Applying material from Item A, analyse two reasons why some pupils join pupil subcultures (10)

This is one of the 10 mark analyse questions appearing on one of the AQA’s specimin papers, below I’ve simply adapted the AQA’s model answer and added in my own commentary….

  • Hooks in the item
  • What to apply the hooks to = pupil subcultures!

Item A

Schools give status to pupils on the basis of characteristics such as their perceived ability, behaviour and attitude, and this is often related to pupils’ class, gender and ethnicity.

Pupils with desirable characteristics are given higher status and treated differently. These pupils are likely to do well and to feel positive about school. Some other pupils may be more concerned about their friends’ opinions of them than with the school’s view of them.

The text below has been modified from the AQA’s student responses and examiner commentary. All I’ve done is split the paragraphs apart to show you clearly that there are 4-5 explanations/ development of each point. NB the response got 10/10.

Point 1

Hargreaves argued that schools streamed pupils on the basis of their behaviour (Item A line 2). Those students who were labelled as a trouble-maker were put in the lower stream.

They had two negative labels put on them. They were penalised by being put in a secondary school (modern) and by being put in the lower streams. The teachers called them worthless louts. The students were denied status and came together to create a sense of self-worth forming anti-school subcultures.

They did this by inverting the values of the school. In an anti-school sub-culture being bad became being good. Thus they didn’t hand in homework, cheated and broke school rules.

The more they did this the more their respect increased amongst their peers. Because these pupils were treated differently (Item A line 3) they developed a sub-culture.

Point 2:

The way teachers treat pupils causes pupils to form a subculture. This may be because they are labelled by teachers in the classroom. Labelling means attaching a definition such as bright or high achiever.

This labelling may be due to external factors such as possessing elaborated language code. Lacey found that teacher labelling can result in polarisation of pupils, where they become even further apart in achievement and behaviour.

Those who are positively labelled form pro-school subcultures, they tend to mix with other who are similarly labelled. The pupils in these subcultures work hard and have good behaviour.

These pupils gain more favour with the teachers and research by Ball showed how this meant the teacher spent more time with them. Linking to the first point, these pupils are also more likely to end up in higher streams, further improving their chances of educational success.

Examiner commentary

Good knowledge and understanding of two relevant reasons, streaming and labelling, for the reasons why pupils form subcultures. These include relevant sociological evidence and concepts. The points show developed application of the material from the item. The answer also draws links between the two reasons for the formation of subcultures. 10/10 marks awarded

Karl’s Commentary – How to answer 10 mark questions?

From this example, it seems obvious that the student has nit-picked the item to the extreme. What they’ve done in both responses is linked the first section of the item to the second section, so if you can do this, then that’s clearly best practice!

They’ve also done the following to ‘differentiate’: note – they talk about four different things!

  • Streaming – linked to anti-school subcultures
  • Labelling – linked to pro-school subcultures.

An alternative strategy may have been to pick up on the class, gender and ethnicity element and use this to differentiate even further in both points!

NB – There’s a colour coded version of the above in the revision bundle below, in which I show all the many links the candidate makes to the item! 

Essay Plans/ Revision Resources

Education Revision Bundle CoverIf you like this sort of thing, then you might like my sociology of education revision notes bundle – which contains the following:

  1. 34 pages of revision notes
  2. mind maps in pdf and png format – 9 in total, covering various topics within the sociology of education
  3. short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. how to write sociology essays, including 7 specific templates and model answers on the sociology of education


Sources used to write this post

AQA: Student Responses with Examiner Commentary Specimen Paper 2015

This entry was posted in A level sociology exam practice, education, Exams and revision advice. Bookmark the permalink.

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