negative stereotypes of 'black machismo'
  • The Conformists -> the majority of black pupils accepted the values of the school & were eager to succeed.
  • The Retreatists -> a small minority who isolated & disconnected with peer group subcultures & the school. These kept a low profile.
  • The Innovators -> second largest group who were pro-education but anti-school. They distanced themselves from 'conformists' enough to keep credibility with the 'rebels' whilst valuing educational success.
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Institutional Racism

Critical Racism Theory -> sees racism as a feature of society. Roithmayer: institutional racism is locked in inequality so that it is no longer a conscious thought. Gillborn: sees racism as so ingrained in education that it is now inevitable.

Marketisation & Segregation -> Gillborn: marketisation allows for more covert selection to take place which can lead to segregation. Commission for Racial Equality 1993: noted that covert selection procedures lead to EM students more likely to be in unpopular schools.

Ethnocentric Curriculum -> a curriculum which reflects the culture of 1 ethnic group, usually the dominant culture - prime example of institutional racism. Tronya & Bell: lack of teaching of asian languages. Ball: little englandism: NC ignores black & asian history.

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Institutional Racism

Assessment -> Gillborn: system is riggedto validate the dominant culture superiority. Sanders & Horn -> changing from a written test to teacher assessment led to black students underachieveing.

Access to oppotunities -> in G&T programmed whites are twice as likely to be identified as G&T over EMs. EMs are less likely to be entered for higher tier exams, despite policies and initiatives to raise EM achievement. This is due to teacher labelling and SFP.

New 'IQ ism' -> teachers and policy makers make false assumptions about the nature of pupils ability or potential. Potential is seen as fixed and can be measured through old style IQ tests or psychometric tests, however gillborn suggests that these tests only test what is currently known or learnt, not what could be. These tests are skewed to dominant culture.

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Economic Efficiency -> develop the skills of the young to improve the labour force. This involves making the education system meet the needs of industry and employers. 

Raising Educational Standards -> UK education needs to compete in a global education market and is ranked against other countries - e.g. PISA.

Creating Equality of Educational Opportunity -> ensuring that all students get the best educational opportunities.

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Aspects of Educational Equality


Equality of Access -> every child should have the same opportunities to access educational provision of similar quality, regardless of socio-economic background.

Equality of Circumstance -> children should all start school with a similar socio-economic background so that they are all truly equal.

Equality of Participation -> all students have the chance to participate on an equal footing in the processes that make up school life.

Equality of Outcome -> all students have the same chances of achievement in education, regardless of socio-economic background.

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Policies Which Increased Equality

1988 Reform Act - National Curriculum - all schools has to teach the same core curriculum. However, not suitable for all - suits 'academic' pupil more.

1965 - Comprehensivisation Act - got rid of the 11+ exam and made it so all students would get 'parity of esteem' & 'equality' within education. However, comprehensives are large schools so lack individual attention.

Schools Admissions Code - forbids discrimination in admitting pupils on grounds of socio-economic background or ability. However, covert selection still takes place by both school and parents - postcode lottery.

Policies that improve inequality in circumstances - pupil premium = additional funding for those students from a poor socio-economic background - compensatory education. However, Kerr & West - too many other factors outside of school that impact achievement.

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  • Selection by Ability - entrance tests
  • Selection by Aptitude - talents
  • Selection by Faith


  • Allows 'high-flyers' to benefit
  • Specialised & focused teaching can take place


  • Late developers don't benefit
  • Mixed ability fosters social cohesion
  • Reduced risk of labelling and therefore SFP
  • HA can act as a inspiration to other students
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Admissions Policies

Open Enrolment Policies & Parental Choice

OEP means that parents can apply to any state school, in any area. If the school is under subscribed they must take the child. However, over-subscribed school fill up quickly so many parents don't get their 1st choice.

Over Subscription Policies

Priority to: children in care, pupil premium, siblings, catchment area (closes first), faith.

Covert Selection

Tough & Brooks - backdoor social selection to 'cherry pick' students. Discouraging parents of poorer students from applying in the first place through high uniform prices, making literature hard to understand, not advertising in poorer areas. Faith schools require a letter from a spiritual leader to gain insight to the potential students family and commitment to both the faith and the school ethos.

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Marketisation - Key Terms

Marketisation -> means the process of whereby services like education are pushed towards operating like a business and based on supply and demand. Students are considered consumers rather than pupils.

Privatisation in education -> means changing the internal processes of a school to be more like a business, for example treating parents & students like consumers, target setting, performance related pay and league tables.

Privatisation of education -> means opening up aspects of education to private businesses such as staff training, school finances, school management (academy chains) and exams.

Parentocracy -> means when a child's educational achievement has more to do with parental wealth and wishes than student ability. Parents are able to have more choice over where to send their children.

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Features of Marketisation

Idependence -> allowing schools to run themselves how they see fit.

Competition -> making schools compete with each other for students.

Choice -> giving customers (parents & children) more choice in where they go to school.

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Elements of Quality Control

Ofsted inspections.

Publication of performance tables such as examination results.

National curriculum - baseline for what is taught.

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Evaluation of Privatisation of Education


  • More efficient
  • More choice for parents
  • Profit making might induce companies to support failing schools


  • Takes money from the education system
  • If businesses go out of business it will leave schools stranded
  • Less equality 
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Policies Which Promote Marketisation

Conservative Gov (1979-1997)

  • League tables
  • Local management of schools
  • Open enrolment

Labour Gov (1997-2010)

  • Business sponsored academies
  • Specialist schools

Coalition Gov (2010-2015)

  • New style academies
  • Free schools
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Policies Which Promote Raising Standards

Conservative Gov (1979-1997)

  • Ofsted
  • National Curriculum
  • National Testing

Labour Gov (1997-2010)

  • Maximum class sizes for 5-7 yr old
  • Building schools for the future programme
  • Education action zones
  • Business sponsored academies

Coalition Gov (2010-2015)

  • Pupil premium
  • English Baccalaureate
  • Reform of the national curriculum
  • Reform of the exam system
  • Tougher preformance targets for schools
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Myth of parentocracy -> parents do not have equal freedom to choose the schools which their child attends due to covert selection process, postcode lotteries in catchment areas. Middle class parents have much more freedom in choice due to their cultural capital, higher education and income.

Educational triage -> teachers tend to allocate more resources to the students who are on the C/D boarder line in order to achieve the 5 A*-C needed for the league tables, thus ignoring those who are unlikely to achieve this.

Dumbing Down -> due to the funding formula, schools need to retain and attract students in order to receive funding. Schools will therefore lead to the dumbing down of teaching and standards in order to retain students who might leave if they are pushed too hard or if the courses are too difficult.

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Types of Private Education

Private Schools = fee paying schools which do not have to follow government policies or be inspected by Ofsted.

Public Schools = fee paying schools which require an entrance exam such as the CEE. They have a long history and include schools such as Eton.

Independent Schools = fee paying and also rely on charitable donations and gifts. They tend to have charitable status and do not have to follow government policy.

International Schools = schools which promote international education and have students from multiple nationalities. Many follow the international baccalaureate curriculum. They are non-selective.

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Why Private School?

Smaller class sizes

Better facilities

Better chances to get into a top university, e.g. Oxbridge

High academic standards due to entrance exams

Higher teacher salaries which attract better qualified and more experienced teachers

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Arguments Against Non-State Education

Increases social inequality

Maintains the 'old boys' network

Maintains capitalism (Marxists) due to giving tax breaks to parents as schools are seen as charitable trusts

No evidence to suggest that quality of teaching is better in private schools

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Old Boys Network Cycle

Wealthy Family


High cost public school education


Oxbridge or other top university


Highly paid job - elite positions


Marriage to other wealthy, powerful and influential people


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