Assess and explain the impact of social class on inequalities in educational outcomes.
A good education is vital in succeeding within many industries in the UK, from Business to Medicine, Politics to Art. It unfortunately does not come as a surprise that only 58.6% of students attained 5 or more GCSE’s at grades A* to C (Department for Education 2012). In comparison, albeit falling this year on previous years, 94.4% of students in private schools attained the same results (The Independent 2012a). Following the recent recession, Social mobility has begun to decline and is lower today than it was thirty years ago. It is now less likely that a child of parents in a low-income bracket will rise to the top-income bracket than it was in 1970 (The Centre for Social Justice 2006). Here we will examine the evidence for class inequalities in education and then look at why social class has such an impact on the educational outcomes of pupils in Britain.
Numerous studies argue that the social class of an individual directly influences their educational outcome. It is believed that by the age of three, poor children have been assessed to be one year behind richer ones in terms of communication (BBC, 2010). In some areas, up to 50% of children starting primary school have been found to not have the necessary language and communication skills they need to begin school (National Equity Panel 2010). Looking into later schooling, Pupils with GCSE results above the national median, who have been eligible for free school meals, are less likely to go on to higher education than more affluent students with the same results (National Equity Panel, 2010), suggesting even though children are just as capable, they lack opportunities.
The main focus of educational policy over the last 100 years has been to raise overall standards in education, rather than increasing the quality of education provided. The Education act of 1988 ushered in the idea of an educational market, which enabled middle-classes to choose the best schools to give their children a bigger advantage as they had greater cultural and financial capital. Unlike countries like America and Germany, the more accepted view of education in the UK is that academic subjects are the best way to succeed; vocational and technical subjects are given a “back seat”. The labour government (1997 to 2010) influenced this greatly by focusing on improving secondary schools in their current format, rather than merging Private and Secondary schools to decrease this inequality.
The existence of private education breeds social inequality. A form of financial capital, it is designed to promote social reproduction by ensuring the students get a better quality education than those at state schools. Only 7% of all British children attend private schools (The Independent 2012b), In comparison, Oxford University has a working class population of just 11.5%, shortly followed by Cambridge at 12.6% (Guardian 2010). The advantage given by private schools when applying for universities is substantial. Between 2007 and 2009, four private schools, Eton, Westminster, St. Paul’s Boys and St. Paul’s Girls, along with one exceptional state school in Cambridge, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Sent 946 Pupils to Oxbridge. In comparison, a total of 927 students came from 2,000 lower-performing schools (BBC 2011). Private education costs pupils anywhere between £2,500 and £30,000 per year (ISC Annual Census 2009) and the average termly fee being £3,903 at Day schools and £8,780 at Boarding schools (Guardian 2012a). The occupation and income of an individual or family are directly linked to their social standing. Between 65-75% of people in top professions such as Government advisers are privately educated (Guardian 2012b). This means that realistically, only those who have enough disposable income can comfortably afford private education, in most cases the way to attain such an economic capital is only through...
References: BBC (2010), unequal opportunities with John Humphrys, (20th September 2010)
National Equality Panel (2010), an anatomy of economic inequality in the UK, London: Government Equalities Ofﬁce.
The Centre for Social Justice, EDUCATIONAL FAILURE, http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/default.asp?pageRef=193
The Independent (2012b), Hensher, Philip, ‘Rejecting Oxbridge isn’t clever – it’s a mistake’, The Independent (20 January 2012)
Guardian (2012b) – Sutton Trust
EdPlace (2012), ‘Parents spend a staggering £6bn a year on private tutors’, http://www.edplace.com/blog/parents-spend-a-staggering-6bn-a-year-on-private-tutors (7 September 2012)
Sullivan (2001), Sullivan, Alison
Becker (1971), Becker, Howard, ‘Social-class variations in teacher-pupil relationship’, School and Society, (1971)
Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968), ‘Teacher expectations for the disadvantaged’, Robert Rosenthal and Lenore F. Jacobson, from Scientific American, (April 1968)
Beynon (1985), Benyon, John, ‘Initial encounters in a comprehensive school’, (1985)
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