Class and Education

The material provided in the ‘subcultures’ section above has links to social class as Paul Willis saw a clear class divide between the children at the school. Here the lesson could begin with a discussion on material and cultural deprivation. Breaking down each term, can students guess what these terms might mean? This is a useful skill to develop as students may be faced with definition type questions in the exam. Once definitions have been ascertained, the class could discuss what influence these factors have on educational achievement, and to what extent. Considering ‘home factors’ and ‘school factors’ as explanations for educational success or failure, students could be asked to place a post-it note with their name on along a continuum marked on the board. This will help to visualise the differences in opinion and provide a sound basis for questioning individual students. The following video is a short, user-friendly summary of Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of social capital:

From this, draw out the idea of an ‘old boys network’ and ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ and look at the following Guardian newspaper article:

Discover More Is government run like an 'old boys' network'?

Discuss the range of issues raised here, which also have links to gender.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an influential philanthropic organisation which researches the causes of social problems and endeavours to identify ways in which such problems can be addressed. Their studies are clear and well-written, a good example being Cassen and Kingdon’s study into low achievement:

Discover More Tackling low educational achievement

This is a very accessible report and students should get confidence from being able to access a ‘non-textbook’ resource. Ask students to identify and brief explain the reasons for low achievement highlighted in the report. As a class, discuss the extent to which they feel the implications for policy are realistic.

As an extension task, students could summarise in their own words the Office for National Statistics’ research on how childhood circumstances affect levels of poverty and deprivation in adulthood.

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