Social Class and Education
‘Everything we do not have at our birth and which we need when we are grown is given us by education.’ (Jean Jacques Rousseau, Emile, On Philosophy of Education)
Education is essential in society for a number of reasons. Firstly, education is important for developing skills for employment and living. If we did not have basic education, it would severely impact on society. Subsequently, it is possible that society could break down due to the absence, or poor quality of communication and basic skills. The World is dependent upon communication, which is developed through education (Mortimore 1986). Furthermore, another important purpose of education in society is to control unconformity. Education is a way in which people are taught the social and ideological norms which are dominant in society. Consequently, with the absence of education, it could foresee a delinquent future for society.
Mortimore (1986) stated that within society, it has always been evident that people fall into different categories termed as ‘Social Class’. This shorthand label could be defined in numerous ways, most prominently by the scale developed by the Registrars General. Categories are classified as a result of breadwinner occupation, which are managed into five categories: Social Class I and II, professional and managerial occupations; Social Class IIIa, would be other manual workers, Social Class IIIb, skilled manual workers; Social Class IV, semi-skilled occupations; Social Class V, unskilled occupations. This is a rather reductionist point of view to take when classifying people, as quality home, relationships, interests and lifestyles are not taken into account (Mortimore, 1986).
A way in which children are categorised in school based on social class, is the eligibility of free school meals. Schools provide free school meals to children whose family receive any kind of income based support, such as jobseekers allowance (Direct Gov). Figures show that in 2006-2010 55.8 percent of pupils eligible for free school meals achieved the national average level in English and Mathematics, compared to 77.1 percent of pupils were not eligible (Department for education, National statistics). ‘Many pupils in disadvantaged communities are simply less intelligent than others in higher social classes, according to the Scottish chief medical officer.’ (TES, 25 March 2005)
It is apparent that children placed in the lower class categories are under achieving in comparison with higher class children. Again National Statistics demonstrate that there is a 23.7 percentage point gap between the most and least deprived areas, which are defined by the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Indices.
‘...reclaim social class as a central concern within education...as a powerful and vital aspect of both learner and wider social identities.’ (Diane Reay 2006)
Reay stresses just how vital social class is within education. As attainment levels appear to be affected by the influence of social class, this certainly highlights the importance of understanding the relationship between social class and education; consequently making changes to reduce the gaps in attainment levels.
Furthermore, Davies,J (1980) illustrated that Social Class can create differences in attendance patterns of pupils. Looking at percentage of absence, he found a 7.1 percent difference between attendance of pupils with a non manual family background and pupils from social class 5. In addition to this, Davies discovered a range of 16.1 percent between non manual and unemployed backgrounds. Mortimore (1986) states that attendance rates have been considerably influenced by social class.
‘Whether that is a direct influence (working class parents being less motivated to insist that their children attend school) or an indirect one (pupils with working class backgrounds been less successful in academic life and, therefore, being less committed to the value...
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