Working Class Underachievement


Poverty/ Material Factors - Smith & Noble

  • Poor housing conditions can make studying at home difficult.
  • Higher levels of sickness affect school attendance.
  • Financially difficult for lower-paid paernts to support children in education after school leaving age, no matter how bright their prospects.
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Poverty/ Material Factors - Forsyth & Furlong

Material deprivation puts pressure on students to leave college, not attend it, or start apprentiships due to the cost.

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Poverty/ Material Factors - Evaluation

Previous governments introduced EMA, designed to tackle material deprivation to encourage students to stay at college.

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Poverty/ Material Factors - Usefulness

  • This is useful as it can explain why working-class children have higher rates of absenses - due to sickness and poor housing conditions.
  • Can also explain why working-class children might be unable to concentrate or be more distruptive in lessons as they are unlikely to have had breakfast.
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Parents Attitudes to Education - Douglas

  • Middle-class parents visit the schools more frequently to discuss how their children are getting on. This interest grows as children reach more important stages of education.
  • Are also more likely to encourage their children to stay at school beyond the minimum learning age.
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Parents Attitudes to Education - Evaluation

  • Diane Reay argues that 53% of the poorest families wanted their children to go to university, which would suggest they are still ambitiouseven in a system that is unlikely to help them.
  • Working-class parents are more likley to work longer hours, doing shift work and overtime. They are less likely than the middle-class to get paid for time off work.
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Parents Attitudes to Education - Usefulness

  • Douglas considers the idea that parents can be a positive resource, who encourage their children to revise, complete essays, and attend.
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Parents Level of Education - Phillips & Palmer

  • Argue middle-class parents are more 'child centred' because they have more social control and encourage their children to plan for the future.
  • Saunders - The middle-class are more intelligent, work harder, and are more motivated.
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Parents Level of Education - Evaluation

  • Keddie angrily rejects this view, working-class culture is just different, not inferior.
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Parents Level of Education - Usefulness

  • This is useful because it can explain why working-class children can be more difficult to teach and are more distruptive.
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Catchment Area - Coltron

  • Talked about the natural pull of your class. Families will self regulate so their children will attend working-class schools because its more comfortable.
  • Similar to cultural comfort zones - Tony Sewell
  • The highest performing comprehensives are more socially selective. They have 50% less children on free school meals than non exclusive schools (Sutton Trust).
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Catchment Area - Evaluation

  • Some schools in very wealthy catchment areas actually prioritise children who came from poverised areas - but this is very rare.
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Catchment Area - Usefulness

  • It is useful because it can explain why certain schools get incredibly good results. This may be because they are more selective about the students they take.
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Language Use - Bernstein

  • Success at school depends very heavily on language. There is a relationship between language use and social class.
  • Language used by the middle class has an elaborate code, while language used by the lower working-class has a restricted code.
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Language Use - Evaluation

  • Bernsteins argument is not validated because he assumes that all middle class speak in elaborated codes which isn't the case.
  • He fails to recognise the diversity of speach and provides little evidence to support his theory.
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Language Use - Usefulness

  • He considers the idea that working-class children might not be able to communicate with teachers or understand the content in textbooks. Meaning they are unlikely to pass/ succeed.
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Cultural Differences - Bourdieu

  • Symbolic violence - the knowledge, skills and experience of working-class culture is devalued.
  • Cultural capital - Middle-class children do better in education because their attitudes, values and behaviour (their culture) is similar to that of the teachers.
  • Habitus - Refers to the lifestyle, values and expectations that develop out of the experiences of a social group.
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Cultural Differences - Gerwitz

  • Both cultural capital and economic capital can be an advantage for middle-class and disadvantage for working-class.
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Cultural Differences - Evaluation

  • Lynch - Material deprivation is more important than cultural differences.
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Cultural Differences - Usefulness

  • Can explain why working-class children may stop engaging with teachers because their culture keeps being devalued.
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Teachers Attitudes, Streaming & Labelling - Becker

  • Studied 60 teachers from Chicago. The teachers had an ideal type about the type of student they would want to teach. This related to appropriate conduct, attitude, and appearances - most likely middle class kids. Interpreted working-class behaviour as lack of interest and motivation.
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Teachers Attitudes, Streaming & Labelling - Ball

  • Schools still set and stream. Driven by middle-class parents to protect their children from weaker or disruptive children. Schools are eager to attract middle-class kids.
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Teachers Attitudes, Streaming & Labelling - Reay

  • Views setting and streaming negatively. interviewed children as young as 10 and found they internalised what grade they were.
  • This impacted on how they saw themselves.
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Teachers Attitudes, Streaming & Labelling - Evalua

  • Blackman notes that black girls are often labelled very negatively by teachers and are located into lower sets. They work very hard to achieve in spite of the labels.
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Teachers Attitudes, Streaming & Labelling - Useful

  • Can explain why working-class children disengage in education and stop engaging with teachers. They have been labelled negatively and internalised these ideas, which result in them them giving up all together.
  • They highlight that kids in lower sets are restricted of higher grades.
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