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Sociology 2OO8-09

 AS course

Education Unit

AS Gateway      Education Gateway            HOME

This is a complete guide to the unit.

updated 2OO8 but still under construction  


Index & hyperlinked!

The Structure of Education

Functionalists and Education

Talcott Parsons

Education - a Liberal perspective

Social Democratic perspectives on education 1944-2002

Marxism or conflict perspectives

The New Right

The organization of Teaching and Learning - Secondary Socialization

The Conservative Government Education Policies 1979 -1997

Training - The New Vocationalism

The 1993 Education Act

Research into Educational Reforms

Education and Inequality - ‘Differential Achievement 1’ 

New Labour 1997- 2008 - Government Education Policies

Education  - Research methods

Gender and Schooling - 'Differential Achievement 2'

Ethnicity and educational attainment

Research Methods - Sampling and Secondary Source Data






Sociology 2008 AS course. Education - unit 2

Read the section on Education in any GCSE Sociology text book as an introduction.


Preamble - In the distant past education was seen as a way of preparing young people for adult life.  Education is a Latin word to mean = to lead  out.   The leading out might be for new skills, writing etc.


Some cultures did enable the development of institutions - usually religious - that promoted individuals to the specialised role of teacher.  E.g. Buddhism in Tibet and Thailand, medieval Europe, Christian monks in monastic surroundings etc.   This was usually for a small percentage of the population and meant that education was seen as a class thing.  It was the industrialisation of the country [Europe & USA] that allowed for the education of the masses.


Free Education for all

This began in 1870 by Forster’s Education Act. [Some state contribution as early as 1833]  This made provision for education.  It was not until 1880 that school attendance was made compulsory for those under 10.  In 1918 the Fisher Education Act made the state responsible for secondary education and attendance was made compulsory until the age of 14.  In 1947 the result of the 1944 Butler Education Act was to raise the age to 15.   This Act also created a clear division in the institutions.  Primary for ages 5-11 and Secondary schools for those aged 11-16.  Secondary schools were of three types:- Grammar; Secondary Modern and Technical. [The tripartite system].  The school leaving age was raised to 16 in 1973.


Also during that century there was an increase in those staying on in education and of those who returned to study later in their lives. [Adult learners].


The Robbins Report, [1963] paved the way for the growth in the free universities with the provision of student grants [beer money] and free tuition fees.  This also created higher staying on rates in the 16-18 sector [UK 1990 - 36% of 16-18’s in full time education - Cornwall in 2001 - roughly 80% in full time study [F.E. and Sixth form].


So, what we have in the provision of education in the UK has been achieved through the passing of laws by Parliament over time.  These laws have been created through the formulation of Government Education policy.  These policies have varied between the Conservative and Labour Governments and, as is the case with the Conservatives, have varied within a political party’s time in office.  Each decade has seen a particular focus.


ź         1960’s - widening access and participation in education.

      Growth of the universities - foundation of the Open University by Harold Wilson - Comprehensive Schools -            massive building programmes begun.

ź         1970’s - promotion of equality of opportunity - continued building programme

      Comprehensive Schools - Tory interpretations of how they should be run.

ź         1980’s - curriculum content, parental choice, establishment of ‘bench marks’ for standardisation known as Key            Stages  - Sats, local management LMS

      The National Curriculum, setting out what everybody should be taught.

      Control of teachers - loss of one week’s holiday for INSET

ź         1990’s - role of further education, vocational training, performance tables, ofsted.

      Target setting for schools, students and teachers;  SCIT schemes;

ź         2000’s - AS courses; Citizenship; Green Paper for reforming 14-19 education with focus on practical subject areas; Faith Schools, six term year, teacher conditions of service and teacher recruitment, LSC control over   16-18 courses, end of GCSE??


Reality of the situation  - sources is Benn and Chitty 1997.

This couple - Caroline and Clive did research in 1997 which viewed the overall structure within UK secondary education.  Their work was begun in 1994 and included a survey of Gov. Statistics and some questionnaires.

The reality they found was that the UK has a diverse education system within its four countries.  NI has no Comps.  Scotland has its own exam system.   Grammar schools still exist for 3.6% of the school population.  Comps are 79%, [99% in Scotland and Wales].  Private education is roughly 10% of the school population.  10% of pupils are being educated within Faith schools.  Within England the leas have been able to interpret Government legislation in an individual way to suit the make-up of the locality. 


Research by Glatter, Woods and Bagley in 1997 concluded that the UK has many local education systems rather than one national system.  A complicated and diverse system.


By way of proof

To illustrate how dependent the UK system is on Gov. Policies you have only to look at the grant maintained schools.  These were set up by the Conservatives and were done away with by the Labour 1997 Gov.  The influence of these policies is immense and involves vast quantities of resources.  In respect of Grammar school the Government wishes to end these but only through parental decision making.  It has no plans to abolish them.




Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done

1. What was the tripartite system of education?  What are the arguments for and against this division today?


2. What was there an apparent difference between the Conservative and Labour Government’s attitude to the tripartite system of education?


3. What did 'Benn and Chitty' say about the UK education system?  What evidence is there today to prove or disprove these claims.


4. Create ONE question from this section to test somebody else.


Functionalists and Education


Functionalist research into education has been motivated by two main questions.


1. What are the functions of education for society as a whole?  How does it fit in with the social solidarity of society as a whole?


2. What is the functional relationship between education and other parts of the social system?  [This links to the relationship of education to the economic system and how this helps to integrate society as a whole.]


Functionalism - as you would expect - focuses on the positive contributions that education makes to society.


‘The function of education is to transmit society’s norms and values’ - Emile Durkheim.


‘Society can only survive if there exists among its members a sufficient degree of homogeneity;  education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity’.  Emile Durkheim.


Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)  A French founding father of sociology.  His theories and writings helped establish the foundations of modern sociology.  Durkheim disagreed with most social theorists of the late 1800's because they thought that individual psychology was the basis of sociology.  Durkheim regarded sociology as the study of the society that surrounds and influences the individual.  Durkheim explained his theories in his book The Rules of Sociological Method (1895).   In The Division of Labour (1893), Durkheim developed the theory that societies are bound together by two sources of unity.  He called these sources mechanical solidarity and organic solidarity.  Mechanical solidarity refers to similarities that many people in the society share, such as values and religious beliefs.  Organic solidarity results from the division of labour into specialized jobs.  Durkheim believed that the division of labour makes people depend on one another and thus helps create unity in a society. 


Durkheim studied thousands of cases of suicide to demonstrate his theory that a person commits suicide because of the influence of society.  He explained this theory in Suicide (1897).  Durkheim was born in Epinal.  He studied at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris and taught sociology at the University of Bordeaux and at the Sorbonne in Paris. 



In respect of the importance of Education Durkeim wrote that without common goals - co-operation etc. social life would be impossible. There needs to be a commitment to society; a feeling of belonging and a feeling that the social unit is more important than the individual.  So that a child must be aware that there is something which is real, alive and powerful which dominates and to which he owes the best part of himself to.  Creating a true commitment.


History was seen as a vehicle for the transmission of these values so that a child can appreciate that they are part of something greater than themselves.  This will in turn develop a sense of commitment to the social group.             


School serves as a function which cannot be provided by peer group or by family.  To have friends you make personal choice;  to belong to a family is based on kinship.  Being a member of a society is based on neither of these principles.  People in society need to co-operate with people who are neither their kin nor their friends.   School provides the context by which these skills can be learnt.  It is a society in miniature.  Interaction is needed with other people following the rules of the institution.  This is preparation for adult integration into full membership of society.


Emile Durkheim believed that school rules should be fully enforced and transgressions punished.  By so experiencing this micro society the child would realise the importance of self-discipline not just to avoid punishment but because they realised that such misbehaviour damaged society as a whole.  Subjects like Science including Social Science - e.g. Sociology would teach children to understand the rational basis upon which society was organised.


‘It is by respecting the school rules that the child learns to respect rules in general’. 

             Emile Durkheim.


Education is needed in a modern industrial society because of the complex division of labour that such societies have.  The skills needed for a specialised work-force cannot be taught by the family.  The social solidarity of modern society is based upon the interdependence of specialised skills.  Schools provide the homogeneity through the transmission of general values and also specific skills needed for co-operative behaviour.  This is called unity based on value consensus e.g. rules on property rights; and the promotion of a specialised labour market the members of which combine to produce goods and services.



American practices allow for a common educational curriculum that has instilled shared norms and values into a population with divers backgrounds.  The insistence on learning English, the teaching of the lives of the Founding Fathers and learning about the Constitution through the person of Abraham Lincoln and his journey from log cabin to the White House.  Thus stressing the American values of equality of opportunity and achievement.  Also by beginning the school day with the oath of allegiance to the Stars and Stripes.   Students are socialised into a commitment to society as a whole.


I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.







David Hargreaves - Durkheim supporter - 1982

Functionalists have criticised the comprehensive school model because of its emphasis of developing the individual.  Hargreaves argued that not enough stress is placed upon the duties and responsibilities that an individual has towards the group life of the school.  It is not following the ideals of Durkheim of a micro society.  He also accused schools of not providing enough of a sense of dignity for working class children.   Such children who do not have dignity and a sense of belonging to the school will rebel and create their own subcultures which reject the school and the values that it is promoting and therefore reject wider society as a whole.


Hargreaves argued for more stress to be placed upon the social role of the individual pupil within school.  Competence, contributions to school life and being valued need to be enhanced.  In order for this to occur Hargreaves proposed the following changes to the curriculum:-

1.      Provision for students to pursue areas of study that they have a special interest or talent in.

2.      Compulsory part of the curriculum e.g. Community Studies so that students realise their role in society.

3.      Art, craft and sport to play a vital role.  Plays etc. allow students to contribute to a collective enterprise.  This would develop a sense of loyalty to the school and foster respect for each other and the contribution that they are making to the school.

Criticisms of Emile Durkheim

1. Do schools in the UK adequately transmit shared values, promote self-discipline, cement social solidarity?  Is it there responsibility to do so?

2. Are the norms and values assumed by Emile Durkheim, as transmitted by schools, those of society as a whole, or are they the norms and values of the ruling classes - an elite?

3. Hargreaves more aware of the variety of cultures and values in society and points to the limitations of modern day education.

4. But recent changes in education encourage individual competition and lead individuals to make vocational decisions.  Therefore community studies and sport could be argued as not the best subjects for preparation for working life.

5. As functionalists Emile Durkheim and Hargreaves are against individual competition in an exam system but other functionalists - The New Right - see competition as a vital aspect of modern education.


Talcott Parsons

Writing in the 1950’s this functionalist sociologist has been the representative for education views.  He argued that the school, after the family, takes on the role of the focal socialising agency.  School acts as bridge between the family and society as a whole. In a family the child is judged against particular standards whereas in society the child is set against universalistic standards.  A child’s status is ascribed in that it is fixed by birth; in modern societies status is largely achieved.  The usual example being occupational status.   School begins this process by providing universalistic standards for children to achieve their status.  Conduct is measured against school rules; their achievement against performance in tests.  This is applied to all regardless of background.   This is referred to as a meritocracy - success is achieved through individual merit.  This compares equally with Emile Durkheim’s view on the school being society in miniature.  Industrial society rewards its people according to achievement rather than to an ascribed status.  [Achieved v. Ascribed status]


The Value System

Schools socialise into the basic value of society.  In the USA the two most important value that education instills is:-

ź         1. The value of achievement

ź         2. The value of equal opportunities. 

This is important in an industrial society when a highly motivated achievement orientated workforce is required.  Everybody perceives it as fair even the losers as it is based on meritocracy.

ź         How does this compare to the UK system? 

ź         Are we at the same point or, moving towards it?


Parsons also identified education as a way towards selection of individuals for their future role in society.   Human resources are allocated roles and therefore education is involved in role allocation - matching occupations to talents.


ź         Do schools transmit values of society or the values of the ruling classes?

ź         Are schools truly meritocratic?

Kingsley Davis & W.E. Moore - role allocation  1945 and 1967

The education system sifts, sorts and grades individuals in terms of their talents and abilities - it rewards the most talented with occupations that are functionally more important in society.


Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. What ideas does a functionalist sociologist have about education?


2. Emile Durkheim had strong views about education - identify between five and ten of them.


3. Explain Talcott Parsons ideas about  ‘focal socialising agency'; ‘meritocracy’ and ‘Achieved v. Ascribed status’.


4. What changes to the UK education system did David Hargreaves put forward?


5. What criticisms of Emile Durkheim have there been.  Do his views stand the test of time and reinterpretation today? Is he just Mr. Functionalism?


6. Create ONE question from this section to test somebody else.


Add more questions and comments here:-

Education - a Liberal perspective

Liberals view education as the promotion of the well being of the individual rather than aimed at improving society as a whole.  Not a sociological perspective but a view of many writers.


USA - John Dewy

Schools should have individuals develop their true potential and it was the school’s responsibility to develop - intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual talents. 

He criticised rote learning - instead argued for progressive teaching involving learning by experience so that they can develop skills to solve a wide range of problems.   Think critically about world around. 

ź         This is vital in a successful democracy.

ź         People must think for themselves.

ź         Can help to reduce inequalities.

ź         Such views have influence policies in the USA and the UK

LB Johnson saw the solution to all the national problems as ‘education’ - single word.  This related to his war on poverty and the underprivileged. Equal opportunities.


In the UK the 60’s and 70’s saw the growth in ‘Child centred education’.  But after the William Tyndale School inspection of 1975 the UK began to head in a different direction.


Reaction to Liberalism

This is called the new vocationalism of 80’, 90’s & 00's.  A reaction to the liberal progressive attitudes.  Even Marxist are critical of it because it cannot achieve its goals because of the inequalities in society.  Social change / revolution in society is needed first.



Deschooling Society -  Ivan Illitch - Theologian / RC Priest.

A very important contribution to the sociology of education.  He argued in the 1970's that formal education should be abolished as it is unnecessary and even harmful to society.

ź         He does not propose that schools teach skills instead he suggests skill exchanges - the opportunity for instructors to teach others the skill they would need in their daily lives.

ź         Learning webs for people to meet around to meet around and discuss a problem

ź         Rejection of professionals to do jobs.


Schools are seen as repressive institutions that smoother and indoctrinate children.   They induce conformity and make students accept the interests of the powerful.   This is the hidden curriculum which works in the following way:-

1.      No control over what they learn.

2.      Schools demand conformity.

3.      Qualifications confused with skills. / Schooled to confuse teaching with learning; grade advancement with education; diplomas with competence.


Sees the educational system as the root of problems in the industrial society.

ź         Schools create mindless citizens

ź         To be mindless consumers

ź         Trained to accept that those in authority know best.

ź         Deferring to the authority of the specialist.

ź         Goods cannot bring material happiness no matter the quantity.

As long as we are not aware of the ritual through which the school shapes the progressive consumer - the economy's major resource - we cannot break the spell of this economy and shape a new one’.

Deschooling lies at the roots of any human liberation and will destroy the reproductive organ of a consumer society.


Although in sympathy with him Marxists like Bowles and Gintis [1976] see a major floor in that the problems that Illitch identifies have their roots in the economic system.  Therefore liberation involves a revolutionary change in the economic infrastructure of society.




Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. What are the features of the Liberal perspective on education?


2. These theories are referred to as  ‘Structural Determinism’.  What does this mean?


3. Is Ivan Illitch more of a Marxist that a Liberal?



Social Democratic perspectives on Education - 1944 - 1980

The dominant approach in the post world war 2 UK education scene.  Not just a theory as such but a perspective that has been used by individual groups and writers e.g.  A.H. Halsey and present day economic thinkers such as John Vaizey of the Labour Party.


Equal Opportunities- 1950s and 1960’s

ź         Social Democratic viewpoint is the support of the democratic parliamentary processes and for the state to only intervene in matters such as education so as to reduce the inequalities created by the free market economy.   They disagree with functionalists who say that education provides genuine equal opportunities.

ź        Halsey argued that education does not offer the same opportunities to the lower and upper classes.  Evidence = in failure [from statistics of education system] of those students whose parents do not have high material resources.

ź         Writers were critical (Jean Floud and C. Anderson ) of the three way division of the UK schools as created by the Education Act of 1944.

ź         Secondary Modern Schools - where most went - these children failed to develop their true potential.

ź         Also failed to provide the country with a trained workforce ready for modern society.

ź         Therefore a failure of the equal opportunities agenda of post war Britain.

ź         Social Democrats would see themselves as the champions of social justice.

ź        Tony Crossland - a well known Labour Party politician wrote in his book ‘The Future of Education  that a fairer education system would also equalise the distribution of rewards and privileges - social mobility would increase which would mean that class distinctions would become blurred.



The Issue of ‘Economic Growth

ź         The social democratic perspective saw that prosperity would be brought to all by allowing everybody to develop their potential and make the maximum contribution to society.   This was the promotion of  ‘meritocracy’ = economic growth for all = loads of money.

ź        Theodore Shulz 1961 USA argued the skills and knowledge were forms of capital.

ź         Invest more in your workforce and efficiency and productivity would increase.  Proof in the USA farms with educated workforce outperformed those farms that the workers were uneducated.

ź         This was the principle applied to the UK from 1944 with increased spending on education to produce a more skilled workforce.

ź         To implement this progressive Labour Governments introduced Comprehensive Schools and policies that put more money into Education Priority Areas.   These policies have been returned to under New Labour with ‘Education Action Zones’.  Similarly putting new ‘extra money’ into areas of deprivation.  [Camborne - Pool - Redruth].  And this also included money for homework clubs and our own DISC... See on for more details..



ź         Functionalists argued education already doing the job OK.

ź         Social democracy said that education had limitations but if it were more fairly structured a more egalitarian society could be created.   But there were criticisms....



ź         Educational failure continued to be a marked feature of poorer classes.

ź         School refusers were absenting themselves from the new opportunities.

ź         1980 study by Halsey, Heath & Ridge found little evidence of change amongst males.

ź         Marxist theories began to dominate - pointing to a failure in society as a whole.  Education could not put right the inequalities in society as a whole.

ź         Criticisms of the UK education system not meeting the needs of industry.

ź         Key speeches made - James Callaghan - 1976 - began the 'Great Education Debate'.

ź         New Conservative Gov. of 1979 dominated by the New Right argued that the liberal approach of E.O. and individual potential were reducing educational standards.  Comprehensives schools were seen as the cause of this.

ź         Also education was not delivering the skills needed for employers and so the profits being created by industry were not being invested to help industry and were therefore being wasted.

Workforce skills fact? or fiction?

ź         What educational requirements are needed in an advanced industrial society?  The issue is whether industrial work has meant reskilling or deskilling.  If deskilled no need for educational growth - not needed by the workers.

ź         The 1972 study by Randall Collins of education, work and American Society concluded that the contribution of education in advanced industrial societies has be exaggerated.

1. Studies in various countries show that after mass literacy has been achieved there is not a significant change in economic development.

2. Occupational skills are learnt on the job and firms provide their own apprenticeships and training schemes.

3. Collins said that - Higher Education - excepting vocational degrees H.E. serves to raise the status of the occupation rather than transmit knowledge and skills needed for its performance.

ź         A controversial conclusion!

ź        M.White - 1990 - argued that higher levels of general education more important in society than vocational skills.  Versatile, adaptable that is flexible learners were now needed.

Global economy

ź         A feature of globalization is that educational standards are vital are needed for economic success.

ź         Marxists argue that equal opportunities impossible at the same time as class inequality.  Some people will be more successful than others because of the class they come from.

ź         Comprehensive Schools only gave social cohesion rather than trying to transform society.

ź         Working class education was in the C19 about promoting awareness of the injustices in society.  That is making the working class aware of what they were missing out on.   Political agitation was an intended conclusion and became a feature then in order to improve society.  Not the case now.  Education does not make children or adults think that they are missing out on something.

ź         Modern day education has done little to promote class / gender consciousness or equality between all UK citizens.

            [Source - Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies - 1981 - Birmingham University].



Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have don


1. What has been the main influence of social democracy on the UK education system since WW2?


2. How has economic growth been linked to the importance of the education system?


3. What was and who initiated the great debate about education?


4. What has research shown about the truth about workforce skills?


5. Create a diagram / mind map that explains the relationship between globalization and education.


6. Now produce a question from this section to test somebody else on.

Marxism or conflict perspectives - 1970’s

This perspective has the point of view that groups exist in society that have different interests and that some groups benefit from certain positions that they hold in society.  Conflict sociologists can see change benefiting education but they say these changes must be accompanied by wider social changes.


ź        Bowles and Gintis 1976 USA - main role of education is the reproduction of labour. [Marxists]

ź         They use the phrase ‘correspondence’ - this means the connection between the personal interactions of the workplace with the social relationships that exist in the education system.

ź         The correspondence principle is that education is subservient to the needs of those who control the workforce - the owners of the means of production.

  The Correspondence principle Theory

The hidden curriculum

Like Marx - Bowles and Gintis - see work as exploitive and alienating.  [Yes they are classed as Marxist even though they are American].  But if capitalism is to succeed then it needs workers who are docile and highly motivated and too divided and fragmented to challenge management.  The education system through the ‘hidden curriculum’ does this.  So, lesson content and examinations are not important rather it is the form that teaching and learning takes place and the way that schools are organised.   So, it is what students learn through attending rather than the aims and objectives that a school has.

ź        Bowles and Gintis argue that it shapes the workforce through:-

1.      Production of subservient workforce who can be easily manipulated by the employers.  Pupils must obey the school rules so that they are ready to obey the rules of their workplace.

2.      Encourages the acceptance of the concept of hierarchy.   As required in the workplace.  The Boss!  Pupils can see that teachers follow the directions of those above them.

3.      Motivated by external rewards - via the jug and mug principle.  Work in capitalist society is unsatisfying - the need to make the most profit.  So workers must be motivated by an external reward - the pay packetPupils are rewarded by being able to sit examinations and receiving certificates that commend their progress and celebrate their success.

4.      Fragmentation - little connection between academic subjects within a school or university; knowledge is compartmentalized.  Subjects do not speak to each other and are rarely involved with shared activities.  Links to the fragmentation of the workforce.  Bowles and Gintis point out that most jobs are now very specific tasks carried out by separate individuals.   Workers do not get knowledge of the whole process.   Cannot set up in competition with their employer as they only possess part of the knowledge.  A fragmented workforce is easier to control - divide and conquer - the workforce cannot easily unite against those in authority over them.


Benefits for Capitalism

ź As above all - creates subservience

ź And a surplus of skilled workers keeps wages low.

ź   Legitimation of inequality - the appearance of a fair and just sociey / a class consciousness that does not threaten the stability of society.   Meritocracy - everybody accepts the results.  This is the myth of meritocracy - those who are denied success blame themselves and not the system that has condemned them to failure.


Intelligence - educational attainment and occupational reward

The IQ test was used to select children at 11+ to enter Grammar Schools or not and it is still used today in certain local authorities.  The nearest to us is Plymouth.

Research by Bowles and Gintis concluded that IQ results are a result of length of stay in education not the cause of it. IQ tests can be prepared for and are also biased towards a cultural and economic background.

In their research into people’s income they discovered that family background was a major factor in income variation.

In terms of occupational reward they found that the main factors accounting for high pay were class of origin, race and sex.  White male v white female / black male.  Middle class male to working class male.


The intellectual abilities developed or certified in school make little causal contribution to getting ahead economically.  Only a minor portion of the substantial statistical association between schooling and economic success can be accounted for by the school’s role in producing or screening cognitive skills’ 

 B&G 1976


They argue that the western educational system is a gigantic myth that:-

1. Educational attainment is based on merit.

2. Occupational reward is based on merit.

3. Education is the route to success in the world of work.


So they conclude that:-

ź   Education reproduces inequality.

ź   That it justifies privilege.

ź   Attributes poverty to personal failure.

ź   Disguises the fact that economic success runs in the family.

ź   Privilege breeds privilege.

ź   Functionalism as represented by Talcott Parsons and Davis & Moore is rejected.


Criticisms of Bowles and Gintis

Their work has been very controversial and they have been accused of exaggerating the so called ‘correspondence theory’ between work and education.

ź Hickox - 1982 - pointed out education introduced after industrialization.

ź [And 2.5% of UK workers believed that qualifications determine social class]

ź Halsey and friends - 1997 - work does not need control over workforce but team work.

ź Willis - 1977 - do kids really take notice of the hidden curriculum etc. ?

ź Reynolds - 1984 - showed the evidence that schools still have a liberal humanities based curriculum rather than teaching work related applied knowledge - therefore showing a lack of ‘correspondence’.  And teaching has attracted a large number of radicals who have not moulded young people to the needs of capitalism.


However, it is worth remembering that B&G developed their work in the 1970’s.  A great deal has developed in the UK education system to such an extent that B&G’s analysis has become more relevant e.g. - growth of vocational courses / key skills / control of teachers and the national curriculum.  [Read on.]  The main criticism is really that students and pupils are not passive recipients of what is thrown at them.  They have their own minds and can think for themselves.


Paul Willis [1] - Learning to Labour - A neo Marxist position

Whilst recognising there is conflict within the education system he rejects that there is a direct relationship between the economy of the UK and the way that the education system works.   He actually argues the education system is poor institution of socialisation and in fact can have unintended consequences for its students which might, in the end, not be that beneficial to capitalism at all.   Although his theory is based on Marxist thought his research techniques are connected to what is called ‘Symbolic Interactionism’.  

Willis used:-

Observation - recorded interviews, discussions and made diaries.

Participation - sat alongside the pupils and followed 12 working class boys very closely.

The Counter - School culture

Willis discovered that through the rejection of school they were being made suitable for unskilled or semiskilled manual work.  They are attracted to this masculine world.

The shop-floor culture

Just the same as school - a way of coping with tedium and oppression.   They are attracted to this lifestyle because of the tedium and lack of relevance of school to their lives.  In so doing they have discovered that it is labour power that creates wealth.


Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. What are the main features of the Marxist view of education.


2. Has Marxism influenced present day thinking at all?


3. What is a neo Marxist?


4. How is the work of Paul Willis regarded as neo Marxist? 


5. Identify five key points put forward by Bowles and Gintis in                          criticism of the education system that exists in the USA / UK.

6. What is a counter school culture?

The New Right - 1979-1997

This term refers to the education thinking and perspectives that were the foundations to the education reforms of the Conservatives as led by Margaret Thatcher from 1979 - and from John Major 1990 -97.  However the term does not only belong with this country as it does refer to an American perspective as well.  


The origins of the New Right reflect a general dissatisfaction with the state of education in the mid 1970’s. The starting point is usually seen - in this country - with former [Labour] PM  James Callaghan’s Ruskin lecture of 1976 which started what became known as the ‘Education Debate’.


It is vital to Britain’s economic recovery and standard of living that the performance of the manufacturing industry is improved and that the whole range of government policies, including education, contribute as much as possible to improving industrial performance and thereby increasing the national wealth.


There are two strands that developed in both the USA and  in the UK.

1. The issue of far greater choice in public accountable bodies.  Consumers having more say in decision making rather than the producers making all the decisions.  Enabling choice in education will stimulate performance - ‘Britain 1993’ a pamphlet


ź To raise standards at all levels of ability

ź To increase parental choice of schools and improve the partnership of parents and schools;

ź To make further and higher education more widely accessible and more responsive to the needs of the             economy;

ź To achieve the best possible return from the resources invested in the education service.


As a consequence consumers will benefit from having more choice in education.  

                                                                                                            [USA perspective].


2. The need to provide young people more ready for the work environment - called ‘New Vocationalism’.  The social democratic perspective of equality of opportunity, although not ignored, is secondary to the need to improve educational standards so as to produce a better qualified workforce in order to create more wealth.  Infact the E.O. policies were left to the County Halls and were chiefly involved with combating racism and sexism.  Government policies were into other areas.  See on.



ź 1. The new right were against public ownership and referred to them as state bureaucracies, [They waste money because they do not make money] - this was the time when many public organisations were being sold off to private shareholders - [privatisation].  The principle was that by having organisations in competition with each other greater performance would occur.  The same applied to education.  By letting market forces take control Conservative policy makers believed that there would be greater achievement. 


In education the following philosophy was applied...


To produce the quality and choice that we expect in education, to improve our schools, we need to change the way that we fund and manage them.  Making the education service fully responsive to parental choice and student needs, with a direct financial relationship between provider and consumer, is the way to better standards, and a far better way than administrative tinkering and political exhortation.


Our Schools - A radical Policy - 1987 - Stuart Sexton - adviser to Conservative ministers


State education existed to benefit the bureaucrats [county hall workers] and the teachers.  So that education comes to reflect the interests of the teachers and the bureaucrats who run the system rather than the consumers - the students and their parents for whom the system was designed.



ź 2. The Conservatives cut the education budget by 3.5% in their first year.  Why?  They thought that some education policies were wasteful and that the money was being taken from the profits of industry.  These policies had been from a social democrat ideas of creating an egalitarian society through equal opportunities policies.  The new right did not see things in the same way - rather they wanted education to focus on creating a workforce able to meet the needs of industry and therefore create a more wealthy society.  Some even thought that unemployment among young people was high because they were unemployable.



ź 1.  Other policies aimed at stimulating market forces and creating competition were testing and examinations; parental choice; the National Curriculum; assisted place schemes; grant maintained schools and many many more.   [See on....]  There was a linkage between the USA and the UK.  Gov. Ministers went on ‘fact finding tours’ to see the public private divide in US schools.  They even renumbered the classes in state schools from ‘first to fifth forms’ to ‘Years’ starting in Year 1 at primary school >> Year 11.



ź 2.  Globalization - the need for a highly skilled; highly educated and flexible workforce.  This was a driving influence in new right thinking.  The need to create a effective education system to meet these demands but not through more spending.  Cut taxation and improve standards were the hallmarks of the Thatcher and Major Governments.  Marketisation was the way to achieve this.  In a marketized education system the money follows the students going to successful schools allowing them the ability to expand.  Unsuccessful schools will close or have to change.  At the same time competition will drive down the cost of educating children.   At the heart of this was the ‘enterprise culture’.   By using initiative in education schools could develop their own success story.




Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done



1.     After studying the above issues explain the main strands of thinking about education that belong to the New Right. What is the purpose of schooling according to these ‘thinkers’?


2.     What is the marketisation of education?  What evidence would be need to be found to show that it had a beneficial effect on learning and achievement?


3.     For what reason did the Conservative Gov. cut the Education budget by 3.5% in 1979?


The Organisation of Teaching and Learning - Secondary Socialisation


ź UK Education is part of a Government Department.  Its current name is ‘The Department for Education and Skills’.  The central office is at Queen Elizabeth House and the web site that sets out DFES policies and deals with current issues is at

The Government minister responsible for education is currently Charles Clarke.


ź   Education is devolved to the local education authorities who in turn set up an education committee.  A County Councillor is chair of this committee - in Cornwall the chair of the education committee is Mrs. Doris Ansari.  The counties also have an education department which provides local services to schools e.g. Audiology; Advisory services; Special Needs; An Educational Psychologist; Education Business Partnership; EWO etc.  The head of the Cornwall Education Department is Mr. Geoff Aver.


ź   Education is financed through general taxation and the money is vired to the local authorities to spend according to the requirements of Acts of Parliament.   The money is seldom ‘ring fenced’ so councils and schools are usually able to decide on their own priorities.  [ In the 1970’s Birmingham City Council was accused of spending its education budget on the various concrete ring roads that were built to make the second city the motor city ].


ź Under the local management of schools initiative - see on - schools are delegated a budget from the local authority.  Headteachers are free to spend as they please subject to the agreement of the school’s governing body - ‘The Governors’.   Money is seldom ring- fenced.  The amount that schools have to spend is dependent on the rate support grant from central Government to the counties.  Some counties feel that they are unfairly treated and that the formula for arranging this funding is not correctly fixed.  Sometimes there may be a crisis in the county budget which will affect the money that schools will receive. Often news of such cuts is obtained at short notice and can result in redundancies.

ź Schools are free to organise themselves according to the planning of the senior management team.  [SMT] now referred to in this school as the senior leadership team [SLT].  The team set out the priorities that they have for the school through a school development plan [SDP].  This is now a required activity for all schools.


ź Primary Schools are usually quite small with the maximum of about 400 pupils.  Headteachers are usually men and the teaching staff are predominantly women.


ź   Secondary Schools [79% being Comps] are divided into subject departments; Year groupings [or houses or vertical tutor groups] and are sometimes organised into separate zones according to age.  [Lower, upper and Sixth form].  The hierarchy is sometimes more structured towards pastoral concerns, or towards academic achievement].  Headteachers are frequently men.  Senior and Middle management is usually dominated by men; the teaching staff is equally divided between men and women.


ź The teaching timetables are organised by SMT.   The content of what is taught is determined by the National Curriculum, or by the examination boards.


ź The National Curriculum is taught by Key stages 1 - 5.  [Though the term KS5 is not commonly used].   Each area to be taught is covered by National Curriculum exemplar material.  Teachers are expected to broadly follow the guidelines of the NC but they are not required to teach to the exemplar material.


ź The examination boards have to produce exams according to the criteria set out by a Gov. body called ‘The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority’ [QCA].


ź The examination boards are private companies who are licensed by QCA to produce examinations according to the criteria set out by QCA.  Schools pay for each examination entry.  The examination entry bill for Helston School is massive.


ź Schools are inspected by the office for standards in education ‘Ofsted’ - see on.  The chief concern of Ofsted is the quality of teaching and learning and, in its earlier days, ‘value for money’.  This work was previously done by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools. [HMI]; many found employment in the new Ofsted organisation set up in 1995.  The HIM still exists but it has more of a consultancy role.   For example in the case of schools that are put under special measures the HMI can make suggestions to the SLT about targets and performance indicators.  Should the school choose to ignore the advice of HMI and improvement does not occur, the HMI could recommend that OFSTED close the school.


1.    Find the OFSTED www site and look up some Ofsted reports.

2.    Find the last report on Helston School & Community College

3.    What are the main report headings?

4.    How important to a school’s standing within the local community is a good OFTSED report?

5.    Do you think that a few days are enough time to judge a school?

The Conservative Government Education Policies  1979 - 1997

The following represent the main policy initiatives that were set up by the Conservatives.

Repeal of 1976 [selective school] Education Act.

ź This measure had required LEAs to draw up plans to end the tripartite education system.  Local authorities were now able to plan to keep their Grammar Schools.

Assisted Places Scheme

ź This enabled ‘clever’ children to be educated in independent schools.  Reason - so that bright children could fulfil their potential.

1988 Education Act [E.R.A.]

ź This is the most significant of all of the Education Acts of Parliament at this time.  The following 7 items were brought in through the legislation passed in this Act.

1. Testing and Attainment targets

The introduction of targets or bench marks for the measurement of progress in schools. These were introduced for ages 7, 11, 14 and 16.   [At 16 the test is the GCSE exam].  These were at the end of the key stages.  Also introduced were attainment levels and targets that pupils could aim for.  The other purpose of the Standard Assessment Tests was for schools to be place in league tables and thereby encourage competition - an offshoot of the Marketisation process.

2. National Curriculum

The first time that a UK Government has legislated what should be taught in UK schools.  Up until 1988 the only compulsory subject was RE.  Under the new Act the following became compulsory:- Maths; English; Science; History; Geography; Technology; Music; Art and PE.  RE was part of the basic curriculum and PSHE was non statutory but schools were expected to deal with sex and drugs education.  Parents could continue to opt their children out of RE for personal religious reasons and similarly from Sex Education but not out of the reproduction topic in Science lessons.  There have been and continue to be annual changes to the National Curriculum.  See on.  The Government saw the key subject areas as essential for all young people to study; we will deal with criticisms of the N.C. later.

3. Parental Choice & Open Enrolment

Aimed at increasing competition and allowing parents the right to send their child to a more successful school in a different neighbourhood.

4. City Technology Colleges   C.T.C.s

These were in the inner city and designed to be built through sponsorship from industry.  They would concentrate on Technology especially ICT.  Only 15 were built - no money came forward!  The CTCs also explored different contracts of employment for teachers and opened for longer hours.  8-6 was the norm.

5. Grant Maintained Schools

This was the most divisive of all of the policies as it attempted to create a new category of Secondary School.  These were schools who would receive their money direct from the DFE and would be totally free from local authority control.  In 1996 643 Secondary schools had opted out - 20% of those that could opt out.  A school could only opt out if parents voted for it in a ballot.  Helston School considered this route and after much consultation this route was not chosen.  All GM schools were returned to the LEAs in Sept 1999.

  6. Local Management of Schools [LMS]

This forced LEAs to release 80% of the funding for schools to go direct to the schools themselves.  The remainder was directly controlled by the LEA and was to be vired into school support organisations where there was a particular social need e.g. as caused by unemployment or low wages or to fund an equal opportunities initiative - e.g.  L.A.W.  The purpose was to stimulate schools to be creative and improve on the quality of their performance through locally organised initiatives e.g. Homework clubs; networking with primary schools etc.  E.g. DISC

7. Formula Funding

Changed the funding arrangements so that successful schools could get more money for the number of pupils who attended.  Therefore successful schools could expand.  Schools that were failing and were unable to attract special funding would have to close.

Qualifications and Assessment

TVEI - an initiative that brought together teachers and representatives of local industry

CPVE - a school based course - certificate of prevocational education

NCVQ - a qualification council that organised the NVQ award.  Levels 1 - 5.

1 = do job under supervision; 2 = without supervision; 3 supervise others; 4 manage others; 5 senior manage others.

BTEC / GNVQ / [now called Vocational A levels] designed to create a bridge between vocational and academic subjects. 

GCSE - a different trend.  This was seen as a traditional qualification that would match the subjects that were being taught as part of the National Curriculum.  It was created by putting together the old CSE and O level.  Candidates at GCSE are able to choose the tier that suits them.  The qualification was accused of being an inappropriate target for some 40% of the school population.


The 1993 Education Act

Opting Out -                                       becoming grant maintained was made easier.

Special Needs Provision -                  parents more power to choose school.

Specialisation -                                   schools could become specialist in drama / technology /                                                                                               anguage / sport etc.

SCAA -                                               the precursor to QCA brought about a clearer linkage of                                                                                                      the various UK qualifications.

League Tables for truancy -             an additional league table to measure a school’s ability                                                                                                 to retain its members.

Education Associations -                         failing schools and failing LEAs could be taken over by                                                                                              these.

Independence of F.E. Colleges -             funded separately from the LEA by the Further                                                                                                                 Education Funding Council replaced in 2001 by the                                                                                                                Learning and Skills Council.

Polytechnics to University status -             change in name.

Expansion of H.E. -                                                more places for more students - why?

Cut in value of student grants -             from 1990 onwards this helped to provide more places.


Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done

1.      Identify ten policies that the Conservatives introduced in the period 1979-1997 and relate these then to a perceived need in the country as a whole.

2.      For what reasons were NVQ awards brought in?  Which areas of life do they raise achievement in?

Training - The New Vocationalism

Also generated at the same time were new vocational courses that were seen to be at the heart of the New Vocationalism movement. The initiative has had a great influence over youth employment for two decades.  A vocational course is simply a course of study that focuses on an area of current employment. 

There are three strands to this:-

ź   Purposeful ‘training’ for work for the 16-19 age group who had left school.

ź   Meaningful employer friendly academic courses for the 16-19 group [altered in the 90’s to go down to KS4 - part one GNVQ courses and planned to be further modified this year with vocational GCSEs] to be studied at F.E. college or at schools like Helston. [Unique in the educational world for its range of vocational courses on offer].

ź More relevant ‘work related learning’ courses for those aged 14-16 not catered for by the national curriculum GCSE courses - to be studied at school.  [Also to be modified in 2003 to be brought under the heading of vocational GCSEs].


In essence the voc. course trains the person to be able to do the job in real life - though of course to a junior entrance level and to a different level according to age and prior learning.  Obviously there are a lot of university degree courses that would meet the same description e.g Dentist; doctor; solicitor etc. [To stress the difference between the areas the learning that involved such training for work were called further education; courses that led to degrees were termed higher education.]


But to link to current [Spring 2003] thinking there has been a degree of snobbery in seeing such ‘learning’ as being different in category to people ‘training’ for ‘vocations’.   New Vocationalism is a response to the call of industry that it and therefore the country needs better qualified workers. [Is this true? Or are they saying that business requires employees to be pre-trained by schools and colleges rather than to be trained by business.  This would shift the cost to Gov. rather than industry.


Training Schemes

YOP to YTS to YT to Training Credits - [more changes under New Labour - see on].

ź The importance of work based training for young people had been addressed in the 1970’s by the invention of ‘Job Creation Schemes’.  The Labour Gov. introduced the YOP programme to address the problem of youth unemployment which the Conservatives had no choice to continue due to high youth unemployment figures. This was a really serious problem that both Governments had to deal with.  The programme was developed by the Conservatives and changed to a YTS scheme.  And then in 1990 to YT.

ź The Conservatives also introduced the T.E.C. Training and Enterprise Councils -  whose work was to overview the provision of training in an area.  They were private companies who were expected to network.  Under New Labour The Cornwall and Devon TEC became Prosper which then became part of the Learning and Skills Council LSC in April 2001.

ź The problem of Youth Unemployment was solved by disallowing young people to sign on the dole; by YT schemes; by more adventurous post 16 courses; an end to the recession[s]; by raising the educational standards of the 16 years olds so they could go on to do ‘A’ levels and then go to university to study courses with no hope of a job in.  [They could then became contributors to graduate unemployment].


This is still evolving area see the Gov. Green Paper on Education published 13.02.02.   Expect to see much in the news in 2003.

Research into Educational Reforms

There have been several research projects by sociologists attempting to evaluate the success of the educational reforms 1979 onwards.


ź   Assisted Places Scheme

State education was being compared to private education.  Private schools were being paraded as examples of educational excellence. 


1.      Assessment

Convergence of Private with State - implication of academic is the best type of education.

Richard Johnson 1991

‘A mechanism for differentiating children against fixed norms’.

2.      National Curriculum

Denis Lawton 1989 - original criticisms of the N.C.

ź   Too bureaucratic - control of teachers rather than new learning

ź   Centralised power in the office of the secretary of state - denied local democratic changes

ź   Measures did not apply to private schools - real choice only given to the rich

ź   Traditional and unimaginative - neglected ‘political understanding’ ‘economic awareness’

ź   Unsuccessful schools disadvantaged - spiral of decline affecting those left at such schools

ź   7 & 11 yr. old who did badly in Sats could be labelled as failures from early age.

Conrad MacNeil - N.C. from a black perspective - 1988

ź He argued that:-


The culture reflected in it is no more than prevailing white Anglo-Saxon and totally excludes the significant input from the Caribbean, the African and Indian continents and elsewhere.  Furthermore, it reflects an imperialist and Eurocentric concept of a static Anglo-Saxon culture which no longer exists.

Examples MacNeil gave included:-

History - emphasis on British history rather than African history.

Language - emphasis on European languages rather than allowing the study of Asisan languages.

English Literature - emphasis on traditional British writers e.g. Shakespeare, Milton etc.


3.      Parental Choice - competitive advantage - study of 15 schools in neighbouring areas

Stephen Ball; Richard Bowe and Sharon Gewirtz

See diagram sheet - this shows how school have shifted from having comprehensive values to market values.

Their methodology:- visited, meetings, researched, interviewed - parents & teachers.

Conclusion =

All of the new changes towards market-orientated approaches have served to make education less egalitarian.  The advantaged will get more advantages the already disadvantaged are losing further ground.


We are likely to end up with a more socially differentiated and divisive system of education.  In any market there are winners and losers.   In this market we may all end up losing out! 

BALL - 1994


4.      CTCs - City Technology Colleges

Seen alongside the new vocational movement the creation of the CTCs should have had a a marked impact on vocational qualifications.  However as only 15 were built their impact has been negligible.  There has been a study comparing the vocational courses with the academic courses.  It was found that marketization has reinforced the separation of academic and vocational courses.  Vocational courses are largely chosen by those who cannot go down the academic route and are seen as second best.


5. Criticisms of YT schemes


[i.]  Dan Finn 1987 - saw a variety of  reason for the YT schemes -

ź to stop the young people joining unions which would make them cheaper to employ.  The small wages would          help depress the wages of young people and keep them off the unemployment statistics.   

ź Reduce crime and social disorder. 

ź He also denied any claim that young people were unemployable; no, there were simply not enough jobs                  available. 

ź Finn argued that young people had a real experience of work through part-time and holiday employment.  In one       school he found that 75% of students had experience of part-time work.  [Rugby & Coventry].  

ź Finn is very negative about the youth training schemes and argued that they were there solely to mop surplus         labour.

ź To control young peoples behaviour so that they were not on the street causing policing problems and they were       not inflating the unemployment statistics.

[ii]. ‘The transition from School to work’ -  John Clarke and Paul Willis 1984


ź A way of producing people who want to work

ź Trainers are used as substitute employers

ź The trainers themselves are used or ‘utilised’ like the young people they are supposedly training  rather than                  paying them - the trainers - unemployment benefit.


  [iii]. Phillip Cohen - from the perspective of New Vocationalism and social and life skills


He is negative as well.  Infact he accused such courses as deskilling the workforce.  He focused on the life skills training that the young people received. 


ź He said that the teaching of ‘transferable skills’ was merely a way covering the dismal employment chances of the time. 

ź Failure to get work was shown to be a failure to market yourself properly and the skill was to be able to cope with a feeling of powerlessness.

ź Their own personality must be submerged by the need to have a go at anything..

Training - The New Vocationalism

Also generated at the same time were new vocational courses that were seen to be at the heart of the New Vocationalism movement. The initiative has had a great influence over youth employment for two decades.  A vocational course is simply a course of study that focuses on an area of current employment. 

There are three strands to this:-

ź   Purposeful ‘training’ for work for the 16-19 age group who had left school.

ź   Meaningful employer friendly academic courses for the 16-19 group [altered in the 90’s to go down to KS4 - part one GNVQ courses and planned to be further modified this year with vocational GCSEs] to be studied at F.E. college or at schools like Helston. [Unique in the educational world for its range of vocational courses on offer].

ź More relevant ‘work related learning’ courses for those aged 14-16 not catered for by the national curriculum GCSE courses - to be studied at school.  [Also to be modified in 20-3 to be brought under the heading of vocational GCSEs].


In essence the voc. course trains the person to be able to do the job in real life - though of course to a junior entrance level and to a different level according to age and prior learning.  Obviously there are a lot of university degree courses that would meet the same description e.g Dentist; doctor; solicitor etc. [To stress the difference between the areas the learning that involved such training for work were called further education; courses that led to degrees were termed higher education.]


But to link to current [Spring 2003] thinking there has been a degree of snobbery in seeing such ‘learning’ as being different in category to people ‘training’ for ‘vocations’.   New Vocationalism is a response to the call of industry that it and therefore the country needs better qualified workers. [Is this true? Or are they saying that business requires employees to be pre-trained by schools and colleges rather than to be trained by business.  This would shift the cost to Gov. rather than industry.


Training Schemes

YOP to YTS to YT to Training Credits - [more changes under New Labour - see on].

ź The importance of work based training for young people had been addressed in the 1970’s by the invention of ‘Job Creation Schemes’.  The Labour Gov. introduced the YOP programme to address the problem of youth unemployment which the Conservatives had no choice to continue due to high youth unemployment figures. This was a really serious problem that both Governments had to deal with.  The programme was developed by the Conservatives and changed to a YTS scheme.  And then in 1990 to YT.

ź The Conservatives also introduced the T.E.C. Training and Enterprise Councils -  whose work was to overview the provision of training in an area.  They were private companies who were expected to network.  Under New Labour The Cornwall and Devon TEC became Prosper which then became part of the Learning and Skills Council LSC in April 2001.

ź The problem of Youth Unemployment was solved by disallowing young people to sign on the dole; by YT schemes; by more adventurous post 16 courses; an end to the recession[s]; by raising the educational standards of the 16 years olds so they could go on to do ‘A’ levels and then go to university to study courses with no hope of a job in.  [They could then became contributors to graduate unemployment].


This is still evolving area see the Gov. Green Paper on Education published 13.02.02.   Expect to see much in the news in 2003.


Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. Identify FIVE major changes in education as devolved by the Major                         Government 1992-1997.

2. Make sure you understand how the league table system works.

3. Read and learn the data sheet that I gave you about the cost of higher                              education for students.




Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done so far


1. What is the meaning of the term New Vocationalism?

2. How does this differ from ‘old’ vocationalism?

3. How have schools been affected by this?

4. How is the provision of Training organised in the UK?


Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done so far

1. Gather together at least five criticisms of the reforms introduced by the Government 1979-1997

Education and Inequality - ‘Differential Achievement 1’

The research in this area has tended to focus on the following areas:-


Gender achievement differences - boys under achievement / girls under achievement

Teaching and learning management systems - streaming / setting / mixed-ability

The concept of intelligence - the innate potential factor - ‘IQ’ and multi intelligences

Stratification - Class; the idea of language codes and cultural reproduction

Ethnicity - statistical evidence to show the relative low performance of some ethnic groups.


ź   Gender Achievement Issues

In the early years of O level girls made better progress.  Then there was a period of boy success.  This gave way to a forging ahead of girls to the point that the issue became a major concern and featured in INSET plans.  There was talk of making the curriculum ‘boy friendly’.  DFEE documentation.  One assumes sport examples etc. That would make learning appeal to boys.  Many have been unbothered by this and simply seen it as a phase that boys go through.  Some reasons have been offered - boys realise that they do not need to try hard because they will get work anyway because they are boys.  [Need some evidence to pin here].

Ą   However:-

Women’s groups point to sex discrimination in UK schools and universities.  They focus on  uniform issues [girls and trousers]; single sex lesson teaching; single sex schools; employment opportunities for women in both higher and secondary education.

[Stats needed].


ź   Management Systems

Streaming or setting is common in UK schools and there has been limited research into its efficiency.  Generally the conclusion of people like Jeannie Oakes 1985 [USA] has been to show that streaming does not benefit the average and lower ability student. Infact the labels that average and slower learners get negate progress and they may well feel that they are ‘dummies’.  In respect of the higher achiever the evidence points towards the brightest students still achieving in mixed teaching groups.  They don’t learn any more quickly in equal-ability teaching groups,


ź   Intelligence

See the work that we have already covered here on IQ testing on page 9.

Herrnstein and Murray - 1994 - The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.  Conclusion = differences in intelligence is a genetic / hereditary factor.  Ramifications for this were immense because of the lower score rate of the ethnic groups.  Gives the racist ammunition by suggesting that different groups are naturally more intelligent.  Alternative view is that intelligence differences are due to social and cultural differences.  To say that some groups of people are on average cleverer than others remains unproven and improbable.  [Anyway race is a failed social construct that has, through genetic research, been proven to be false.  The similarities between all people on earth greatly outweigh the differences].

The Bell Curve wars - is the name given to the scholastic debate that worked to disprove the racist implications of Herrnstein and Murray.  

Howard Gardner - multiple intelligences - no such thing as a general category of intelligence

Stephen Gould - four reasons why they are wrong

1.  You cannot grade intelligence by a single IQ number

2.  You cannot rank people up a single scale of intelligence

3.  No such genetic connection

4.  That to say intelligence cannot be altered is wrong


ź Class

You may need to do some reading around this topic - look up the theme of 'stratification'.

Language Codes - Basil Bernstein 1975 - evidenced by Joan Tough 1976 & Tzzard and Hughes 1984

In essence the research explored the different ways of speaking between the children from ‘working-class’ families as compared with children from ‘middle-class’ families.   Teachers use the code of language of the m-c whose code of values is taken for granted and constantly explained - greater use of abstract ideas such as reasons and principles.  W-c families use restricted code whose values are also taken for granted but are not explained - rewards and reprimands.  No value is attached to this - it is simply advanced as a theory to explain how children from lower socio-economic backgrounds under-perform in schools.

1. Child not responded to fully when asks questions.  Curiosity about the world not stimulated

2. Child finds difficulty responding to the reasoned unemotional abstract lang. of teachers

3. Child finds teacher incomprehensible - trys to translate into own language

4. Rote learning is OK but conceptual, generalisations and abstractions are very difficult.


ź Parent Interest in education

A lack of interest in ‘attainment’ has been characterised as a feature of working class parents.

This is an aspect of the ‘class’ issue.

Blackstone and Mortimore - 1994 rejected this and made observations

1. Working-class parents may have less time to attend school because of the demands of their jobs.

2. They may be put off by teachers ways of interacting with them.

3. Evidence from the National Child Development Study found that 89% middle class and 75% working class attended schools with well-established parent-school contacts.


ź   Ethnicity

ź The Swann Report [1985] became the basis of research in the 90’s.  This made a study of all of the significant ethnic groups in the UK and found a marked difference in performance between them.  West Indian children did worse than Asian children but they had improved on ten years earlier.  Asian children were achieving similar success to white children even though they were economically worse off.  [Swann 1985].

ź   Research shows that levels of achievement are improving.  Recent research has tried to discover why there is differential achievement between ethnic groups with Bangladeshis and Pakistanis under achieving.

ź 1990 research - Trevor Jones - discovered that the stay on rate in school amongst ethnics was better than whites.  Conclusion.  Possibly due to lack of job opportunities for ethnics led to them staying on.  Or, that simply these cultures were more successful in encouraging their children to stay on past the compulsory leaving age.

ź Swann argued against cultural differences as being a cause of differential achievement.

ź   Andrew Pilkington -1997 - although wanting to consider cultural differences his research also pointed to the possibilities of failure in the education system itself to be able to raise achievement.   Factors to consider here would include:- racism - by teachers and pupils, content of the curriculum, resources that were not ethnic friendly and attitudes to speech patterns.

ź   Conclusion.  It may well be that a number of factors work together to produce a lower level of achievement found in some ethnic minority groups.  Swann plus cultural differences should be taken into account.   Andrew Pilkington concluded by saying that:-

IQ is not a major factor but there is evidence to suggest that a range of social factors are significant: economic deprivation which itself stems at least in part from racial discrimination; culture which needs to be located in an economic context; ineffective schools; and racism in schools.  [1997].


A definitive answer to why some ethnic groups do so poorly in education has not been reached.  It is a very controversial area.




Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. What is differential achievement?

2. Identify three groups that have been studied to establish reasons for their                       differential achievement.

3. Explain what Feminism is.

4. Make sure that you understand issues surrounding class and achievement.                      Explain how this links to ‘stratification’.

5. What is the thinking about class and parenting?

6. What are the findings regarding differential achievement amongst ethnic                              groups.


New Labour 1997 - 2007 - Government Education Policies

The Government always wins an election.  The new Gov. of Tony Blair did have a change of Education Policy emphasis from the 18 years of the Conservatives.  But the changes were not always as radical Labour as they might have been.  It is perhaps too early to assess the effects of the policies but you should be aware of the direction that New Labour is taking education. 


Ě   Thinking -  [Philosophy]

‘Education, education, education’ was the wording that Blair used to stress the importance of education to New Labour.  [Compare this with Johnson’s ‘Education’ in the 1960’s to address EO in the USA].  The first Sec of state for Education was David Blunkett.  He said:-


Competitive pressures are intensifying ....the sheer pace of change is adding to pressures.   In today’s job market, people have to constantly adapt .......those who lack the skill to do so who through a lack of a basic education ...   will become increasingly vulnerable.


Here then is the basic tenet of New Labour’s thinking!  Education and training    [New Vocationalism] are vital to economic success.  And Education is needed to provide the unqualified with opportunities in society.  Blunkett went on to say that:-


We know that failure in school in strongly linked to failure at work and in life more generally.


Also urged was an adequate educational foundation for children and the need for continual learning throughout life.  Also linking to the New Right Blunkett stressed the need for strong family life and self sustaining communities.  Echoing the Conservatives he said that people should not be dependent on the state but should be able to help themselves.


Thinking into action - New Labour Education Policies 1997-2003 [twenty points].

1. Reduction of class size to 30 in primary schools

2. Home - school contracts stressing the partnership of school and home

3. Literacy and Numeracy hour in primary schools.

4. Greater use of target setting to measure performance - the PANDA system.  Introduced to schools in 1998 a way of measuring performance and assessment.

5. Leadership training for headteachers.  All aspirants to be head have to have completed a training programme to enable them to apply for headship.  Objective to ensure the high standard of senior management in schools.

6. Ofsted - formed in 1992 this Gov. office was retained as was the controversial head Chris Woodhead.  He was controversial because of his claim that there were a large number of inadequate teachers.  Naming and Shaming was also used to identify failing schools with the intention that they should improve or close.  Some classic cases  - also special squads of super teachers were put together with the intention of turning around a failing school.

7. Direct intervention was allowed by Government agencies to actually take over failing schools or failing local education authorities.  Measure were brought in to even allow the private sector to temporarily take over failing schools.

8. 1998 - PANDA - Performance and Assessment measures / homework clubs.  The idea being that children could carry on learning even if they did not have the facilities at home.   PANDA - to give school targets to reach and be assessed upon.

9.  1999 - the creation of Learning and Skills Councils [LSCs]to overview post 16 education and training.  They took over the funding agency for FE and the TECs.  The purpose was to raise standards by having ‘joined up thinking.

10. 2001 - The launch of Connexions.  An organisation that is meant to be the single agency that can help people.  From careers guidance to accommodation help; drugs help to inclusion work.

11. Inclusion policies that were designed to prevent young people from disappearing from the system.  Connexions charged with tracking all students when they leave school.  Special units for the education of students who have been excluded.  Social exclusion units built in every district [ours in Camborne].

12. Education Action Zones [EAZ] - set up in Sept. 1998 these were similar to the special projects set up by the last Labour Gov.  They were tasked with addressing areas / issues of deprivation where there was significant under achievement.  Our nearest is Camborne / Pool / Redruth & one in Plymouth.  Students could be allowed to deviate from the National Curriculum.

13. Disapplication.  Certain students allowed to drop NC subjects.  Strict regulations surround the disapplication procedure - should include interview with a Connexions adviser.

14. Exclusion penalties.  Schools given a sum of money which reduces when a student is permanently excluded.

15. Grammar Schools.  If 20% of parents call for a ballot then a ballot must be held.  Gov. declared itself against selection procedures at 11 but did not legislate to stop selection.

16. Abolition of GM status.  Choice - return to LEA or become VA.

17. Green paper on future of education launched in Spring of 2002 - consultation and discussion period we now see a newly emerging NC reduced at KS4 to English; Maths and Science. 

18. Changes in the funding arrangements for H.E. proposed for 2006 after the next election.

19. Increase in the number of ‘Specialist Schools’ new categories of Music and Humanities.

20. Healthy Schools Initiative designed to improve the health of children = healthy children attend school therefore learn more = get qualified = get a job = help the state = FUNCTIONALIST role.


The main theme was New Deal.  This was aimed at getting the unemployed & the long term unemployed - back to work.  Money was given to employers to take on trainees as well as to training companies to take them on.   If the unemployed refused to attend ‘training’ sessions then their benefit was cut.   This was progressively introduced to cover all ages.  Social Exclusion was the main motivation.


New Labour maintained many of the policies created by the New Right through the Conservative Govs. of the 80’s and 90’s.   And into the 00's.

ź Parental choice - continued with a lottery for places allowed in Brighton.

ź Competition to improve standards through the encouragement of specializations e.g. Sports Colleges; Technology Colleges; Business Colleges etc.

ź League tables kept - but not in Wales!

ź CTCs kept - these were rebranded as 'Academies'.

ź FE marketization - witness the success of local FE centres.

  • Also structures like Ofsted continued and the creation of a 'National College for School Improvement'.                                                                                                                                                                 

More money was spent through windfall taxation; HE fees; ending the student grant.

Criticisms of this focused on the affect that this would have on young people going to uni..





However the success of the policies viewed above are still being evaluated. In 2002 the National Audit office reported that New Deal only managed to get 20,000 additional young people into employment.  The rest would have found employment anyway - they said.

Links to Sociological Theory

New Right - New Labour have reduced the choices by end of GM schools.

Liberal perspective - too much emphasis on economic needs of education and not enough on developing individual potential.  Too centralised - does not allow for local need.  They welcome the opportunities that devolution has given Wales.

Marxist - just tinkering with the education system will not redistribute wealth and allow working class children real opportunities.

Social Democrat view - closest to original Labour Party but concerns over selection; streaming and setting; and fees for HE will affect equality of opportunity.   Would prefer more planning rather than leaving education to market forces.


Education Issues 2003-2008 Research Task 

Identify SIX new education policies that the Government have

introduced during the last five years.

Write up as a short piece using the links page!



Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. What is the basic tenet of New Labour’s education policy?

2. Write out and learn the links to sociological theory.

3. Identify FIVE major policies and learn them inside out.

4. Show how New Labour have reorganised the training of teachers.

5. Name some recent New Labour education policies.

6. Create a question that could be used to test others.

Education  research methods

Class and achievement by Halsey and using HM Government statistics - [also called secondary source data].  The work of Paul Willis

ü   Halsey & Heath & Ridge [1980]

This research is into class and achievement - ‘Differential Educational Achievement’

The overwhelming evidence points to the higher your social class the higher your educational achievement is likely to be.   The issue is - have reforms of the last decades made a difference to the gap between those who do and those don’t achieve.  Have there be significant changes in inequalities.

The above is regarded as the most thorough of studies.  Sample base is 8,529 males born 1913 and 1952.  The class depended on the occupation of the father.

Service Class - professionals, managers and administrators

Intermediate - clerical, sales workers, foremen

Working Class - manual workers - industry and agriculture


Method - examine evidence from different cohorts - which means looking at groups born in different time periods. 

Result - no evidence of a reduction in class inequalities.  But by looking closely at the evidence they were able to deduce that the length of stay in education had extended.  Rate for working and intermediate had trebled and for the service class it had doubled.  But no evidence of reduction in inequalities; service and intermediate gained most and the working class least.     [See tables 11.4 and 11.5].


Halsey used this evidence to suggest that ‘Credentialization’ had occurred.  Basic level of education to get a well paid job had increased.


Working class caught up a bit but did not stay on long enough to gain qualification to be socially mobile.


As for H.E. Halsey discovered that all classes benefited from university expansion but the Service classes benefited more.  Service class attendance at Uni. grew by 19.2% where as for the working class Uni. attendance grew by 2.2%.


Conclusion - no evidence of the rise of a ‘meritocratic’ society.


HOWEVER - do note that he only surveyed MEN and the conclusions are useful for historical comparison - too dated for showing recent changes.  Had women been sourced as well a significant difference in the finding would have occurred.


Ě More Recent Figures - on class and achievement  1997

See figure 11.7 - Labour Force Survey - [UK Gov.]

Shows that 80% of the children from professional backgrounds entered university compared to 14% of those from unskilled backgrounds.   Conclusions = children of the professionals are more likely to benefit from university education.

See figure 11.8 - General Household Survey


Shows the big differences in the educational qualifications according to different socio-economic groups.                         But look at the sample totals.

w Paul Willis [2] - Learning to Labour - A neo Marxist position

Rather than collecting data Willis embarked on a lengthy and very well respected research into the experience of school from the perspective of the pupil. His conclusions & method have much to offer our understanding of differential achievement.   See back to page 10.


‘Although his theory is based on Marxist thought his research techniques are connected to what is called ‘Symbolic Interactionism’.   He used:-

Observation - recorded interviews, discussions and made diaries.

Participation - sat alongside the pupils and followed 12 working class boys very closely’.


Using Symbolic Interactionism he tried to explain human behaviour and human society be examining the ways in which the boys interpret the actions of others.


Participant observation - rules


ź Set task of listing the rules needed for participant observation.   Link to methodology


Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done


1. Summarise the key issues of Halsey’s research

2. Examine and comment on the secondary source material that you were issued with.


Differential Achievement 2 - Gender and Schooling


Rather than looking at reasons for differential achievement more recent studies have focused on how the educational institutions actually shapes gender awareness..


So: - this research took to looking at wide processes related to gender in schools; an emphasis on the active role of pupils in their gender relationships; the consideration of identities rather than the narrow focus on academic achievement; and also including a consideration of how class and ethnic variables interact with gender differences and then contribute to the formation of school relationships.


Divide and School - John Abraham 1995

Research done in 1986 of a mixed-sex comprehensive school - all white - Year 10

Method - questionnaires; interviewing, participant observation and secondary sources.

Conclusion - as an institution the school tended to reinforce, rather than challenge traditional gender norms - though at that time - the gothic punks, showed that pupils themselves did not always live up to teachers’ expectations of masculinity and femininity.



Racism, Gender Indentities and Young Children - Paul Connolly - 1998

Research done in 1992-93 of three classes of 5-6 year olds [Year1] in a multi-ethnic school

Method - observation; interviews with parents, staff and governors, and group interviews with the children.  Secondary sources would be the files produced by the school.

Conclusion - gender and ethnicity interact in creating identities amongst young children - this might influence educational achievement.   Children themselves help create the gender identities in the school.  Teachers viewpoints are shaped by circumstances beyond the school in the community outside.  Their viewpoints can challenged by the children.  The research shows the danger of trying to explain differential gender achievement by one general theory.  Other social divisions must be taken account of such as class and ethnicity.



Ethnicity and educational attainment

[See Dif Ach 1 section on ethnic differential achievement]


Data only recently reliable enough to use


Conclusion of all research - ethnic minorities overall tend to do less well than other members of the population.  But there are variables within the ethnic groups.


Swann Report 1985

Method - survey of data from five LEAs;  Investigative work by the Swann Committee - interviews - secondary sources

Conclusion - A good deal of unintentional racism through teachers and their resources e.g. Books did support a rather negative image of ethnic groups.  Only a few teachers racist.


Policy Studies Institute  [PSI] survey of ‘Ethnic Minorities’ 1997 

*See tables 11.17 / 11.18 /11.19 / 11.20 / 11.21 / 11.22 - ask Mr. Thomas for them


Research done in 1994 showed rise in educational qualifications

Method - sample of 5,196 people ‘Caribbean / Asian’ & 2,867 whites

Conclusion - overall there is evidence of declining inequality of achievement; but there is clear evidence of continuing under-achievement amongst Bangladeshis and Pakistanis and some suggestions of under-achievement amongst black Caribbeans.


Young, Female and Black - Heidi Safia Mirza - Young, Female and Black

Studied 198 young women and men.  62 black women aged 15-19 were main focus of the study. 

Method - observations in the school, questionnaires, interviews with members of sample and parents, secondary sources such as school records and exam results.  Case studies of three black women.

Conclusion - Heidi’s work was a challenge to the labelling theory of educational under-achievement that was often used to describe black girls.  She argued that the achievements of black women are underestimated.  She found that teachers were mainly failing to meet the girls needs because they were well-meaning but misguided.  They were placing obstacles in their way that prevented them from progressing. E.g. Decisions  made to reduce pressure of exams because of expectations at home about their domestic jobs.  But really the girl wanted to do the exams so that she could break out of the tyranny of an oppressive home life.  Girls could reject the beliefs of the teachers but could not challenge the power hierarchy.  Racism was not the root cause - just a lack of thought and a lack of research into the backgrounds that the girls came from and lived in.




Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done

1. What is the general direction of research into gender based differential                        achievement.

2. What was the Swann report.

3. What was the conclusion of Heidi Safia Mirza’s work.

4. How do children help to create their own gender identities in school?

Research Methods Relevant to Sociology of Education - Sampling and Secondary Source Data


ź When you sample you select from a large population.  Your sample is the case study.  The question will arise as to how representative your cases actually are.  The statistical theory of sampling is based on the laws of PROBABILITY theory and it provides a rigorous means of checking on representativeness, provided that certain conditions are met.

ź   PROBABILITY is sometimes called RANDOM sampling.  It is far from random; it is based on the assurance that each case has an equal chance of selection.  When doing the population as a whole the register of electors could be used.  This list is known as the SAMPLING FRAME.  A formula is worked out depending on the proportional or % being sampled - called the SAMPLING FRACTION.  The formula would mean that at fixed points the case samples would be taken.  The list of cases sampled would then be called the sample. Haphazard selections of cases cannot be classed as random in the statistical sense.

ź   Different types of sample design are possible - read up on this.

ź The SAMPLING FRACTION is determined by practical considerations such as time and money.  There are no rules as to the size of the sample.

ź In the case of interviews there is unlikely to be a correspondence between the sample size and the number of interviews completed. There will be an non-response rate due to the age of the case and other factors such as ‘away on holiday’. The non-response rate will vary depending on the method used; usually high for postal surveys and lower for personal interviews.

ź The use of random sampling  - especially in social survey research gives the sociologist an extremely powerful means of meeting the demands of being REPRESENTATIVE in research.  Its use in large scale surveys is very costly and labour intensive.


How would you conduct a social survey in a UK school using ‘sampling’ as a research method?  How would you guarantee representativeness?


Secondary Source data

ź   Documentary research is one of the FOUR* main methods used in sociological research.  It can provide sources of in-depth materials as well as data on large numbers, according to the types of documents studied.  It is often an essential method when a study is either wholly historical or has a defined historical dimension.  In educational research use of secondary data would include looking at quantitative data e.g. exam stats. and qualitative data such as newsletters, exercise books and policy documents.

The negative side or rather the limitations of this method are-

ź You are dependent on the sources that exist and they may be partial

ź The sources may be difficult to interpret in terms of how far they represent real tendencies - as is the case of the school newsletter which would wish to stress the positive life of the school and in the case of policies which may or may not be adhered to in everyday practice.

[The other three being:- _ _ _ l _ w_ _ _ ;  S _ _ _ _ _ _ and E_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ]



List all of the secondary sources that you would gather together if you were organising an inspection of a state primary school.





Do the following tasks to make sure that you understand  what you have done

1. Identify exactly what is involved with sampling.  Draw up a list of features.

2. What rules are needed when using secondary source data?

3. Answers to the above are fieldwork; surveys and experiments.










Some statistical information will have to be requested from Mr. T


I hope you enjoyed the visit.