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Topic 3: Is contemporary Britain a meritocracy?

-Functionalists- Parsons: Suggested that social inequality in societies is based on the principles of meritocracy and equality of oppertunity 

There is substantial evidence that Britain is not meritocratic, most sociologists argue that not everyone has the same chance of developing their talents and skills and that there is no real equality of oppertunity in educatioN

  • Social class differences in educational achievement: FSM used as indicator of economic disadvantaged/ subsitute way of measuring SC, those entitled are those whose parents income are so low-They qualify for range of income-related welfare benefits

-Perry and Francis: Social class strongest predictor of educational achievement, is a key factor

-Michael Gave: "Rich thick kids, do better, than poor, clever children"

-Waldfogel and Washbrook: Many children from disadvanatged backgrounds were already up to a year behind than more privelleged children educationally by the age of 3

-LS at the London Uni: Degree of SC inequality begins even before children enter primary school, becomes greater as children move upwards through the education system

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Topic 3: A comparison of social class differences

  • When students from lower working class have been compared to middle class: 

More likely to start school unable to read, Do less well in tests (SATS), More likely to be placed in lower streams, Generally get poorer results- Three quaters of young people from upper middle class backgrounds get five or more GCSE's A*-C, compared to less than a third from lower working class backgrounds, More likely to undertake vocational/training courses, rather than more academic A level courses, Less likely to go onto higher education

  • Working class underachievement:

1. External factors- (Factors outside school) Material factors= Social and economic conditions and Cultural factors= Values, attitudes and lifestyles

2. Internal factors- (Factors within school) What happnens in schools can affect the progress of pupils there

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Topic 3: External factors in class differences

External factors 1: Material explanations- Poverty and low wages, diet, health and housing. Indicators of social deprivation like these make an important contribution to explaining the pattern of working class underachievement in education. CONCLUTION: Material factors tend to be cumaltive, social depreivation gardually builds up, as on deprivation can lead to others

  • Poverty and home circumstances- Cooper and Stewart: (Money makes a difference) Poorer children have worse, cognitive, social bhavioural,health outcomes because they are poorer. Waldfogel & Washbook: Children from low income families, live in crowded/ damp accomadation, poor housing conditions, eg. overcrowding, insuffient space to study, poorer diets- higher levels of sickness, more absences, falling behind. Poorer families less likely to have access to pre-school, may affect children's development. Hidden costs of "Free" state schooling: £1614 a year per child for basic school-related expenses in 2013 (Aviva family finance report). Young people have jobs, create conflict between competing demands. Higher education, potential debts and living costs, detter those from poorer backgrounds from going uni
  • The Catchment area- The areas that from which primary& secondary schools draw their pupils.Deprived areas- Poor role models to imitate, more likely to have discipline problems, in contrast MC more stronger conformist RM & better learning enviroment. Gibson: Greater the level of family disadvantage-the smaller was the % of students gaining 5 or more GCSEs. The NEP: Highest achievers in schools come from most advantaged areas.
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Topic 3: External factors in class differences

External factors 1: Cultural Explanations and Cultural Deprivation: The theory that of cultural deprivation says that working class culture and parenting  aren't aimed at educational success

  • Parents attitudes to Education- Douglas: Thought the level of parental interest was most important factor in affecting achievement. Feinstein: High parental interest leading to much more better exam results. MC parents compared WC parents; Take interest on children's progress, MC parents more likely to attend open evenings, though WC may not because they work inconvenient shifts. Some styles of parenting emphaise the importance of education more than others
  • Subcultural explanations-  Different SC have some different values, attitudes and lifetyles or different subcultures, affects childrens performance. Sugarman: Pupils from non manual backgrounds and manual backgrounds have different outlooks. Pupil from manual backgrounds- Immediate gratfication, pupils from non-manual backgrounds were ambitiousand deffered their gratification- they invested time in studying and planned for future. Hyman: Said that values of the working class are self-imposed barrier to improving their position. He said that the WC tend to be place a low value on education

-BUT: CD theory generalises a lot about differences between MC and WC life. It ignores WC families, who do place a high value on education, tends to assume that WC families have no culture at all, or WC culture can't be relevant to school= Ethnocentric, prioritising values of particular group

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Topic 3: External factors in class differences

External factors 1: Cultural Explanations and Cultural Deprivation: The theory that of cultural deprivation says that working class culture and parenting  aren't aimed at educational success

  • Language use: Success in education depends heavily on language. Bernstien: Found that WC pupils in the East End of London weren't confortable with style of language required by school, they used restricted code- Short forms of speech, limited vocabulary, MC students knew how to use the same elaborated code as the teachers- Wider Vocabulary, everything made more explicit; In terms of language, the WC students were at a disadvantage.

-Criticisms of Bernstien's Theory: There are variations within the MC and WC, different sections of these groups vary in how they use elaborate code. Rosen: Accues Bernstien of creating a myth of the superiorty of middle class speech.

  • Bourdieu's theory of cultural capital: Reckons MC students are at an advantage because they have the right kind of "cultural capital"- The right knowledge and attitudes, he thought that the more cultural capital you have, the more successful you'll be in education- WC pupils don't have access to cultural capital, MC families pass on cultural capital and expectations from parents to children- Cultural reproduction

-Criticisms of Bourdieu'sTheory: Hasley et al: Found that material factors are important, lack of money may stop children statying on at school or getting into uni. Not all WC students fail, even if they don't have cultural capital

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Topic 3: Criticisms of cultural explanations

-Reay: Cultural explanations involve the a "blame the victim" approach, places the educational underachievment on the family background, with the culture of the lower-working class seen as deprived in various way compared to MC:

  • Exagguration- Tend to exaggurate the differences
  • Overlooking practical differences- Douglas: Used measure of "parental interest" based on number of times parents visited schools, BUT- WC parents work longer, less flexibility than MC, not visiting school may be evidence of the material constraints of their jobs not of a lack of interest and encouragment from WC parents
  • Ignoring the role played by schools themselves- MC students perform better because they recieve more praise as they are more in time with teachers, blaming social class background as irresponsible in Reay's words: "Unmotivated, unambitious and underachieving" can attach stigma and label WC children as "born to fail"- Thus neglect their needs
  • The need for schools to change- Keddie: No cultural deprivation, but merely a cultural difference, It is not WC is in some ways deficient, but schools failing to meet of WC children and to recognize their culture
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Topic 3: Compensatory education:

  • The idea of extra help- Compensatory education, extra help for those coming disadvantaged groups to help overcome inequalities they face. This includes: Positive Discrimination, students from disadvantaged are singled out extra-favourable treatment, based on the idea of equality.
  • Education action zones and Excellence in cities: Setting up in the 1990s of EAC in socially advantaged areas. This intiative was rebranded as "Excellence in cities in 2005"- School were given extra money and teachers to improve the educational performance of the most disadvantaged young people, by raising their levels of educational achievement and boosting their aspirations, confidentiality & self esteem

-BUT: Power and Whitty: Evidence suggested that the reforms didn't work, failed to make a significant impact on the achivement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged schools

-Kerr and West: While the evidence can show that schooling that lessen the impact of deprivation on childrens progress, its influence is limited by factors beyond the school can control

  • Many attempts being made to overcome disadvantages that young people from deprived areas face. Bernstein "education cannot compenstate for society"
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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

  • 4 facts about gender and differential education achievement: Boys used to outpeform girls at schools, this had a lot to do with the fact that female education was seen as less important. However, theres been a shift and it now boys who are falling behind.

1.Girls get better results in primary school national curriculum tests

2.Girls get better results in nearly every sunbject at GCSE- In english at GCSE, the gender gap was huge, with 70% if girls getting A*-C, compared to 54% of boys in 2014

3.Girls are more likely to pass their A-levls, and a higher proportion of females stay on further education

4.More women than men go onto Uni in the UK- More women than men apply and get accepted for full time Uni degree courses- In 2014, women made up 57% of those applying, and in 2013 over half of those accepted

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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

  • Problems remaining for girls:

-The attention given to girls overperforming boys and the underachivement of boys- Draw attention away from large no. of girls are low attainers and are underachieving.

-Girls still tend to do different subjects from boys- Which influences future career choices. Broadly art subjects more likley to be chosen by females, and science and technology subjects by males

-Women are still less likley than men with similar qualifications to achieve similar levels of success in paid employment- Likely in the future women will be better qualified than men, if they continue to outperform men in eductaion, but this does not necessarily mean this change will be reflected in paid employment 

-Archer: Argues that the current underachivemnt by boys in education mask the continuing problems that girls face. She claims that high-achieving Asian and Chineas girls get negatively labelled by teachers as robots who are incapable of independent though. She argues that black working class girls are negatively labelled as loud and agressive.

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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

Explaining gender differences in education: Why do females do better than males:

  • The women's movement and feminism- Challenged traditonal stereotypes of women's roles. Girls socialised into ways of behaving that well-suited to classroom enviroments. Policies-The Equal pay act 1971 & Sex Discrimination act have helped create equal oppertunities, this has changed the attitudes in school.
  • Equal oppertunities- Work of feminism highlighting underperformance of girls led to greater emphasis on equal oppertunities. Policies included: Gender bias, encouraging "girl-friendliness", campaigns such as "Wise" have aimed to inspire, teachers are more senstive about avoiding gender stereotyping
  • Growing ambition& more postive role models- Changes in market have created oppertunities for women, since 1970's there has been continued increase in size of the service sector, which traditionally female-dominated & shrinking of the primary sector,which is male dominated. Sharpe: Found girls priorities have changed, they now want careers & qualifications, more women go out work, so girls see positive role models. Browne: Say teaching has been feminised, women are liely to be classroom teachers, esp in primary schools, gives girls positive role models
  • Girls work harder and are better motivated- Evidence that girls are more conscientous and better organized. Francis: Development of feminine identity linked to supportive attitdude is enhanced by pro-school peer group
  • Girls mature earlier- Girls more reponsible of the academic and career choices. Swann: Think that high FA is a result of the quality of interaction they have with the teachers
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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

Explaining gender differences in education: Why do boys underachieve?

  • Lower expectations- Interpetivists say that teachers have lower expectations of boys, teachers expectations may lead to a self-fufilling prophecy of poor behaviour.
  • Boys are more disruptive- Negative labelling may explain why they're more disruptive, male peer group devalue work, boys are over 3 times more likley than girls to be excluded.
  • Masculinity and the anti-learning subclulture- Forde et al: Peer group pressure encourages boys to maintain dominant masculine identity,involves rejecting academic work. The feminisation of teaching means that boys don't have have as many role models. Boys avoid books, may not develop vital communication skills.
  • Declining traditional male employment oppertunities and the idenitity crisis- Mac an Ghaill: Boys may be having an identity crisis, the rise of female independence, the decline of the breadwinner role and the rise of male unemployment might mean that boys don't see the point of education- This may lead to a anti-school subculture (Willis- "Lads")
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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

Why do males and females still tend to study different subjects? Traditionally, science subjects have been seen as masculine and arts and humanities and languages as feminine. Skelton: Science subjects, taken by males, seen as more difficult and of higher status than what are regarded as the lower status "soft" easier subjects taken by girls

  • Gender socialisation- The ideas of femininty and masculinity can create different expectations and stereotypes of what pupils should study. Research in 1974 by Lobban: Evidence of gender stereotyping in children books
  • Subject counselling- Teachers and career advisors, chanelling boys and girls into choosing different gendered subjects
  • Subject images, gender identity and peer pressure- Colley: Gender perceptions of different subjects are important influences on subject choices. Skelton: Males and females may tend to be drawn to different  subjects areas due to their own ideas of what is appropriate. Paether: Sport seen as primarily a masculine activity which encouraged girls to opt out of the subject, BUT: females who did choose it, had to cope by working hard im other ways to express their femininity, those who didnt risked being marginalized by peers for appearing "unfeminine". Colley: Changing content of the curriculum of some subjects can alter its gender identity, E.G: Music traditionally seen as feminine subject, it became more popular to boys as subject have more computing & electronic based, contributing to masculinity
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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

Schooling and gender indentities: Schooling processes reinforces and reproduces gender identities, particularly reinforces elements of patriarchal control of males over female. Francis: Gender is important part of our social identity and fitting in at school often means adopting behaviour which conforms to gender stereotypes, those failing to, risk peer-group marginalization. Gender inequalities and patriarchal relations through schooling:

  • Gendered verbal behaviour: Boys gain greater proportions of the teachers time, boys dominate talk in classroom and ridiculing girls contributions
  • Gendered physical behaviour: Boys are more likely to get into confrontations with the teacher, creates a sense of girls being invisable, boys dominate physical space,excercise of patriarchal power
  • Gendered pursuits: Girls classroom talk involve pursuits that focus on their appeareance and the constructions of femininity and to please boys- Mac an Ghaill- called the "male gaze"
  • Gendered classroom behaviour and power: Girls may find themselves as silenced, ridiculed, even by other girls if they don't conform to mainstream conceptions of femininty
  • The role of teachers: Teachers often have different expectations of pupils, according to their gender, with girls expected to be conformists, girls who don't conform to what is seen as appropriate gender behaviour and behave badly are penalized compared to boys, whose behaviour is seen as "boys will be boys"
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Topic 3: Gender and differential achievement:

  • What about girls? Educational research shown that teachers focus more attention and spend more time on boys

-Spender: Teachers time is spent on the the troublesome boys, rather than girls who are keen to learn

-Stanworth: Students themselves thought boys got more than twice the amount of attention

-Francis: Found classrooms were dominated by boys and girls were seen getting less attention

-Feminist researchers- Jackson et al: Became increasingly angry at the way educational policy in recent years has ignored girls, girls remain marginalized as boys are given greater priority. There needs to be a focus on issues like how peer pressures and demands for femininity can be damaging to girls self concepts.

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Topic 3: Ethnicity and educational achievement

Some Ethnic Groups do better than others: There are big variations between the average achievement level of different ethnic minority groups

  • Higher levels of achievement: Chinease pupils are highest achievers at GCSE, Indian pupils also perform above the national average. Students who are from mixed ethinicity backgrounds tend to perform above the national average at GCSE. Female black and male Asian groups have some of the highest rates of students entering higher education
  • Lower levels of achievement: Fewer black pupils get 5 A*-C passe at GCSE than any other major ethnic groups. Roma, white and Bangladeshi students are the least likely to continue into higher education. Appear to have below average reading skills. In primary schools most ethinc minority pupils lag behind white British born pupils, BUT: particularly Indian Asians make greater progress than White British pupils throughout compulsary education
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Topic 3: Ethnicity and educational achievement

Explanations for ethnic group differences in education: Underachievement of some minority ethnic groups:

  • Social class and material factors- The Swann Report: Found that socio- economic status was factor in lower levels of achievement of African Caribbean pupils. Two-fifths of people from ethnic minorities were living in poverty in 2012/3. Pakistani, Bangladeshi, African Caribbean groups more likely to be in lower class positions, such as routine occupations-  Result in poor housing, periods of unemployment, poverty &material deprivation. Chinease &Indian Asian pupils more likely to come from business, professional middles class backgrounds. Gibson: SC factors do not completely override influence of ethnic inequality, pupils from msame social class background but from different ethnic groups still show marked inequalities in attainment
  •  Language- Around 18% of pupils in primary schools & 13% in secondary schools didn't have english as first language- 2013. Pupils for whom English is additional lamguage often have lower attainment. Labelling theorists would say that language might not be barrier,dialects might influence teacher expectations lead to negative labelling
  • Family life and parental support- Ballard: That the close knit extented families and high parental expectations increase levels of achievement in Asian communities. Archer and Francis: Chinease parents saw education as hugely important and this seemed to create desire for achievement. Relatively high levels of divorce in African Caribbean households could result in material deprivation. BUT: Independence can mean postive role models
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Topic 3: Ethnicity and educational achievement

Explanations for ethnic group differences in education: Underachievement of some minority ethnic groups: Processes inside school

  • Labelling theory- Teachers have different expectations of different ethnic groups. Gillborn: Teachers sometimes negatively label black students. African- Caribbean students were seen as a challenge to school authority- more likely to be excluded from school. Gillborn calls this the "Myth of the black challenge". Teachers have high expectations of Asian students, which could lead to a self-fufilling prophecy of success, in contrast, negative labelling could result in a self fufilling prophecy of failure
  • School Curriculum: School Curriculum is seen as ethnocentric- That it might fit the mainstream, white, middle class culture better than other ethnicities
  • Institutional Racism: See British education as "Institutional racists". This is where policies and attitudes unitentionally discriminate ethnic minority groups. Wright: Even though members of staff said they committed to equal oppertunities, Asian girls got less attention from teachers and felt their cultural traditions were disapproved of.

These factors might lead to low self esteem for ethnic minorities. Coard: Black studnets are made to feel inferior in schools.

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