Social Class and Education Success

Lesson Objectives:
1. Investigate alternative explanations for diffrential achievement by social class
2 Research primary and secondary data to evaluate the importance of poverty in explaining differential achievement by social class

There are four stages to this lesson:
1. Work Through the exercise, drop into Word, print and read through carefully.
2. We will then come back together as a group to discuss the notes
3. Research the external link to gather evidence of the link between poverty and working class
4. Plenary

Statistics suggest that class is directly related to educational success or failure. The wealthier the family the better the child seems to do. A number of explanations have been put forward to explain this phenomenon
Poverty (material deprivation)
Family socialisation
Cultural deprivation
In school factors

The National Child Development Study found that children aged 7 from low households were on average 9 months behind in their education when compared to others. Material factors such as low income, poor diet, poor and overcrowded housing, and lack of resources all have a clear impact of the education of the working class child.
1. A study by Finn of older students who needed to engage in part time to contribute to the family wage highlighted the negative effects of part time work on the studentís concentration in school.
2. Halsey, Heath and Ridge in their study "Origins and Destinations" showed that material circumstances had a significantly bearing on whether a child went to or not.

Criticisms of Material Deprivation
Some poor children do achieve in education so there must be other factors at play.

The Psychologist H Eysenck has suggested that differences in educational achievement can be explained using the hereditary factor of innate or IQ. A person's IQ is a measured by dividing a person's mental age (determined by IQ tests) by their numerical age. Thus a person with a mental age of 12 but a numerical age of 10 has an IQ of 120. The average IQ is 100.

Criticisms of Eysenck
1. IQ test are flawed and can be seen to be biased
2. IQ test do not cover the vast amount of new research done of the nature of intelligence by such writers as Howard Gardiner (multiple intelligences)
3. Eysenck ignores the impact of , upbringing and society on a person's intelligence.

Family Socialisation and Cultural Explanations
JWB Douglas in a longitudinal study of UK school pupils asserted that the greatest impact on a student's progress was the level of interest shown in the child's education. Such a view is supported by the Newsons who claimed that middle class parents tended to provide more stimulating home environments.
Sugarman asserted that middle class children were brought up understanding the concept of "delayed " - the ability to understand that being willing to give up short term benefits might lead to greater long term benefits. For instance a working class child who doesn't understand delayed gratification will drop out of school to accept paid employment whereas the middle class child will see the potential benefits of the short term sacrifice of staying in school full time and working hard.
suggested that middle class families were more likely to bring up their children to speak a language or "code" which developed conceptual thought - he called this "Elaborated code" and contrasted it with the limited vocabulary of the " code" of the working class. Middle class pupils therefore have an immediate advantage in education because of the language they speak.
The Marxist write Bourdieu calls the advantage the middle classes have in education their "cultural capital". He argues that the culture of the school gives a distinct advantage to the classes and has the specific aim of excluding working class children from educational success.

In school Factors
The school can be seen to be a factor in explaining differential achievement aside from social class. Rutter in a study of 12 London Comprehensives concluded that the three crucial factors in whether standards were high or not were
1. The ethos of the school - i.e. whether the teachers had a shared sense of purpose and shared commitment to success
2. Good which was well organised, patient, inspirational, varied and punctual
3. An established set of uniformly applied and punishments

Much research by interactionists has focussed on the labelling of students by teachers.
1. Rosenthal and posed as educational psychologists went to a school and tested a class of pupils. They then told the teacher that 20% were potentially brighter than the others. Despite these 20% actually being selected quite randomly. When the children were re-tested a year later - these pupils had become the 'brightest'.
2. Ball in "Beachside Comprehensive" showed that teachers had expectations and therefore delivered less challenging lessons to lower band pupils even within comprehensive schools. Even when banding was abolished in the school Ball recorded that teacher labelling still continued in the mixed ability classroom.
Structural Explanations
Functionalists and Marxists look at the wider social and economic structure to explain differential achievement. Functionalists suggest the school serves the function of sorting out the higher ability from the lower ability in a society. This does not however explain why bright working class children still seem to do relatively badly.
Marxists claim that working class failure is actually an intention of the education system in capitalist society. The working class are condition to failure, trained to accept lower status, to authority, and acceptance of middle class dominance.