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  • External factors - outside the education system such as the influence of home and family background and wider society.
  • Internal factors - within the school and education system.

Achievement and Home Background:

  • Cultural factors include class differences in norms and values acquired through socialisation, attitudes to education, speech codes etc.
  • Material factors include the physical necessities of life such as adequate housing, diet and income.
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Working class and lower class socialisation may not prepare children for educational success as compared to middle claa socialisation.


  • Working class parents are less liekly to give their children education toys and activities that will stimulate their thinking and reasoning skills and are less likely to read to them so when they start school they will be at a disadvantage compared to middle class children.


  • Restricted code - WORKING CLASS - limited vocabulary and is formed of a simple sentence or sometimes will just get gestures.
  • Elaborated code - MIDDLE CLASS - more analytic, wide vocabulary and complex sentences,this is the code that is used in education by teachers, textbooks etc.
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  • Immediate gratification - wanting rewards now rather than being willing to make sacrafices and working hard for future rewards - deferred gratification by  middle class.
  • Fatalism - a  belief that 'what ever will be, will be' - WC children dont believe that they can improve their position through their own individual efforts.
  • Low value on education - WC don't value education so they dont try. Douglas argues that WC parents dont show enough interest in heir childrens education and give them less support. (middle class parents will more likely attend parents evening etc)


Ignores the importance of material factors such as poverty. Ignores the impact of school factors. Blames the victim for failure.
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  • Poor housing - overcrowding or cold and damp rooms mean pupils will have no where to quiet study. Being homeless or living in temporary accomidation may mean the child has to keep being taken out of school or change school.
  • Poor diet - can lead to illness, absences from school and lack of concentration in class due to hunger.
  • Low income - lack of educational materials, lack of the right uniform or the latest fashion items could lead to bullyingin which will then lead to truency also they may no be able to pay for university fees.


CULTURAL CAPITAL - Combines both aspects of cultural and material explanations. Marxists such as Bourdieu argue that MC children are more successful than WC children because their parents possess more capital or assets.

  • Economic capital - wealth that MC families own.
  • Cultural capital - attitudes, values, skills, knowledge etc of the MC.
  • Educational capital - MC highly valued in the education system. Use economic and cultural capital to obtain educational capital.
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  • Teachers will give students an identity on whether they will pass or fail. Teachers will then treat pupils differently based on the assumption they made of them.
  • MC more likely to suceed - +label. WC less likely to suceed - -label.

KEDDIE - Teachers teach students differently , they teach MC with more academic language and dont push WC students to their full potential.


  • Children are seperated into different ability groups or classes.

BECKER - WC likely to be placed in lower streams.

BALL - Beachside comprehensive school abolished streaming but that just made differences between classes worse.

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One effect of labelling/streaming is a 'self fulfilling prophecy'.

1.Teacher Labels a student.

2. Studnet internalises that label and belives it about themselves.

3. Student acts in accordance with the label.

4. This in turn affects their achievement levels in school.

Pupil Subcultures - group of people who share values that are different to mainstream cultures/groups. CULTURE WITHIN A CULTURE.

Anti School Subculture - rebels, dont value school rules, not bothered about doing well.

In the Middle - want to do well but do not agree with the school rules.

Pro School Subculture - do value school, want to do well, try hard and meet deadlines.

Lacey argues that lower stream pupils form or join anti-school subcultures because the school deprives them of status by labelling them as failures.

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Schools want money and to get money they need students. To get more students they need to be higher up in the league tables and to do that they need better grades, To get better grades they need academic students which will lead toschools being more selective. 

Cream Skimming:

Selecting higher ability pupils who gain the best results and cost less to teach.

Silt Shifting:

Off loading pupils with learning difficlties who are expensive to teach and get poor results.

Youdell - A-C triage, schools categorise pupils into 'those who will pass anyway', 'those who may pass' (borderline) and 'those who are hopeless cases' Put more attention on the ones on the borderline.

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Internal Factors

Labelling and teacher racism -

  • Teachers attach a label to all pupils.
  • Negative labels are attached to black and asian pupils, seen as far from the ideal.
  • Black pupils are seen as disruptive and asian pupils as passive.
  • Leads to SPF and failure 

Pupil subcultures formed as a response -

  • Pupils respond negatively to these labels by forming anti school subcultures.
  • If they cannot get status through education they will get status through other means.
  • Break school rules 
  • A02 - Not all students react in the same way, some will reject the label and try to prove them wrong.
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Institutional racism is where prejudice and discrimination is built into the way that institutions such as schools function. 

Ethnocentric cirriculum - focuses on the country/race.

Selection and Segregation -

  • Marketisation has given schools greater scope to select pupils that come into their school.
  • Good schools have more power, so will select the best pupils (cream skimming)
  • Good schools will not select ethnic minority children as they are percieved as more difficult to teach and less likely to achieve.
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What is social exclusion? How could this affect educational attainment? 

  • Not going to want to go to school.
  • Employment - if they dont go to school they wont get that far in the future.

NOON STUDY - Sent identical letters with some CV's to people advertising jobs signing one from Patel and one from Evans and evans always got phoned for the interview. Ethnic minorities are excluded, dont get jobs so it puts their families in poverty.

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Why do girls do better than boys?

  • They socialise in their spare time.
  • More organised.
  • Early advanatges - labelling.
  • Work harder.

Why do boys do worse than girls?

  • More sporty - not working hard and studying.

Impact of feminism:

  • McRobbie - clear in the content of girls magazines.
  • In the late 1970's - importance of getting married.
  • In the 1990's - assertive, independant women.
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Changes in the family:

  • Increase in divorce rate.
  • Increase in co-habitation and a decrease in the number of first marriages.
  • Smaller families.
  • Increase in the number of lone - parent families (mainly female headed)

Changes in womens employment:

  • 1970 - equal pay act -> illegal to pay women less than men for work of equal value.
  • 1975 - sex discrimination act.
  • 47% working in 1959.
  • 70% working in 2007.

Girls changing ambitions:

  • 70's - ambition to marry
  • 90's - ambition to get a career
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Selection and League tables:

  • Internal factor.
  • Explains why girls do better.
  • Due to marketisation popular schools can be picky on who they take into their schools.
  • This means boys are going to be seen as more liability students to schools so they will be much more selective when considering boys.
  • This puts a lot of boys at the risk of going to an unpopular school.

Equal opportunities policies:

  • Girls/boys - equal capabilities are mainstream.
  • GIST - girls into science and tech.
  • WISE - women into science engineering.

Positive role models in schools:

 Head teachers are predomity women. They influenece children to do well is primary which comes into high school. isnt the case in secondary.

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GCSE's and Coursework:

Suits girls as they are more organised and better at literacy which is what coursework consists mainly of, this puts boys at an instant disadvantage.

Teacher Attention:

  • Jane and Peter French found that boys get more attention - they attract more reprimands.
  • Francis found that boys were harshly disciplined and had lower expectations of them.
  • Boys are disruptive and girls are cooperative so teachers will pay more attention to them.

Challenging Stereotypes in the Cirriculum:

  • Removed barriers between stereotypes.
  • 1970/80's - textbooks showed negative stereotypes of women being intelligent.
  • Gabby Weiner argues these sexist images have been removed - more positive images of girls needed.
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Boys and Literacy:

  • DCSF - gender gap is mainly the result of boys poorer literacy.
  • Football and video games help into the development of their language and communication skills.
  • Poor language and literacy are going to  affect a wide range of subjects.

Globilisation and the Decline of Traditional Mens Jobs:

  • Decline in WC jobs.
  • Decline in factory jobs and manafacturing.
  • Usually this is a males job, now many boys feel like they have no prospect for the future , this affects motivation and they give up on trying to get qualifications.

Feminisation of Education:

Tony Sewell - claims that boys fall behind because schools do not nurture masculine traits such as leadership but qualitites associated with girls like literacy and reading.

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Male Primary School Teachers:

  • 16% of primary school teachers are male.
  • Having a male teacher makes boys pay attention and work harder - gives them a role model.
  • Lack of male teachers reverse that.

Laddish Subcultures and Labelling:

  • WC boys want to be tough and doing school work is considered 'gay'.
  • Laddish culture is becoming more widespread, most women are now gaining careers.
  • Men are responding by becoming masculine.
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  • 'One size fits all' Mass education.
  • Controlled centrally by the state.
  • Fixed in time and place (school grounds and timetable)
  • Fixed period of ones life.
  • Teacher led - Student learns from teacher.


  • Education is 'cutomised' to meet the differing needs of diverse communities.
  • Controlled by local communities.
  • Flexible - distance learning - video lessons.
  • Life long learning - updating skills in response to the economy changes.
  • Learner is active and learns through own experiences.
  • These changes are a result in changes in the economy and wider society.
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2 functions: 

  • Specialist skills - Modern industrial economies have a complex division of labour. Production of a single item requires the cooperation of many different specialists. 

Durkheim agues that education teaches individuals the specialist knowledge and skills that they need to play their part in the social division of labour.

  • Social solidarity - individual members must feel themselves to be part of a single 'body' or community - without its social life and cooperation would be impossible. Education helps by sharing beliefs and values from one generation to the next. teaching of a countries history instills to children a sense of heritage and commitment to a wider social group. School/work have to cooperate with people who are neither family nor friends. SOCIETY IN MINATURE
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  • Meritocracy - education or social system where everyone has an equal opportunity to suceed and where individuals rewards and status is achieved by their own efforts rather than ascribed by their gender class or ethnic group.
  • Achieved Status - Those who suceed by their own efforts and are not born into their status. E.G. Sirl Alan Sugar.

Parsons sees the school as the 'focal socialising agency' in modern society, acting as a bridge between the family and wider society.

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  • Inequality - argue that inequality is necessary to ensure that the most important roles in society are filled by the most talented people. Not everyone is equally talented, so society has to offer higher rewards for these jobs.
  • Role Allocation - not everyones equally talented so higher skilled people get the most important roles.


  • Marxism and Feminism: Rose tinted glasses - not seeing everything in full perspective.
  • New Right: Parents should be in control as the government dont do a good enough job.
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Marketisation: The policy of introducing market forces of supply and demand into areas run by the state like education. (run like a business)

Parentocracy: 'Rule by parents'

School Vouchers: state does not fund schools directly but gives each parent a 'voucher' to by education from one school of their choice.


  • Studied disadvantaged groups and they basd their arguements on a comparison of the achievements of 60,000 pupils from low income families in 1,015 private and state high schools.
  • They found that pupils from low income families constantly do 5% better in private schools.
  • They said this happened because parents paid for heir childs education, giving them more contorl, so they can push the school more, in order for them to attract new customers.
  • BUT the WC do not benefit from this.

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Government should impose a curriculum on all schools that makes sure children all have traditional british values and know how great the UK is. 


Governments should have inspection bodies to make sure that schools are sticking to the curriculum and instilling the correct values in the pupils. Ratings from inspections will also aid marketisation and competition between schools.


  • Total contradicition - want parent in control but want a curriculum and inspection frameworks.
  • Marxists would claim this puts certain groups of students at a higher risk of failure.
  • Post modernists wouldnt like this - no diversity or individualisation.
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  • RSA - Repressive State Apparatuses - maintain the role of the bourgeoisie by the force of the threat of it. (POLICE, COURTS & ARMY)
  • ISA - Ideological State Apparatuses - maintain the role of the bourgeoisie by controlling peoples ideas, values and beliefs. (RELIGION & MASS MEDIA)

Bowles and Gintis:

  • Schools are getting pupils ready to reproduce an obedient workforce that will accept inequality as the inevitable.
  • Schools do this by rewarding precisely the kind of personality that make for a submissive, compliant worker.
  • Correspondence Principle: the relationships and structures found in education that mirror or corespond to those of work.
  • Hidden Curriculum: the lesson that are learnt in school without being directly taught.
  • The myth of meritocracy is that the education system is a 'giant myth' making machine and a key myth is meritocracy.
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  • He evaluates Bowles and Gintis by saying the WC pupils can resist such attempts to indoctrinate them.
  • WC lads form a distinct counter culture opposed to the school.
  • He conducted his researh by group interviews.
  • The irony of the 'laddish' response to capitalist schooling isthat by helping them resist the schools ideology. The lads counter cukture ensures that they are destined for the unskilled workthat capitalism needs someone to perform.
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 Vocational Education:

Connected to a career. vocational education and training transmits knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to persue particular careers. E.G. courses in engineering and hairdressing etc.

Strengths :

  • Teaches individuals the specialist skills they need.


  • Serves the needs of capitalism.
  • Provides cheap labour for employees.
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Historical policies

In the late 19th century MC pupils were given an acadenmic cirriculum to prepare for professions or office work where as WC were given a schooling to equip them with the basic numeracy and literacy skills needed for routine factory work.

Compulsory schooling in 1880 was for children from the age of 5 to 13 and it would of mostly been MC mainly boys. In 1973 it got raised to 16 which would of both boys and girls, which has reduced inequality as people are more able to gain an education whether they are a boy or a girl or are WC or MC.

The tri-partite system (Grammar, State and Practical schools) in 1944 lead to inequality as it channeled the two social classexs into two different types of school that offered unequal opportunities. The 11+ decided where the students went.

Comprehensive System - 1965 onwards lead to inequality by streaming and labelling.

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1988 - EDUCATION REFORM ACT - conservative - creating an 'education market' by

1. Giving parents choice over the institution their child went to which would lead to increased competition between schools.

2. Opting out of LEA - local management of schools - leaving the head in control of the budget making him like a boss.

3. Introduced the national curriculum which makes schools want to compete in order to get better results as everyone is studying the same thing.

What other policies promote marketisation?

  • Funding formula - more pupils = more money - competition to attract pupils.
  • Published league tables - higher in league = more attractive to parents = more students = more money
  • Academy status - heads having complete control of the budget.
  • Business sponsorship - attracts business = competition.

Cream skimming and Silt shifting - some bad schools some good schools.

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NEW LABOUR - 1997 onwards

  • EAZ's - designating deprived areas as Education Action Zones and providing them with additional resources - A good school in the area will help out with the students.
  • Aim Higher - to raise the aspirations of groups who are under represented which shows the lower class pupils that they can achieve more than their social status suggests.
  • EMA - more money for lower income families to help pay for resources etc.
  • Raising the age of compulsary education to 18 - reduce the number of NEETs, everyone has post 16 education.
  • Specialist schools - promote diversity and choice.
  • Smaller class sizes - benefit WC are they are the ones most affected.
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  • Assimilation policies in the 1960's and 70's focused on the need for pupils from minority ethnic groups to assimilate into mainstream British culture as a way of raising their achievement, especially for thom whose first language was not english. Critics argue that some ethnic minority groups who are at risk of underachieving such as African Caribbean pupils who already speak english are underachieving because of poverty or racism.
  • Multicultural education policies through the 1980's and into the 1990's aimed to promote the achievements from minority ethnic groups by valuing all cultures in the school curriculum, hopefully raising minority pupils' self esteem and achievements.

Help make ethnic minorities social included by continuing the funding to teach them english as an additional language.


  • The national Literacy Strategy includes a focus on improving boy's learning.
  • 1970's - Girls into science and technology were introduced to reduce gender differences in subject choice.


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This is so helpful, thank you!

It gives an almost complete overview of the education module in sociology AS and really helps with revision.

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