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Addressing working class underachievement: Multiverse resource for ITE

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1 Addressing working class underachievement: Multiverse resource for ITE
“No rocket scientist” Teaching point: 1. This power point presentation is designed to increase teacher trainees’ awareness of key concepts relating to social class and education and to stimulate thought and reflection. Teacher trainees might welcome reassurance that it is not intended to provide any form of ‘correct’ answer, particularly if the power point follows on from the discussion activity stimulated by resource sheet 1. 2. The sub title is taken from an interview carried out by a teacher trainee with a teacher about an underachieving working class pupil and conducted as part of the research project carried out by Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement, (Multiverse).

2 Every Child Matters: New Labour policy initiative aimed at improving the coordination of services for children identified as ‘vulnerable’ and raising their educational attainment. It states that: “Doing well in education is the most effective route for young people out of poverty and disaffection.” Teaching point: 1. Establishes the policy context. It makes an explicit connection between success in education and social mobility. Research suggests that working class pupils experience less success than middle class pupils in many aspects of education and therefore reduced opportunities for social mobility. See Marshall,G. (2002), Repositioning Class. Social Inequality in Industrial Societies, (London,Sage) for further details on this. The quotation is taken from Every Child Matters: Change for Children in Schools. Reference:

3 The wider context: The gap between the richest and the poorest has not decreased since New Labour came to power There is no greater social mobility now than in the 1950s Teaching point: 1. The previous slide suggested that education provides a way out of poverty; this slide suggests that education policy needs to be viewed in a wider social, economic and political context as gaps between the richest and the poorest in society persist. Reference: Office for National Statistics, (2004) Focus on Social Inequalities,

4 How do you ‘measure’ social class?
Explanations of social class commonly refer to occupation and income Being middle class is often equated with professional status and linked to educational success Various classification systems exist Teaching point: 1. There is a lack of consensus over how to measure social class. This has contributed to a general failure to address social class explicitly when considering factors which contribute to inequalities in education.

5 The National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification:
1 Higher managerial and professional occupations 2 Lower managerial and professional occupations 3 Intermediate occupations 4 Small employers and own account workers 5 Lower supervisory and technical occupations 6 Semi-routine occupations 7 Routine occupations 8 Never worked and long term unemployed Teaching point: 1. This system has eight categories and has been used by the Office of National Statistics since 2001 for all official surveys and statistics. It is based on occupation but has rules to cover the whole adult population. Distinctions made relate to levels of responsibility.

6 Problems with classification systems:
Where do women fit in when you assess a household? How do you take account of patterns of employment which may vary over time - for instance as a result of caring responsibilities? Teaching point: 1. The sort of classification systems illustrated in the previous slide have some limitations. Women may object to being classified according to a partner’s occupation and may actually have a higher occupational position. Those who take career breaks may not be in work, may engage in different types of employment, and are difficult to classify. 2. The social class of households is difficult to assess. Those that assume the primacy of the male worker in heterosexual families might ignore the female’s occupational position. Different family forms present further difficulties in household categorisations.

7 Free School Meals (FSM) as proxy for social class:
FSM data is readily available to researchers FSM measures child poverty rather than social class Some families are reluctant to take up their entitlement to FSM The number of pupils on FSM is a factor in setting a school’s budget as it is seen to be an indicator of the level of deprivation in a school Pupils on FSM are already identified as a group vulnerable to underachievement Teaching points: 1. FSM are only available to the poorest pupils and should not be understood to mean all working class pupils. 2. It is in the interest of schools to encourage the take up of FSM because funding and access to some initiatives is linked to the percentage of pupils on FSM. 3. Pupils on FSM are recognised to be underachieving relative to their peers and targets have been set by Local Authoritiess to increase the performance of this group of pupils.

8 Postcode Data: Sometimes used to target additional resources at children and families living in areas identified as suffering from the effects of poverty, disadvantage and social exclusion. Projects include: Sure Start which focuses on 0-4 year olds The Children’s Fund which focuses on 5-13 year olds. Teaching point: 1. The focus is on communities rather than on individuals. There is an emphasis on prevention, such as preventing offending behaviour amongst young people, as well as on realising potential.

9 Social and cultural ‘capital’:
Bourdieu identifies forms of ‘capital’ held by individuals and which contribute to social advantage Individuals who possess or acquire these forms of ‘capital’ are able to reproduce their own privileged positions within society Academic qualifications are one form of ‘capital’. Teaching point: 1. Classifications of social class outlined so far in this presentation are narrow. Bourdieu demonstrates that social class encompasses concepts such as culture as well as material characteristics such as income and occupation. 2. Given that the acquisition of academic qualifications is a goal for many teachers and pupils, Bourdieu’s argument that some pupils are able to draw on a position of cultural advantage in order to acquire them, and are able to use them to increase their social and economic capital, is important. See Bourdieu, P. (2002), The Forms of Capital in: Halsey, A. Lauder, H. Brown, P. and Stuart Wells, A. (Eds), Education, Culture, Economy, Society, (Oxford University Press, Oxford) for more on this.

10 Social class as ‘process’:
Social class can be understood as a way of positioning others in relation to ourselves Issues of perspective become very important Much of this process is played out at an unconscious level Teaching point: 1. This slide again suggests a need for wider understandings of social class. Social class is a very personal part of identity and, whether acknowledged or not, shapes our responses to others. It may influence the way teachers and trainee teachers (unconsciously) respond to some pupils and the way in which the parents of pupils are positioned. Interactions with parents at Parents Evenings may be a useful example to discuss. See Reay, D. (1998), Rethinking Social Class: Qualitative Perspectives on Class and Gender, Sociology, 32, 2, pp or Skeggs, B. (2004), Class, Self, Culture, (London, Routledge) for more on this.

11 ‘Deficit models’ and stereotypes:
Being working class is often associated with lacking something: “Middle class parents very often have respect for teachers - in a way that working class parents will not.” (Teacher) Teaching point: 1. Data from Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement, (Multiverse) indicated that some teachers held deficit views of working class pupils and their homes. Working class pupils were much more likely to be identified as underachieving than middle class pupils and teachers were much more likely to locate the source of a pupil’s underachievement in the pupil or the pupil’s home than in institutional factors. Working class parents were also more likely than middle class parents to be said to be lacking in support for the school. Working class pupils were sometimes thought to lack discipline in the home and male role models. Although some pupils undoubtedly lack the support provided by a stable home, comments which perpetuate negative stereotypes of working class pupils contribute to their position of disadvantage in the education system and to the relative powerlessness of their parent(s).

12 More favourable stereotypes:
Being middle class is often associated with the possession of a more positive attitude to education: “Middle class students on the whole value ideas as they have been taught to do so before they even reach the school gates.” (Teacher trainee) Teaching point: 1. Data from Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement, (Multiverse) suggested that teachers were likely to associate middle class pupils with more positive values than working class pupils and to identify middle class parents as supportive of the school. Teachers commented on middle class pupils’ liking for books and their musical activities. Teachers were more likely to address the underachievement of middle class pupils by providing extension activities; working class pupils were seen to lack confidence and to need tasks providing more reassurance.

13 Middle class parents are:
Likely to be proactive in addressing concerns and are able to use their knowledge of the education system to their advantage Likely to make active choices when selecting a school and to be influenced by League Tables and Ofsted reports (a factor which Head Teachers take account of) Likely to be viewed as an equal when talking with teachers and other professionals and to make effective challenges to practice Teaching point: 1. It is very easy to reinforce stereotypes related to social class and the points made are generalisations. However, middle class parents are likely to hold a more advantaged position than working class parents when interacting with teachers and other professionals and this may be demonstrated by their ability to: monitor their child’s progress at school, assist with home work, pay for extra tuition, be proactive about seeking extra support for their child or to complain about what they judge to be shortcomings in the school. This ability is linked to teachers’ perceptions of parents and responses to them. See Gewirtz, S.(2001), Cloning the Blairs: New Labour’s programme for the re-socialization of working class parents, Journal of Education Policy, 16, 4, pp for a fuller account of these issues.

14 Working class parents are:
Likely to be as focused on the advantages of a ‘good’ education as middle class parents Less likely to be viewed as an equal partner when dealing with professionals and teachers Less likely to have knowledge and experience of the education system to use to their advantage Teaching point: 1. Working class parents may be disadvantaged by a more limited knowledge of the education system and a lack of confidence or skills (‘capital’) in some situations. They may be less proactive, more dependent on professionals and have less authority. See Todd, E. and Higgins, S. (1998), Powerlessness in Professional and Parent Partnerships, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 19, 2, pp for more on this.

15 Evidence of social class inequities in education:
The top 200 state schools in the country have a level of pupils on FSM averaging 3% as opposed to a national average of 14% 77% of pupils in England and Wales with parents in higher professional occupations gained five or more passes at GCSE grades A* to C in This compares with a figure of 32% for pupils with parents in routine occupations The practice of using previous attainment data to predict future achievement is likely to contribute to low expectations of, and outcomes for, working class pupils Teaching points: 1. Middle class parents are more likely to be able to access successful, popular schools for their children. See The Sutton Trust Report, Rates of Eligibility for Free School Meals, (2005) for more on this. Reference: 2. Source: Office for National Statistic, (2004), Focus on Social Inequalities. Reference: 3. Working class children often perform less well in tests than middle class children. Viewing attainment in tests, especially those taken in primary school, as a measure of a pupil’s potential, may reinforce rather than address differences in attainment according to social class. See for example Cooper, B. and Dunne, M. (2000), Assessing Children’s Mathematical Knowledge. Social class, sex and problem solving, (Buckingham, Open University Press) for more on this.

16 Further research evidence:
Working class pupils are over represented in bottom sets. In one school with 18% of pupils on FSM, a top set Maths group had 13% of pupils on FSM and a bottom set Maths group had 33% of pupils on FSM Teachers of top sets may have higher expectations of pupils and may experience fewer difficulties with classroom management Data from Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement (Multiverse). 1. Teaching point: The learning and social experiences of pupils in top and bottom sets may differ enormously. Teachers may hold expectations of pupils according to the set in which they are placed. This research suggested that pupils percieved teachers shouting or not keeping control of pupils as a barrier to their learning, problems less likely to be experienced by pupils in top sets.

17 Further research evidence:
Working class pupils are more likely to be offered vocational and ‘alternative’ curriculum pathways which often prepare them for working class occupations. These are often accessed after a pupil has failed to access the mainstream curriculum successfully Working class pupils are disproportionately excluded from school. Exclusion is likely to reduce a pupil’s future life chances and increase the risk of involvement in offending behaviour Teaching point: Pupils accessing alternatives to mainstream education can be very successful and this is one means of addressing the disaffection of some pupils. These alternatives often equip pupils for traditional working class occupations and they may be perceived as being less appropriate for middle class pupils. See Attwood, G. Croll, P. and Hamilton, J. (2005), Recovering potential: factors associated with success in engaging challenging students with alternative pre-16 provision, Educational Research, 47, 2, pp for more on this. 2. Pupils permanently excluded from school are at greater risk of disappearing from the education system altogether and of becoming involved in crime. See Munn, P. and Lloyd, G. and Cullen, M.A. (2002), Alternatives to Exclusion from School, (London, Sage) for more on this.

18 Barriers to learning - identified by teachers:
Poor attitude, lack of motivation, low self esteem Failure to produce work Disruptive behaviour Poor attendance Lack of concentration Poor social skills Lack of ability Aspects of the pupil’s home life Data taken from Gazeley, L and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement ,(Multiverse) Teaching point: 1. Teachers interviewed for this research distanced themselves from pupils’ underachievement by locating its causes withinin the pupil. In contrast, pupils focussed on aspects of teaching and learning. 2. Pupils with low attendance are likely to underachieve and find it difficult to fit in at school. Teachers who recognise this and plan how to support and include thse pupils when they are present are helping to address this problem. Factors contributing to low attendance identified by teachers included: caring responsibilities, poor health, unstable housing and little home support for learning. Teachers interviewed for this research made no reference to exclusion, self exclusion and bullying as factors contributing to low attendance. See Osler, A. and Vincent, K. (2003), Girls and Exclusion Rethinking the Agenda, (Routledge-Falmer, London) for more on this.

19 A working class pupil: “Very limited” “No rocket scientist”
“Bound to get herself in to trouble.” (Teacher) Data taken from an interview carried out by a teacher trainee with a teacher about an underachieving working class pupil for Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M (2005), Addressing working class underachievement, (Multiverse).

20 Barriers to learning - factors identified by pupils:
Teachers shouting Disruption caused by other pupils Inability to access a task due to difficulty or poor explanation Being unwilling or afraid to ask for clarification Not being stimulated by tasks Inconsistent or intimidating teaching styles Having a preference for learning styles not favoured by the teacher Insufficient competence in literacy Data taken from Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement, (Multiverse). Teaching point: 1. Pupils, in contrast to teachers, identified barriers to learning over which teachers have considerable control. 2. Teachers who are aware of the level of reading competence demanded by a task will be able to plan how to make it accessible to pupils who have a reading level below this. Data collected by two teacher trainees for this research showed that the level of reading competence required by an Intermediate level paper in Mathematics was higher than that required for the Higher Paper. Teachers interviewed for this research were also unlikely to have access to data about a pupils’ reading competence as most schools do not collect this data routinely.

21 The ideal teacher: “A kind friendly person you could talk to if you need someone to talk to. Persuasive if you don’t want to do something … a nice personality and a calm voice … doesn’t get angry or shouting and helps you with your work and interesting and does fun activities once in a while and can control the class.” (Working class pupil) Data taken from an interview carried out by a teacher trainee with a pupil for Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement, (Multiverse).

22 Class fractions: There is no one group - ‘the working class’.
Working class pupils do not all experience the disadvantages faced by working class pupils living in poverty. Viewing all working class pupils and parents as disadvantaged perpetuates negative stereotypes Single parents, especially those on low incomes or who did not achieve well at school themselves, may face particular difficulties in advocating for their children in the education system and may be disadvantaged by a lack of emotional and practical support. Teaching point: 1. Groups within a social class are referred to as class fractions. 2. It is important to emphasise that not all working class pupils underachieve. Pupils experiencing the effects of poverty are likely to face more barriers to their learning than those who are not. 3. Single parents are often perceived negatively although many provide supportive and stable homes. Middle class single parents may be perceived more positively than working class single parents and may have access to resources which give them a more advantaged position in relation to their child’s education. See Standing, K. (1999), Negotaiting the Home and the School: Low income, Lone Mothering and Unpaid Schoolwork, in: L McKie, S Bowlby and S. Gregory, (Eds), Gender, Power and the Household, (Macmillan Press Ltd, Great Britain).

23 Class and ethnicity: Minority ethnic parents often have high educational aspirations for their children Working class pupils of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin experience less social mobility than those from other minority ethnic groups Working class pupils from Caribbean, African, Indian and Chinese communities experience greater social mobility than white working class pupils Teaching point: 1. Social class is complex and experienced differently by different minority ethnic groups. See Joseph Rowntree Foundation report Migration and Social Mobility: the life chances of Britain’s minority ethnic communities, (2005), for more on this. Reference:

24 Class and gender: A focus on underachieving boys conceals the fact that boys come from different social class backgrounds and that some (middle class) boys achieve well and some (working class) girls do not The attainment gap between boys and girls is smaller than that between working class pupils and middle class pupils Teaching point: 1. Gender stereotypes are easily reinforced. Understandings of gender which recognise social class differences will be more informed. See Lucey, H and Walkerdine, V (2002), Boys’ Underachievement: Social Class and Changing Masculinities, in T.Cox (Ed.), Combating Educational Disadvantage: Meeting the Needs of Vulnerable Children, (London, Falmer Press) for more on this.

25 What teachers said about the social class of pupils:
Some identified the social class of pupils Many made assumptions based on impressions Some said they didn’t know the social class of pupils Most were reluctant to talk about pupils’ social class One teacher said it was “distasteful” to identify a pupil’s social class A few refused to identify a pupil’s social class Data taken from Gazeley, L. and Dunne, M. (2005), Addressing working class underachievement (Multiverse). Trainee teachers asked teachers to identify the social class of pupils who had been identified by them as underachieving. Teaching point: Inequities relating to social class and education can only be addressed if they are acknowledged. Getting teachers and trainee teachers to talk about social class is therefore essential.

26 Reflective practice: Trainee teachers Future teachers Social justice
Teaching point: Trainee teachers might wish to think about their own position, both now and in the future. Do they wish to be reflective practitioners with a commitment to inclusion which encompasses issues of social class?

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