Despite great improvements in educational level of the nation as a whole since the introduction of state education (1870), social class differences continue to occur. The main comparisons sociologists make, when looking at differences, is between the working-class and the middle-class. Most sociologists use parental occupations to determine a pupils class:
Middle-class: or non-manual occupations include professions such as doctors or teachers, together with managers and other ‘white collar’ office workers and owners of businesses.
Working-class: or manual occupations include skilled workers such as plumbers, semi-skilled workers such as lorry drivers and unskilled or routine workers like cleaners.
Social class background has a powerful influence on a child's chances of success in the education system. Children from middle-class backgrounds on average perform better than working-class children. Children of middle class parents do better at GCSE, stay longer in full-time education, and take the great majority of university places. One explanation for this is due to the existence of private education. (which only the middle class tend to have access to) However this existence cannot account for the differences within state education, and most sociological research has focused on why middle-class pupils do better than working class pupils within the state sector itself.
Internal and external factors: Sociologists are interested in why these class differences in educational achievement exist and they have put forward a number of explanations. We can group these into ‘internal’ and ‘external’ explanations or factors. (Though these factors are very often linked)
External factors- these are factors outside of the education system, such as influence of home and family background and wider society.
Internal factors- these are factors within schools and the education system, such as interactions between pupils and teachers, and inequalities between schools.
Class differences in children's development and achievement appear very early in life. For example a nationwide study by the Centre for Longitudinal Studies (2007) found that by the age of three, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are already up to one year behind those from more privileged homes and the gap widens with age. Some sociologists claim that this is the result of cultural deprivation. They argue that most of us begin to acquire the basic values, attitudes and skills that are needed for educational success through primary socialisation in the family. The basic ‘cultural equipment’ includes things such as language, self-discipline and reasoning skills. However according to cultural deprivation theorists many working-class families fail to socialise their children adequately. These children grow up ‘culturally deprived.’ (Lacking the cultural equipment needed to do well in order to do well and so therefore they underachievers due to this.) There are three main aspects to cultural deprivation; language, parents’ education and working-class subculture.
Language is an essential part of the process of education and the way in which parents communicate with their children affects their cognitive (intellectual) development and their ability to benefit from the process of schooling. For example; Hubbs-Tait et al (2002) found that where parents…