How social class affects the educational attainment of boys and girls

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RationaleAimThere is an existing interest in the sociological argument of the educational attainment of boys and girls and how girls are achieving more than boys. However this is a bit too ambitious as being able to produce a representative sample would be too time consuming and costly. The scope would be too large to produce a subjective view.

The main aim as a researcher who believes strongly in equality of opportunity, is to see 'how social class can effect the educational attainment of boys and girls'. This would provide a large unbiased representative sample, that is not too time consuming or costly.

Some researchers argue that class differences in attainment result from the sifting, sorting and assessment of pupils in terms of teacher's perceptions of social class, ability and conduct. Whilst others believe that class differences are primarily due to what happens outside of school. They believe that it is due to social inequalities generated by the class structure. From this point of view school does little more than reflect existing inequalities.

The second aim is to cover factors outside school such as material deprivation, cultural deprivation and parental choice, this can be done by asking if they have up to date equipment necessary for educational attainment such as computers/internet books etc. what their parental occupation is and who chose the school their child is to attend.

The third aim is to cover factors inside school such as streaming (sets) and labelling, it is a combination of all of these that result in class inequalities in educational attainment.

Douglas and Sugarman (1970) claim that differences in educational attainment are due to being deprived both culturally and materially. However it is not necessarily the social class that effects educational attainment but the factors within and opportunities surrounding class. Many comparisons within and across class are going to be made, as to avoid bias and increase its representativeness. The two concepts going to be studied is social class and the other is educational attainment.

IntroductionDuring the 60's and 70's class differences in attainment were the main focus of the sociology of education. However it was then claimed to be unimportant. It is only in the last ten years that sociologists have returned to class and attainment and Gillborn and Mirza (2000) claim that class is the most important factor, with its effect on educational attainment being nearly three times greater than that of ethnicity. It is this reintroduction to social class that inspired me to research it further. In my experience the main stereotype of class differences were found in the school environment.

This is supported by Becker (1974) who argued that teachers operate in the classroom with stereotypes of what constitutes as an ideal pupil. Teachers judge and label pupils on the basis of their social class amongst other things, intelligence and ability, says Becker, are secondary influences. Working class backgrounds may be judged negatively compared with middle class backgrounds. Becker notes that labels are communicated to children via interactions with the teacher. Becker, Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1975) point out these pupils may internalise negative teacher labels and consequently under achieve. This is known as a self fulfilling prophecy. Teacher expectations are also realised through streaming. Those in the bottom streams may pick up negative messages about their ability from teachers and fail or set up anti school sub cultures which confirm teacher predictions. Working class children are disproportionately found in bottom streams and are often to be found to be truanting as a response to this.

Cultural deprivationists argue that working class failures are located in the home environment and specifically the lack of interest in children's education, the deficiency of child rearing practices and linguistic deprivation. Truancy can therefore be...
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