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SRHE/UALL series: Researching and Evaluating Widening participation – Schooling, attainment and admission to HE White Middle Class Identities and Progression.

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Presentation on theme: "SRHE/UALL series: Researching and Evaluating Widening participation – Schooling, attainment and admission to HE White Middle Class Identities and Progression."— Presentation transcript:

1 SRHE/UALL series: Researching and Evaluating Widening participation – Schooling, attainment and admission to HE White Middle Class Identities and Progression to Higher Education (and is WP ‘a nut to crack a sledgehammer’?) 22 nd January 2015 David James Cardiff University

2  If WP is the answer, what is the question?  What concepts, models of the person, models of behaviour, images of success, assumptions, measurements etc. are common in WP policy and practice?  How coherent are these? (see Harrison 2012; McCaig & Adnett, 2009)  How does HE participation in general and WP in particular look from a sociological viewpoint? Some provocative questions

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7  In Western and strongly Anglo-Saxon-influenced cultures, psychological, economistic and common- sense models of human behaviour stress the individual and his or her actions  But whilst individuals are always important, an individualistic lens is not the only (or always the best) way to understand the social world  ‘No man is an island’ (John Donne, 1624): what individuals do is socially derived, motivated and meaningful and affects the worlds of others (i.e. it has further social effects)  Even emotions are produced in a social setting What’s the unit of analysis?

8  ‘Emotional geographies of elite schooling’; the production of ‘a sense of entitlement’ (e.g. Gaztambide-Fernandez, 2009; Maxwell & Aggleton, 2013)  School choice, league tables, inspections, marketisation (e.g. policies fostering diversity and competition between secondary schools) (Ball, 2003)  Parenting (esp. mothering) (Reay, 1998; Lareau, 2003; Golden & Erdreich, 2014)  Hot, warm and cold information (Slack, Mangan, Hughes & Davies, 2014) and self-marketing (Shuker, 2014) Educational trajectory - some mainstream mechanisms

9  HE a social good?  HE a source of advantage, so fairness?  HE a source of nurturing talent, so efficiency/productivity/good of the economy?  Increasing social inequality?  An expectation that education can remedy rampant inequality?  Institutions conforming to expectations about access and rules about finance? What drives WP practices (as well as policy)?

10 The Rt Hon. Alan Milburn Chair, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission “We in the Commission hope this report prompts a re-think in the institutions that have such a critical role to play in making Britain a country where success relies on aptitude and ability more than background or birth” “Our examination of who gets the top jobs in Britain today found elitism so stark that it could be called Social Engineering”

11 Britain’s elite: formed on the playing fields of independent schools? 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of Permanent Secretaries, 53 per cent of senior diplomats, 50 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 45 per cent of public body chairs, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists, 36 per cent of the Cabinet, 35 per cent of the national rugby team, 33 per cent of MPs, 33 per cent of the England cricket team, 26 per cent of BBC executives and 22 per cent of the Shadow Cabinet attended independent schools - compared to 7 per cent of the public as a whole. Britain’s elite: Finished in Oxbridge’s dreaming spires? 75 per cent of senior judges, 59 per cent of the Cabinet, 57 per cent of Permanent Secretaries, 50 per cent of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of the Shadow Cabinet, 24 per cent of MPs and 12 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List attended Oxbridge - compared to less than 1 per cent of the public as a whole.

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13  Investigated a cross-section of against- the-grain examples of school choice, where white middle-class families deliberately chose ordinary and low- performing secondary schools for their children  We interviewed parents and children in 125 households in London and two other cities in England  See Reay, Crozier and James, 2011/2013 The project Identity, Educational Choice and the White Urban Middle Classes

14  These against the grain choosers were highly educated, usually ‘incomers’, usually worked in public sector, and got involved in the school (e.g. as governors).  Few had strong political or welfarist motives  More common motives were securing an educational breadth, a multicultural environment, and avoiding narrowness  However, in reality social mix does not equate to social mixing Glimpses of our analysis

15  The young people had nearly all been selected for extra resources in the form of the ‘Gifted and Talented’ schemes  Mutual affinity between needs of the schools and needs of these parents - e.g. Drama A level kept open for one student!  Parents rejected ‘league table thinking’ as too crude  Were very confident indeed of their own children’s ‘brightness’  ‘Risky investment’ metaphor very useful  It ‘paid off’: High success in terms of achievement and University entry across the sample More glimpses…

16  White middle class choice of an averagely or low- performing secondary school was usually a positive one, based on what the schooling could contribute to a broader educational project. Multiculturalism was particularly highly valued, as were specific ethnic minority friends. This stood in stark contrast to the way many of these families denigrated white working class people.  There was a clear ‘mutual affinity’ between needs of schools and these parents/families;  Nevertheless, the choice was usually seen as a risky project which required close monitoring and families had the means and the will to ‘pull out’ should that become necessary. The ‘risky investment’ metaphor

17  Some people will need reminding that even higher education is not some sort of neutral, benign process that functions above and beyond the tramlines of social inequality  Different kinds of HE have quite different socio-economic student body compositions…and status differs too  It’s important to disentangle institutional interests from a wish to help people – one can often cloud the other  It is helpful to keep our work in proportion, knowing that we are up against so much more than disparities in young people’s ‘aspirations’ ‘information’ or capacities for ‘decision-making’ Sociological insight is helpful for our work in WP because:

18  Ball, S.J. (2003) Class Strategies and the Education Market – the Middle Classes and Social Advantage London: RoutledgeFalmer  Bourdieu, P. (1998) Practical Reason, Cambridge: Polity Press  Gatzambide-Fernandez, R. (2009) The best of the best: becoming elite at an American boarding school Cambridge, MA: Harvard U press  Golden, D. & Erdreich, L. (2014) ‘Mothering and the work of educational care – an integrative approach’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 35 (2):  Grenfell, M. and James, D. (2004) ‘Change in the field-changing the field: Bourdieu and the methodological practice of educational research’ British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25 (4):  Harrison, N. (2012) ‘The mismeasure of participation: how choosing the ‘wrong’ statistic helped seal the fate of Aimhigher’ Higher Education Review 45 (1):  James, D. (2015) ‘How Bourdieu Bites Back: Recognising misrecognition in education and educational research’ Cambridge Journal of Education, DOI: / X  Lareau, A. (2003) Unequal Childhoods: Class, race and family life Berkeley: U of California Press References

19  Maxwell, C. & Aggleton, P. (2013) (Eds) Privilege, Agency and Affect Basingstoke: Palgrave  McCaig, C. & Adnett, N. (2009) ‘English Universities, Additional Fee Income, and Access Agreements: Their impact on widening participation and fair access’ British Journal of Educational Studies, 57:1, 18-36, DOI: /j x  Reay, D. (1998) ‘Engendering social reproduction: Mothers in the Educational marketplace’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 19 (2):  Reay, D., Crozier, G. & James, D. (2011/2013) White Middle Class Identities and Urban Schooling London: Palgrave  Shuker, L. (2014) ‘”It’ll look good on your personal statement”: self- marketing amongst university applicants in the United Kingdom’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 35 (2):  Slack, K., Mangan, J., Hughes, A. & Davies, P. (2014) ‘”Hot”, “cold” and “warm” information and higher education decision-making’ ’ British Journal of Sociology of Education 35 (2):  Wacquant, L. (1989) ‘Towards a reflexive sociology: A workshop with Pierre Bourdieu’ Sociological Theory 7,,26-63)


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