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Social class

and
educational
attainment
The facts about working class
children
They are less likely to be found in nursery schools

More likely to be poor readers when they start


school

More likely to be in low sets at school

More likely to underachieve at GSCE


and A Level

Less likely to go to university

More likely to leave school early

More likely to be suspended


and excluded
Why is it ? Think about what
some people say.
The parents dont
They are genetically raise them properly
less intelligent

Parents dont push


them hard enough!

They lack
resources The teachers dont
at home like them as much
as middle class
kids
So many are from
families who dont
have any hopes
for their children
Home
Factors

Some explanations mainly focus on a childs


background and how they are raised

These can focus on CULTURAL FACTORS


(socialisation/attitudes/values)

Or can focus on MATERIAL FACTORS


(resources/money)
Our Daz bter be
CULTURAL FACTORS no wimp at
school !

This is how a child is raised.

Its the environment that they


are reared in.

Its about how they are


SOCIALISED and what they
are taught to VALUE.
Explanation 1: Functionalist
Subcultural
Hyman (1967) the values of the lower
classes create a self-
imposed barrier to learning

- their values (1) low value on education


(2) play safe culture do
not
take risks/investment
(3) low level of self-belief
Sugarman (1970) the way that manual/non-
manual
work affects attitudes to
learning.
Working class Middle class
Fatalistic Control
Immediate Deferred
gratification gratification
Present time Future oriented
orientation
Collectivism Individualist
Working class children tend to live for today with a
carefree attitude. No career plan..no long-game.
They give up and opt for the easiest path!
J W B Douglas (1964) - Home and the School
- parental attitudes and
socialisation

This was a landmark longitudinal study of 5000


children
born in 1948.

Many tests used covered so many areas


Discovered that middle class children were
succeeding and choosing to stay on at
school.

Why was this so?

- parental interest
- pre-school socialisation
PARENTAL INTEREST

Visited schools more and were


keen to support learning.

They were focused on future


success and how to get there.

They encouraged and supported


their childrens learning.
PRE-SCHOOL
SOCIALISATION
Stress HIGH ACHIEVEMENT and not
settling for second best

Demand more of their children


keep the pressure on/re-do work
again etc

Encourage constant improvement

Rewarding success

Having a STIMULATING environment


Feinstein (2003) parental support & education
Conducted the National Child Development Study
Findings:
- nursery schooling improved educational
achievement
- the school attended made little difference,

but children with low ability did poorly in

schools with few children from

professional backgrounds
- financial deprivation had some effect,
but seemed to be largely linked to
parental interest
- The most important factor was the extent
Explanation 2: Language in
the home
This explanation focuses upon the language
development that takes place in the home.

It claims that a childs thinking can be helped or


hindered by the language that a child is
exposed to at home

It also notes how education and


teachers operate with a middle-class bias
Basil Bernstein (1972)
Language is linked to developing
understanding and thinking
There are two language codes:
- the restricted code
- the elaborated code

The restricted code


Shorthand speech, short, simple sentences. Has an
assumed element to it. Meanings are implicit. Much
depends on gesture and expression.

The elaborated code


Detailed, explanatory, illustrative, analytical.
Meanings are explicit.
The benefits of an elaborate code
Elaborate code enables people to think
at a deeper level.

The elaborate code leads to a greater ability to use


abstract thinking. That is to use concepts and make
connections between ideas effectively.

Elaborate code enables greater explanation


and analysis to take place.

These skills are vital for achieving well at


school.
The restricted code and the
working class
Working class families are based upon relationships
that are hierarchical. No negotiation over decisions,
parents assume authority (No back-chat!) and there
is
no discussion or elaborate dialogue.

The same is true of working class jobs too..

manual workers know their place in a


hierarchy and have little scope to negotiate
and discuss.

This language code disadvantaged working


The elaborate code and the
middle class
Middle class families have less rigid relationships in them. The
hierarchy is more flexible. People here are treated more as
individuals who are entitled to have something to say. These
families share decision-making and negotiation is common place.

The same is true of middle-class non-manual jobs,


where the middle class worker has more respect,
freedom and independence.

Schools operate with the elaborate code and therefore


middle class children are at an advantage.
Evaluation
Is social class so distinct today?
A biased theory ultra critical of working class lifestyle ( a
kind of ethnocentricism)
Do the working class live in a vacuum detatched from wider
values and influence?
Lack of money/poverty prevent the working class from
engaging with learning
Impact of working class jobs = less freedom to support
children
Working class parents feel uncomfortable in schools where
they were failed
Methodologically difficult to research subcultures hard to
access ethnographic flavour of culture
A degree of victimology blaming the working class. These
ideas maintain the myth that the w/c have equal
opportunities.
The working class is not just one group it is not a
homogenous massso inaccurate to treat it as such.
Cultural Capital Theory

Pierre Bourdieu
Education is biased towards the
middle class

How middle class dominant


culture
converts into educational
success.
Social Social function of Cultural
reproduction elimination reproduction

Schools working class Schools


reproduce exam failure reproduce
social inequality (due to lacking dominant class
dominant culture)
The powerful
Success/failure is
impose their
legitimated by Self-elimination definition of
social hierarchy choose to drop reality
out/see unfair on others
system
Dominant culture
=
cultural capital

(socialisation)
Recent studies supporting
Bourdieu
Ball, Bowe & Gewirtz
They explored the way that middle class parents
today have greater cultural capital and they:

- play the system

- have more stamina to research schools/appeal


etc

- have material advantages to support their child, ie,


transport to go to better school further away.
MATERIAL FACTORS
These relate more to money and
resources.

Mainly Marxist in emphasis.

Focus on how a persons financial


situation impacts on their childs
learning.

This is not about values or


attitudes, but the realities of an
unfair society.
Explanation 5: Class Positional
Theory
Raymond Boudon
Argues that where you are positioned in the

social class structure will affect your life chances


and opportunities

Primary effects of stratification


Socialisation subculture/values

Secondary effects of stratification

Social effects cost/benefit, rational choice,


demotion/promotion, class & pressures

Material effects - poverty


Further studies of material
factors
Smith & Noble (1995)
They note :

1. Marketisation competing schools since 1988, will


lead to some skills succeeding and creaming off
the middle class talented

2. Money allows parents to provide educational


toys, books, healthy diet, space, travel, private
tuition

3. Schools now charge for trips/equipment which


working class families cant afford. LEAs cutting
back on free school meals/transport costs
Home Factors Question &
Answer
MAY 2005

ASSESS THE VIEW THAT WORKING-


CLASS
UNDERACHIEVEMENT IS THE RESULT OF
HOME
CIRCUMSTANCES AND FAMILY
BACKGROUND
Home factors

evaluate

Think about the BLAME AGENDA here!!!!


planning
Types of factor Details Studies Critique

Cultural Parental involvement

Socialisation/values

language

Material