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A-level Sociology Revision Webinars 2020 (AQA focus)

Get ahead with your A-level sociology revision with these cheap online webinars covering the entire A-level sociology specification over a 12 week period.

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A Level Sociology Revision Webinars starting March 2020

I will be running a series of 12 A-level sociology revision webinars to cover the entire two year A-level sociology specification (AQA) including exam technique for the various question formats on the three AQA A-level sociology exam papers (7192/1, 7192/2 and 7193/3).

The webinars are scheduled for 19.00 every Monday (with one on a Thursday) and will run from Monday 1st of April to Monday 20th June, 2 days before the last exam (crime and deviance with theory and methods). Webinars are scheduled early so that we can get through the entire specification BEFORE the first paper (on May 22nd).

To register for the Revision Webinars, please click here.

NB Registration will only be open during March and the first two weeks of April, then it will close!

Schedule (please see below for a more detailed version)

  1. Thursday 26th March – Education 1
  2. Thursday 2nd April – Education 2
  3. Thursday 9th April – Families and Households 1
  4. Thursday 16th April – Beliefs in Society
  5. Thursday 3rd April – Crime and Deviance 1
  6. Thursday 30th April – Crime and Deviance 2
  7. Thursday 7th May – Research Methods
  8. Thursday 14th May – Social Theories
  9. Saturday 16th May – Education and Theory and Methods 3 (exam on 18th May )
  10. Monday 25th May – Request webinar, content TBC
  11. Monday 3rd June – Families and Beliefs 2 (exam on 2nd June)
  12. Monday 10th June – Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods 3 (Exam on 10th June).

All of these webinars will last 50 minutes during which I will provide a brief overview of some of the content within each topic, and a discussion of at least three specific exam practice questions. Students will be able to ask questions during the Webinar, via text, and there will also be time for students to ask questions at the end.

I will be conducting the Webinars via Click Meeting, which allows students to download support materials in advance of the seminars, ask questions during the seminars via ‘chat’, and which will also allow students to review the seminar afterwards as they will be recorded and stored on the site. Recordings will be available until the 16th of June (several days after the final A-level sociology exam).

Webinar Support materials

The first eight revision Webinars are supported by a PowerPoint, revision notes and exemplar exam questions, and the education, families and methods topics (basically the first year content) have gapped revision hand-outs too, so these really are being offered at a bargain price!

Detailed Schedule..

Please click below for the full schedule (PDF)

Revise Sociology Webinars ScheduleV2

How to access the Webinars and resources

Access to all 12 Webinars is only £49.99, which is less than £5 a Webinar. 

To register for the Revision Webinars, please click here.

The link will take you to a registration page for my ‘Permanent Room’ on the ClickMeeting platform. This is the room from which I will be running all revision Webinars from, every Thursday from March 26th, switching to Mondays before the exam, and one on a Saturday.

Once registered you will receive an email from ClickMeeting which will provide you with an access link which will allow you access my permanent room for March-June 2019. (NB I will only be using this at the scheduled times, as outlined in the schedule.)

Following registration I will also send you an email containing all the relevant revision resources for the 12 Webinars. These will also be downloadable during and immediately after each revision session.

Reminder emails will be sent out the day in advance of each of the 12 Webinar Revision Sessions, and also watch out for a bonus ‘introducing revision Webinars’ session on the final Monday in March, to give you an opportunity to familiarise yourself with how ClickMeeting works.

Payment is via PayPal only!

About your Tutor

I’ve taught sociology for 20 years, 16 of those in a successful sixth form college between 2002 and 2018 (10 years as Head of Department).

In 2014 I set up this blog, and managed to save enough off the back of it to quit working for the ‘man’ and now I work independently, developing non-corporate support materials to facilitate the teaching and learning of A-level sociology.

I also see myself as something of a trail-blazer in developing 16-19 online education: in 2019, we should be doing better than 20 teenagers all having to travel to a central location and then ‘sitting in a room’ for an hour or two. To my mind this all seems a bit 19th century. These Webinars are a move towards making A-level education more flexible and decentralised.

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The state of the nation

Is life in the UK getting better or worse? In this post I evaluate this question by looking at a few official statistics.

Is life in the UK getting better or worse?

This post looks at a few economic and social indicators to see what they suggest about trends in desirable social goods such as economic growth, employment and happiness and less desirable social problems such as crime, mental ill-health and suicide.

The point of this posts is to showcase some of the official statistics we might use to judge the state of the nation. These are the kind of stats we can use to evaluate the Functionalist view that ‘everything in society is generally OK’, compared to other more critical perspectives such as Marxism, Feminism or even Postmodernism.

You should always be critical of the validity of statistics, especially since most of the stats below are official statistics – they are collected by government agencies…

A social or economic indicator might suggest life in the UK is generally getting better or worse, but this might not actually be the case when you scratch beneath the surface.

For example, an increase in recorded crime may not be because of an underlying increase, but rather because people are more aware of certain types of crime and more likely to report those crimes.

Similarly, a decrease in unemployment may just be because more people are fearful of claiming benefits, even though they need them, because of the increased hassle and stigma of claiming them.

Any statistics that use averages may also give us a misleading picture of the ‘health of the nation’. For example, average income can trend upwards, but this doesn’t tell us how that income is distributed – it may mean the top 1/10th getting a lot richer and the bottom 1/10th getting a lot poorer.

Averages can also hide wide variations in how social goods and harms are distributed by gender and ethnicity and age. The male suicide rate is around three times higher than the female suicide rate.

Employment is increasing, unemployment is declining

The employment rate is at a record high of 76.3%, while the unemployment rate has been declining for 6 years, and stands at a very low 3.8%

Source: Labour Market Overview, January 2020.

Suicide Rates have shown a recent increase

In 2018, a total of 6,507 suicides were registered in the UK, equivalent to 11.2 deaths per 100 000 of the population.

Suicide rates have been steadily decreasing for the last 40 years, but there was a statistically significant increase from 2017 to 2018.

It’s also worth noting that the male suicide rate is three times higher than the female suicide rate.

Sources: Suicides in the UK: 2018 Registrations.

Fewer households in absolute poverty, the same amount in relative poverty

If we look at households in ‘absolute low income’ (the bottom two graphs below) then we see a decline. Focusing on the ‘after housing costs’ statistics:

  • In 2002/03 24% of households were in absolute low income, compared to only 19% in 2017/18.
  • If we look at relative low income, there is no change over time, 22% of households are still classified as low income households.

Source: Households Below Average Income.

Crime rates are remaining stable

However, some types of crime have increased recently

Robbery and knife crime have increased recently, although there are very few cases of these types of crime compared to theft and fraud, and while the later has increased, the impact of fraud on victims is probably less harmful than for most other types of crime.

Source: Crime in England and Wales

People are happier

The mean happiness score (/10) for the UK population has increased to all time high of 7.56. ‘Life satisfaction’ and ‘worthwhileness’ scores are also increasing

Anxiety levels are stable

The mean anxiety score (/10) has remained stable at just below 3/10 for half a decade, while the percentage of people reporting high levels of anxiety remains at just under 20%.

Source for the above two sets of stats: Personal and Economic well-being indicators.

The UK’s Population is Increasing

In 2018, the UK’s population reached 66.4 million people, with a growth rate of 0.6% and immigration being the main reason for population growth.

The population is increasing at roughly 350 000 people per year, just over 100 000 of these are due to ‘natural change’ (more births than deaths) while just over 200 000 are due to net migration (more people immigrating than emigrating.

Source: Overview of the UK population.

Conclusion: Is life in the UK getting better or worse?

On balance I’d say that the official statistics above suggest that, on average, life in the UK is getting better:

  • Employment and poverty are both down.
  • Crime is generally down
  • Happiness is increasing and anxiety is stable

However, there has been a recent spike in the suicide rate and some types of violent crime are up.

It’s very difficult to say whether or not the increasing population is a positive or a negative: clearly the fact that this is driven mainly by immigration concerns a lot of people, but possibly we need migration to offset the increasing dependency ration associated with the aging population, so this might actually be a good sign!

Question: what other stats do you think should be included in the above?

The decline of the nation state and the rise of anti-immigration attitudes

Globlisation has undermined the capacity of governments to govern on behalf of their citizens, because governments have generally preferred to do the bidding of Transnational Corporations. This means most countries now have a reduced welfare state, they are able to do less for their citizens. This results in anti-immigration attitudes and policies

Globalisation has undermined the capacity of governments to govern on behalf of their citizens, because governments have generally preferred to do the bidding of Transnational Corporations. This means most countries now have a reduced welfare state, they are able to do less for their citizens.

This in turn has led to citizens demanding that governments tighten border controls to keep other people out, so the declining resources don’t have to be shared with more people.

This is the view of Nira Yuval Davis, Director of the research center on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London, expressed in a recent episode of Thinking Allowed on Borders, which aired January 2020.

For the purposes of A-level sociology, some of her comments sound like they’re coming from a broadly Marxist or World Systems Theory viewpoint, expressing a pessimist view of globalisation.

Globalisation, TNCs and Governments….

Davis starts off by pointing out that in the age of Imperialism, border regions were seen as fluid and shifting territories rather than fixed, which makes sense because imperial powers were always looking to expand their borders! The nation state gave birth to a concept of ‘homeland’ which went along with this ‘solidfying’ of borders.

She suggests that with globalisation the idea of borders became less important, with there being a dream of a border less world and global citizenship rights. However, this has never happened: there has always been global inequalities based on which country one originates from.

Governments have found it more and more difficult to govern on behalf of their citizens, but have become increasingly likely to negotiate with transnational corporations, doing the bidding of the international companies rather than acting on behalf of their own citizens.

This has led to a recent process of ‘rebordering’ – as governments can’t control Transnational corporations or the global economy, they shore up their borders to control people-flows, to ensure citizens that they have some measure of control over something!

The demand for governments to ‘defend the borders against foreigners came from below, from ordinary people. This was because neoliberalisation resulted in a shrinking of the welfare state, and hence a demand to limit the benefits to just those who ‘belong’.

Anti-immigrant sentiment: a response to neoliberal globalisation?

As a result of the above borders have spread out both internally and externally:

  • Externally = when someone from India wants to come to the UK, they have their application processed in a UK office in India
  • Internally – with raids on employment offices to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Citizens as informal border guards

This section has interesting links to globalisatsion and the social control aspect of crime and deviance

There is now an increased expectation on citizens to be informal, unpaid, untrained border guards and keep an eye on ‘who really belongs’!

NB it’s very interesting to think about this in the context of Brexit!

In recent decades the government has passed legislation that requires certain types of UK citizen to inform on people they think might be illegal immigrants – lorry drivers for example can be fined over £10K for bringing in illegals, and so are required to check their loads and get people off them before coming into the UK, and landlords are now required to inform the home office if they think illegals are renting from them, or face a fine of several thousands of pounds.

Negative consequences of tightening bordering controls

This requirement of informal policing has led to negative consequences – there has been at least one case of a restaurant being raided, illegals found, a huge fine imposed, and the restaurants reputation ruined, while the immigrants were later released.

And landlords are now discriminating by not renting to people who haven’t been born in the UK.

The irony/ paradox of this is that neoliberalisation requires the free-er movement of people for it to work, so there may even be a longer term economic consequence!

Sociological Perspectives on HS2

Sociological perspectives on HS2 – functionalism, marxism, interactionism, feminism and post-late modernism.

The conservative cabinet recently gave approval for the full HS2 rail line to be built, linking London to Birmingham, and later to Manchester and Leeds.

The estimated cost will be £100 billion, meaning the final cost will probably be nearer $200 billion. I know we live in a supposedly postmodern age, but the one certain thing is that private construction companies will find a way to go well over their budget when working on major public infrastructure projects.

I got to thinking what the green light for this project suggests about different sociological perspectives.

Functionalism and HS2

At a very basic level, you could argue this is a ‘functional’ project as it’s improving different connectivity across England, and supporters point to the economic benefits this project will bring to the economy: jobs in the short term and then more business (supposedly) to the North in the long term.

It’s also a very modernist project: it’s big, bold and done at the level of the nation state, and it’s about promoting economic growth.

Marxism and HS2

Marxists tend to argue that government policies which benefit the wealthy are more likely to get the go ahead than those that benefit the poor. Call be a Marxist cynic, but when I heard of a new high speed rail line between London and the North being built my first thought was ‘well that’ll be nice for city commuters’, now the can all cash in their 1M homes in the SE and buy a much larger home up north and a Monday -Thursday flat in London.

We could also be critical of this project in terms of the North-South divide – a lot of people in the North would rather we spent £200 billion over the next five-ten years on improving travel infrastructure just in the North.

A super fast rail line to a few cities up North isn’t going to benefit that many people (other than city commuters) if you can’t then get anywhere else because the local roads are still congested and the local public transport links are irrational?

I can’t imagine this project benefiting anyone in the bottom sixth of society, the kind of people who generally can’t afford to travel.

Feminism and HS2

I can’t see that much relevance in applying Feminism other than to mention that this project does seem to be very much a boys thing. I’m sure every single person I’ve seen talking in favour of it is a man.

I have, however, seen lots of women protesting against it, at various local sites where the rail is going to uproot local communities and destroy local woodlands.

Interactionism and HS2

I don’t think we can understand why this project is going ahead without taking into account the symbolic meaning of it for Boris Johnson and Brexit.

This isn’t just a physical infrastructure project, giving HS2 the green light at this point in British history is also a sign that ‘Britain can go it alone’, that ‘Britain’s building for the future’, that Britains ‘gearing up for business’ – and a whole load of other slogans are no doubt going to be attached to this by the political class for the next decade.

And it’s also a nice little personal legacy for the PM himself.

Postmodernism/ Late Modernism and HS2

On the surface there’s nothing postmodern about it this project – it’s very modern and ‘national’, however if you look into what companies are involved with constructing, and in the future running HS2, this will no doubt be a global effort.

HS2 is also a symbol of divisions in our late modern society – with half the population being against it, the other half being for it. This is hardly promoting value consensus!

One also has wonder whether building better travel connections ‘for business’ makes sense when work is changing so it’s more remote, with more people working from home.

It’s also a reminder of the challenges of politics in a Late Modern age – we simply don’t know whether this will end up being a good investment, but in the context of uncertainty politicians just have to make decisions and stick to them!

In conclusion

I’m sure HS2 is primarily being built so Boris Johnsons’s city buddies can have a better quality of life, it’ll make it feasible for them to buy a nice house up north and a flat in London and then do the Monday to Thursday commute, then go have a nice long weekend up North.

So if you’re looking for an investment, buy a house in Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds now! This isn’t financial advice!

Sources: find out more

Is poverty a social problem in the UK?

Is poverty a social problem in the UK today?

Whether or not we regard Poverty as a social problem depends on:

  • how we define and measure ‘poverty’
  • the extent to which we think individuals are responsible for their own poverty
  • our perspective on what we think the consequences of other people’s poverty will be for society as a whole
  • Whether we ‘care less’ about other people’s poverty.

In this post I’m going to focus on one definition of poverty: ‘destitution’, as defined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (source below)

Is destitution problem in the UK?

The JRF defines destitution as when an individual cannot afford the basic material essentials which are necessary to leading a secure life. These essentials include housing, food, weather appropriate clothing and footwear, heating, electricity and basic toiletries.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 1.5 million people in the UK were in ‘destitute’ at some point in 2017, the latest figures available.

It’s worth noting briefly that nearly everyone who was (and probably is currently) destitute was either homeless or in temporary or sheltered accommodation.

Destitution in the UK is a social problem…

If you believe that everyone has the right to the basic material necessities of life, then you’d probably regard the fact of such a huge number of people being destitute as a social problem. This certainly seems to be the view of those at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

If you watch the video below in which the JRF define destitution there are lots of references to how it’s not acceptable for people to be destitute today.

If you’re the kind of person that’s upset by other people’s suffering, then you’d probably also regard this number of people as being destitute as a social problem – it doesn’t take that much empathy to realise that the state of destitution is extremely unpleasant.

Not only can being destitute involve being hungry and cold and being excluded from many aspects of social life (because you’ve got no money!), it can also mean living in a state of anxiety over the future if you can’t afford to pay the rent, and maybe depression that your situation has no end in sight.

Destitution today might also be the breeding ground for future problems for individuals and society – a hungry child not concentrating in school will get lower educational outcomes and be less employable in the future; someone living in a cold damp house now is more likely to develop long term chronic health problems – both situations which could mean those people being a long term drain on the nation’s resources in the future.

A further reason you might regard destitution as a problem is because of the non-necessity of it! We clearly have the resources in the UK to ensure that every single individual at least has the basic necessities of life, and yet there are 1.5 million people who lead lives so insecure that they’re not having their basic needs met!

People are probably more likely to think destitution is a problem if the reasons for it are not the fault of the individuals experiencing it – if they have fallen into destitution because of ill-health, a relationship breakdown, abuse, losing a job, or even something as basic as a high cost of living (rent, bills etc.). In such situations, maybe it is desirable that the benefits system kicks in and acts as a safety net.

The extremes of destitution existing alongside extremes of wealth might bother some people because of the social injustice of it, especially if they believe that destitution exists because of the means whereby the rich have got wealthy.

Finally, destitution might well lead to crime and social unrest. If people are hungry they might turn to crime to feed themselves, and if they collectively come to perceive their situation as one that is not fair or just, social unrest may be the result.

So it would seem that there several reasons, emotional and rational for why you might perceive destitution as a social problem!

Destitution in the UK is NOT a social problem…

Firstly, if you’re being hard-nosed about it you might point out that 1.5 million people is not that many – it’s only 2.5% of the population. And according to the JRF 2018 report into destitution, this number is declining.

The definition/ measurement of destitution used by JRF is quite ‘soft’ – someone only had to go without two of those basic needs above for a month in 2017 and they were counted in the statistics. You might think it’s not that bad going hungry for one month in a year, it’s not starvation, it’s unlikely to lead to long term malnutrition.

Then there’s the fact that you simply might not believe in individual rights. You might believe that individuals are not ‘entitled’ to anything, and if they fall on hard times it’s tough luck.

Or you might believe in radical individual responsibility and think that if individuals are destitute, for whatever reason, it is their job to lift themselves out of it, in which case the problem of destitution isn’t a social problem, it’s an individual problem, although this particular view point is quite anti-sociological, in fact it’s possibly the very opposite of the sociological imagination.

Even if you’re more left-wing and believe that the individual is NOT entirely responsible for their own poverty, but rather it’s something to do with the system, then it’s not poverty as such that’s ‘the real problem’ – it’s whatever you believe has caused poverty.

Finally, even if there are identifiable correlations between destitution and crime/ social unrest, it might be that with more measures of control (e.g. harsher penalties, more police, as right realists suggest) we might still be able to mitigate the worst effects of destitution.

Conclusions. .

Whether you think destitution in the UK is a social problem very much depends on your values.

If you’re leaning towards the left you’re more likely to believe that povert has social causes and that more equality is good, so are more likely to perceive destitution as a social problem with social solutions.

If you’re more right leaning, you’re more likely to frame destitution as an individual problem, have less of a problem with higher levels of inequality and think that individuals and society can and should adapt to cope with a certain degree of destitution, which individuals largely bring on themselves.

Finally, whether you think it’s a problem or not depends on your definition and measurement of it, and TBH with the soft definition used by the JRF I’m actually finding myself leaning to the view that destitution in the UK is NOT a serious social problem.

Sources/ find out more

Sociological Perspectives on the Coronavirus

The UK government today declared that the Coronavirus was a ‘serious and imminent threat to public health‘.

This certainly seems to be justified as the number of UK confirmed cases has recently doubled from 4 to 8, and the virus does seem to spreading in South East Asia and beyond.

There’s no doubt this virus is very contagious and the consequences of catching this virus are severe

Based on it’s R0 score (interesting article that, and worth a read!) scientists believe this viurs is more infectious that SARS or Ebola, so there is a high risk of catching it if you come into contact with someone whose got it.

And given the death toll is now approaching 1000, out of 40000 confirmed cases, the stats suggest that you’ve got a a 1/ 4o chance of dying from it, a chance I wouldn’t like to take!

Measures of control as a response

You’ve no doubt heard of the Chinese authorities putting Wuhan in lock-down, and borders being closed, and people being placed in quarantine on return from China to the UK.

All of this is a great example of the continued power of the Nation State to control people’s lives in response to ‘risks to public health’.

A global threat

It’s obvious by now that this is a global threat with global consequences, especially as people are stopped from moving between countries, as are goods, which means there are possibly sever health and economic consequences.

Apparently it’s having a very negative effect on the global education market, the Chinese are big consumers of education, especially in the UK!

Social media, uncertainty, misinformation and fear

This article in the conversation reports on how rumors about the virus have spread, even in China where there are penalties for reposting non-official content about the virus.

But then there’s the fact that we know we can’t trust the Chinese authorities reports on how many people have contracted the virus – it was the Wuhan province authority underplaying the extent of the virus in the first place which led to its rapid spread.

So despite its very ‘real’ nature, the lack of certainty surrounding its spread of tmakes the Coronavirus a very post-modern phenomenon.

Contemporary Sociology of Education 2019-2020

Links to some contemporary sociology which students can use in their A-level sociology exams!

Links to some of the contemporary news items, documentaries and research studies which I’ve blogged about in 2019-2020, which are relevant to the sociology of education.

According to the AQA sociology specification, students are expected to be able to use contemporary examples to illustrate the points they make in their sociology exams.

Links to relevant blog posts….

If you want to know more about how to use contemporary sociology…. why not attend my revision webinar series…

Education and research methods Revision Work Packs and Power Points for Sale

I’ve just released some extensive revision workbooks and Power Points for sale as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

This teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering the entire content of education and research methods of the AQA’s A-level sociology specification.

The resources should be enough to cover at least 8-10 revision lessons on education and research methods.

Resources in February’s bundle include

  • One education workbook in Word – 65 pages
  • Two education Power Points – over 70 slides
  • One research methods workbook in Word – 60 pages
  • One Research Methods Power Point – 60 slides
  • Short answer questions PDF for education and research methods
  • Essay plans PDF for education, research methods and methods in context.

NB – These aren’t visual, I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in.

The work packs and Power Points contain various activities such as….

Paired concepts

Short answer practice questions

A-Z word matching tasks

10 Mark practice questions

Essay plans and short answer question PDFs

I’m also throwing in PDFs of my short answer practice questions and Essay plans for education research methods, which I normally sell as part of my revision bundles!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. Please click the link to left for details of the schedule of what’s coming in future months!

I’m not so sure Stuart is the victim of someone playing the race card…

Alastair Stewart recently resigned his position as a news reader for ITV, following accusations that he’d made a racist comment towards someone on Twitter.

Stuart was having a twitter conversation with Martin Shapland about the relationship between the taxpayer and the crown, and in a reply to Shapland he used a Shakespear Quote:

“But manproud man, Dress’d in a little brief authority, Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d— His glassy essence—like an angry ape.

Shapland, who is black, picked up on the ‘ape’ part of the quote and accused Stuart of being racist, and trying to disguise a racial slur within a quote.

Stuart resign from his 40 year career as a news anchor before he was sacked – that tweet above which broke ITV’s guidelines on the use of social media.

NB Shapland has said that he didn’t want him to resigned/ be sacked, and that an apology would have done.

But is this an example of racism?

The first thing suggesting that the tweet had no racist intent is that Stuart has used that quote with other people, which suggests that the intention is to suggest someone’s opinion is invalid because it is not properly informed with all of the facts, rather than it referring to someone’s racial background.

The second thing in Stuart’s defence is his track record: I’ve never come across a sniff of him being Racist before? Obviously all is colleagues and friends say he isn’t, but then they would… but if one was racist, you’d expect something to have ‘come out’ after 40 years in the media spotlight?

Finally, there’s the background of Shapland – some of his previous tweets suggest he’s something of a ‘race warrior’, with some of his tweets calling out white privilege.

I’ve been looking around for an example of something that appears to be racist, but on slightly closer examination . almost certainly isn’t racist, and this seems to be a good example of that!

This feels like ‘trial by social media and political correctness’

As I understand it, in the eyes of the law (certainly where hate crime is concerned) if a victim perceives there to be racial intent, then there is racial intent, so in that sense, ITV had no choice to but to let Stuart go.

However, in this case, the objective truth seems more likely to be that there was any racial intent in that tweet:

It’s probably even the case that even Shapland himself didn’t really think Stuart was being racist: rather it feels like what happened is that Shapland sent off a terse reply ‘playing the race card’ without really thinking about it as part of a social media tiff.

And in the rapid world of social media, you might be able to delete those kind of tweets, but not before someone else has screen shotted and retweeted them!

Final thoughts

To my mind this is a very postmodern event – this kind of thing just couldn’t happen outside of social media.

I don’t think this has turned out too well for Shapland either – he’s getting a lot of actual abuse on twitter now, Stuart has been a popular part of our media landscape for generations!

Also, careful how you use Twitter, it’s not a great case for ‘debates’!

Class, gender and ethnicity and your chances of getting to university…

How does your social class background, your gender and your ethnicity influence your chances of getting into university?

There are still huge variations in the types of student who make it to university, if we analyse the Department for Education’s Higher Education data by ‘Free School Meals’ (a proxy for social class), gender and ethnicity. This update should be of clear relevant to the education module within A-level sociology.

We can see from the table above that there are stark differences by pupil characteristics.

  • 82% of non Free School Meal Chinese girls make it to university, compared to only 2% of girls of Free-School Meal Traveler of Irish Heritage background.
  • The above chart is very effective in showing the ethnic differences in university students, and with some interesting variations by FSM status – Black African FSM girls seem to do particular well, for example.
  • It’s also interesting to note that ‘White British’ students come very near the bottom of the table, with figures of around 40% HE participation for non FSM students, but only around 20 average for FSM White British pupils. The reason for singling out White students here is that the majority of pupils are white, so these figures are going to have most impact on the national average statistics.

The University FSM gap

There is still an 18.6% gap in Higher Education participation by Free School Meal status, this has decline by almost 1.5% points in the last decade, but this is slow progress!

The University Gender Gap

TBH I’m somewhat surprised to see the gender gap continuing apace, and it seems to be a steady increase year on year!

Other Higher Education inequalities

The latest report (see link below) also highlights inequalities by region (the biggest gap is in the South East, the smallest in London) and by Special Educational Need. See below for more details!

It also looks at the differences for ‘high tariff’ universities (the ones which ask for higher grades) which show starker differences.

Widening Participation Targets

The Office for Students has been campaigning to get universities to widen participation by reducing the above gaps. Most universities have in fact pledged to try and half some of these gaps by 2025 for example – if they succeed this would mean only a 10% gap between FSM and non FSM pupils.

However, this would mean fewer middle class students getting into university, assuming that more places are not created.

Sources/ find out more

Department for Education – Widening Participation in Higher Education

Coronavirus – like the Borg but worse, apparently!

The World Health Organisation is meeting today to decide whether the Coronavirus constitutes an international global health emergency.

The first human case of the virus was found in the Chinese city of Wuhan, but it has since spread beyond into other parts of China and internationally to other countries such as South Korea and Japan.

I listed to an interesting item this morning on Radio 4’s Today programme which featured an interview with David Quammen, the author of Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.

Quammen says that the characteristics of this latest virus were predicted by the various health experts he spoke to when he wrote his book, which was 10 years ago. The experts he spoke to said the next major Pandemic would probably have the following features:

  • It would be a single strain RNA virus
  • It would probably come from the Corona family
  • It would be spread through respiratory transmission
  • And possibly from a live market in China

The problem with the single strand RNA virus is that they make a lot of mistakes, they don’t copy directly, the evolve and adapt, which means when the virus transmits from an animal to a human, it can adapt so that it can replicate and then transmit between humans.

NB – that’s the bit that reminded me of The Borg (from Star Trek) – they adapt to Phaser attacks, rendering further attacks impotent – just like the Coronavirus might adapt to treatments in the future, except that virus works inside humans, which kind of makes it more terrifying!

It is also a possibility that it can become more harmful when it mutates, however it could become less harmful – we just don’t know, there is a lot uncertainty.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a great example of how we live in a Risk Society – we simply don’t know what the consequences of this virus will be, so we have to put in place extreme measures to deal with it – The Chinese Authorities have put Wuhan into lock-down, shutting transport hubs for example.

It also reminds us about how global problems transcend national boarders – the virus has already spread to other countries, and the World Health Organisation is coordinating a global response.

However, it also maybe reminds us of the importance of the Nation State for dealing with a crisis like this – it’s difficult to see how an effective strategy to stop the spread of the virus could work without a massive power like the Nation State putting in place measures of control.