Should Teaching Black, Asian and Minority History be Mandatory in British Schools?

The Footballer Troy Deeney recently commissioned a YouGov survey of 1000 teachers which found that around 75% of them think the government needs to do more to help them improve the diversity of history teaching, to include a wider range of experiences and views of ethnic minorities.

Troy Deeney is one of many activists campaigning for more multiculturalism in British education, as shown by his recent open letter to the Secretary of State for Education:

Troy’s motivation, as he says in his letter, was that he was expelled from school at the age of 15, and he believes that if school curriculums reflected a more diverse range of views from ethnic minorities, this would help his own and other ethnic minority education feel more included and get more out of their formal education.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is clearly relevant to the topic of ethnicity and education within the education module.

Troy Deeney is suggesting a policy change which would make it compulsory to teach from a more diverse range of perspectives.

If we look at educational achievement at GCSE in recent years there doesn’t seem to be much of a case to be made for doing this – the achievement gap between ethnic groups has narrowed considerably, with Black Caribbean students being the only relatively large minority group falling significantly behind White students. Indian and Chinese students do better!

So the argument for more multicultural education has to come from a broader base than just differences in educational attainment, and given the problems we still have with racism in British society (think about Cricket recently!) there is certainly an argument for having a broader diversity of views taught across the curriculum.

However, IF we did this, it might just backfire, it might create more resentment, more polarisation, a sense of ‘forcing multiculutralism down peoples’ throats’.

Especially if we think about the extent of white working class underachievement and the current backlash against multiculturalism in many American schools.

It might be better just to leave formal education as it is and just encourage more ethnic mixing within classrooms – just get black, white and asian kids to work together collaboratively on projects and to work and play together – and let the sharing of cultures and values take place a bit more naturally?

Advanced Information for A-Level Sociology June 2022: Crime, Deviance, Social Order and Social Control….

The AQA have ‘very generously’ informed A-level sociology students that the 30 mark essay question in the June 2022 exam will be on the topic area of ‘crime, deviance, social order and social control’.

The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily narrow down the specific content of the question that much. In fact, this ‘advice’ is probably a good candidate for the most useless piece of advice given for any A-level.

I mean, they’ve basically given you the general title of the crime and deviance module, which pretty much gives them license to ask you about ANYTHING in that 30 mark question, so keep that in mind.

But let’s be forgiving, and let’s assume for a moment that the senior sociology examiners were thinking like the text book authors, teachers and students when they wrote this year’s 30 mark question (yes, it’s almost certainly already been written folks!), this means the MOST LIKELY focus of the question should be on any or all of:

  • The Functionalist Perspective
  • The Marxist Perspective
  • The Labelling Theory of Crime

BUT ALSO…..

For links to all of the above – see my Crime and Deviance page!

My A-level sociology senses are telling me that Surveillance might well feature heavily in this 30 mark question – that would make sense given the role of Surveillance in controlling Covid-19 AND given that it’s a difficult topic, it would be fair of the examiners to give you advanced warning.

But you’re probably better off NOT gambling on one very specific topic coming up and being prepared for the whole general topic area.

ALSO, don’t forget they can still combine the above with other topic areas – you might be asked to assess specific theories of crime control, or why women are more ‘controlled’ than men, or you might be asked to think about crime control in relation to globalisation, the later would make sense in any exam these days!

Possible Crime and Deviance Exam Essay Questions for June 2022…

Just a few suggestions, NB I don’t know what’s coming up….

(Using material from the item….)

Evaluate sociological perspectives on the role of surveillance in controlling crime and deviance (30)

Evaluate sociological perspectives on the role of informal or formal agents of social control (30)

Evaluate the view that informal agents of social control are more effective at controlling crime than formal agents of social control (30) (Nice question, huh?!?

I might, over the coming weeks, have a crack at some of these myself!

NB – top tip for this paper: go HARD on using Covid-19 rules as evidence to illustrate your points!

Find out More

More details about [advanced information for the June 2022 A-level sociology exam here.

Advanced Information for the June 2022 A-Level Sociology Exams – what should you focus on…?

The AQA recently released its advanced information for the June 2022 A-level Exams, and for A-level Sociology this means telling students what the big essay questions are going to be on in each of the three main papers

  • (Paper 1 Education, 30 mark essay): Education policies – including policies of selection, privatisation, marketisation, improvement of outcome or equality of opportunity AND globalisation (few!)
  • (Paper 2 Families Topics, 20 mark essay): The family and social change, in relation to the economy and state policies
  • (Paper 2: Beliefs in Society, 20 mark essay): Ideology, science and religion
  • (Paper 3): Crime with Theory and Methods. 30 mark crime essay): Crime, deviance, social order and social control
  • (Paper 3, 20 mark theory or methods essay): Consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories.

NB These are ONLY the essays, the shorter (4/6/10 mark) questions can be on anything, and there is NO advance guidance on Methods in Context.

In short, the AQA are telling you content for about HALF of exams over all, so by all means spend a bit more time revising the above topics but you still need to revise EVERYTHING!

What should your revision strategy be given this advanced information?

This isn’t a typical year, now that you’ve been gifted the topics for the questions in advance, as this means many students will change their revision practices to focus on these ‘five known topics’.

This means that it’s advisable to spend proportionately more time on these topics to make sure you’re at the same level.

HOWEVER, I would personally (and humbly) suggest that you should also be practicing essay technique – focussing on how to USE the knowledge in these chosen sub-topics to answer specific questions precisely – this is what’s going to give you the edge.

Think about it – EVERYONE is going to know these topics better than in the typical year, so the standard student will be going into the exam ready to splurge all that knowledge down on paper – but if that’s all they do, they’ll get no more than a C grade (even though they’ll walk out thinking they’ve earned an ‘A’.

The mark schemes only give around half the marks in those essays for knowledge, the rest of the marks are for analysis and evaluation, actually using that knowledge to answer the question.

So make sure to practice those higher order skills too.

ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT POINT….

When I say spend more time revising the topics above, I mean like spend about another 5-10% of the time on them – DO NOT sacrifice revising the other topics – collectively everything else is still worth half the marks, you simply have to devote almost as much time to these as well, because it’s still the case that anything else can come up in those shorter questions.

So personally I’d spend a fraction more time revising the above topics, but don’t shift ore than 10% away from all the other topics, and focus a lot on exam technique.

In short, don’t change much and do mostly what you’d usually do anyway!

Sources

Advanced information for the June 2022 A-level from the AQA.

Why is the Birth Rate in England and Wales Declining?

The latest statistics rom the ONS show that half of all women now remain childless until they are 30, which reflects a longer term trend of declining birth rates in England and Wales.

In fact, birth rates have been declining for around 10 years now, previous to which they had been increasing, but why is this?

This topic is an update relevant to the Families and Households module.

Why have birth rates been declining for the last decade?

Writing in The Guardian, Poly Toynbee identifies two main reasons to do with increasing economic hardship and Conservative austerity policies which fail to make work attractive for women with children.

She notes that the dip in the birth rate started when The Coalition government introduced their austerity policies in 2012, and this meant heavy cuts to child services, such as Sure Start, making it less appealing to have children.

But mainly this change seems to be about economic factors – people have fewer children when they think there are going to be tough economic times ahead – and our economies been creaking for years, especially if we look at the cost of housing.

You may think that the chosen social response to the Pandemic that was Lockdown would have encouraged people to have more children, as work has become more home-based, but the reality of this for women was having to balance home working and home schooling.

And now there’s more uncertainty than ever going forwards – about the Pandemic, about the economy, and, frankly, who can blame anyone for not wanting to bring children into this new post-pandemic world of ours.

NB…. this could have dire consequences ten years down the line for our ageing population, now there will be even fewer working age to retired people.

Sources/ Find out More.

I heard about the ‘half of all women are childless until 30’ stat on Radio Four this morning.

The latest ONS figures on birth and death rates.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Exaggerated Health Inequalities in England

The Pandemic has increased health inequalities in England, according to a recent report by the Institute of Health Inequalities – Build Back Fairer – The Covid-19 Marmot Review: The Pandemic, Social and Health Inequalities in England.

Prior to the Pandemic, from 2010 to 2020, health inequalities between the least and most deprived were increasing in England.

Pre-pandemic, increases in life expectancy had stalled, but life expectancy for the most deprived 10% of the population actually decreasing in some regions (such as parts of the North East and London) during some years in that 10 year period.

Covid-19 increased health inequalities

The charts below show the mortality rates per one thousand between March and July 2020.

As you can see, there are drastic differences already between the least and most deprived deciles – 600/ 100 000 for the poorest decile, compared to 400/ 100 000 for the wealthiest decile.

But the difference is greater when we look at the covid related mortality rate – this is 200/100 000 for the poorest, compared to nearly 100/ 100 000 for the wealthiest.

So health inequalities increased from a difference of 1.5.1 to nearly 2:1 as a result of the Pandemic.

Some of this difference is explained by the different levels of exposure due to occupation – as a general rule, professional workers are more able to work from home and stay isolated, while manual workers and care workers need to actually go to work in person, and this is reflected in the different mortality rates by occupation (‘social class’) for the same period as above:

Explaining health inequalities… it’s not ALL about the Pandemic

Professor Marmot is at pains to point out that these health inequalities were in existence BEFORE the pandemic, and that government health policies between 2010 to 2020 explain WHY poor people have died in such huge numbers from covid-19 and why England has the highest covid related mortality figures in Western Europe.

In particular Marmot points to the following government policies:

  1. A political culture that undermined social inclusivity and cohesiveness and failed to promote the common good
  2. Widespread inequality, which is bad for socio-economic outcomes in general, with the most deprived ‘steered’ towards poor living conditions and unhealthy lifestyles.
  3. Government austerity policies – an underfunded health and social care sector.

In terms of what to do, the report makes a number of suggestions, mainly to do with introducing policies to improve health outcomes of the most deprived, and this will take a broader/ deeper approach to social change rather than just being about health!

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is a VERY sociological report – putting the covid mortality rate in longer term context.

The point is that we can’t just blame the Pandemic for killing people – certain types of people (the poor) died in larger numbers proportionality to the rich – which means there was a social cause to the high covid death toll in England.

And that cause was, according to this report, already high levels of existing inequality.

This is a rare example of some long-term quantitative analysis, it sounds almost like Functionalism/ Positivism in its approach.

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

What is the Pupil Premium and how Effective is it?

The Pupil Premium provides extra funding to schools to improve the educational outcomes of disadvantaged children in England and Wales.

Both Local Education Authority Schools and Academies in England and Wales get the following Pupil Premium Funding (2022 to 2033 figures)

  • £1385 (primary) or £985 per pupil who is eligible for Free School Meals (or who has been eligible within the last six years)
  • £2410 (primary and secondary) per pupil who has been adopted from care or left care,
  • £2410 (primary and secondary) per pupil who is looked after by the Local Authority.

Payments for the first two above are paid directly to the school ( the later to the LEA) and school leaders have the freedom (and responsibility) to spend the extra funding as they see fit.

Approximately two million school children qualify for the Pupil Premium:

How the Government expects schools to spend the Pupil Premium?

There are three suggested areas:

  1. General teaching – school leaders are allowed to just spend money from the Pupil Premium on recruiting more teachers or support staff, or training.
  2. Targeted Support for disadvantage pupils – this is probably what you imagine the funding being spent on – things such as extra tuition in small groups for specific children, probably those who generate the Pupil Premium
  3. Wider areas – such as Breakfast Clubs or helping fund the cost of educational trips

Accountability…

Schools are required to publish online statements outlining how they have spent their Pupil Premium Funding.

Pupil Premium: The Theory

The pupil premium is the main government policy to tackle the educational underachievement ‘caused’ by material deprivation.   

This educational policy recognises the fact that children from disadvantage backgrounds face more challenges and achieve lower grades than children from more affluent backgrounds.

Children who are eligible for Free School Meals are from the lowest 15 – 20% of households by income, so they will probably be living in relative poverty, and some of them will be experience material deprivation.

The government gives most of the money straight to the schools with such disadvantaged children, allowing school leaders to pick a strategy that they think will work best for their school, as one solution won’t work for every school!

The Pupil Premium: Does it Work?

This 2021 Parliament Briefing summarises seven reports on the attainment gap and the effectiveness (or lack of it) of the Pupil Premium.

On the positive side, it notes that the attainment gap (between disadvantaged and non disadvantaged children) has come down in the last ten years, since the Pupil Premium was introduced, BUT this trend alone doesn’t necessarily mean it was the Pupil Premium which led to this.

Moreover, the report notes that the recent school closures following the government’s choice to lockdown the nation as a response to the Pandemic have almost certainly impacted disadvantaged children more, and it’s unlikely that the Pupil Premium will be sufficient to make up for this.

Besides this vaguely positive note, there is a lot of criticism of the Pupil Premium too, and four  stand out:

  • Firstly, a lot of schools are spending the money to plug gaps in school funding, so not targeting it at disadvantaged students, but just spending it on general school needs.
  • Secondly, many reports point out that lack of school funding is the problem and the Pupil Premium doesn’t make up for this.
  • Thirdly, a lot of the money, where targeted, is being spend on Learning Assistants, but apparently this isn’t the most efficient way to help disadvantaged students.
  • Finally, some reports criticise the accountability aspect, schools don’t have to be too specific in outlining how they spend the money.

Links to A-level Sociology

This is relevant to educational policies and can be used to evaluate New Right approaches to education as the Pupil Premium was first introduced by the Right Wing Coalition Government.

It is also relevant to the education and social class topic, but be careful as the Pupil Premium is only designed to tackle material deprivation, not class inequalities or differences more broadly, and relative deprivation/ material deprivation are only one aspect of the more broader concept of social class.  

Find out More

The Pupil Premium government webpage

The Pupil Premium Briefing Paper, House of Commons Library, March 2021

Covid-19 and the Increase in Illegal Schools.

Back in 2019 OFSTED estimated that around 6000 pupils were taught in unregistered, illegal schools in England and Wales.

The most common type of unregistered schools offer ‘alternative provision’ – 28%, while 25% are general educational schools and 21% are religious (although the media tends to focus primarily on the later!).

Since Covid-19 OFSTED have been unable to do anything about such illegal schools, with many of the remaining uninvestigated, and many more seem to have emerged, probably as a response to children’s education having been disrupted due to the Pandemic.

It is illegal to run a school which is not registered with OFSTED, and to to so is a criminal offence which may result in fines or a prison sentence, but this hasn’t put people off setting such schools up, or put some parents off sending their children to them.

The problem with unregistered schools, according to OFSTED is that they may fail to have adequate checks in place when recruiting staff, lack adequate safeguarding provisions and not put sufficient resources into teaching the ‘British Values’ agenda.

However it seems like illegal schools may continue going forwards as Local agencies lack the power to investigate, so it’s down to OFSTED, and apparently they don’t have the power to shut down illegal schools which are performing below standards anyway.

Even if the people running them face prosecution, which is rare, the penalties handed out don’t appear to be very tough – in one example in which two people were prosecuted – they only received suspended prison sentences and a tiny fine, and that’s after having been caught once before and ignored the instruction to desist running the school!

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This topic is clearly relevant to the education module, and could also be applied to Crime and Deviance.

The existence of such ‘illegal schools’ shows us that there isn’t consensus across the education system as there are hundreds of teachers and parents willing to avoid OFSTED.

You could apply labelling theory to this – these schools are only illegal because OFSTED exists and there is a legal requirement to register – just because OFSTED labels them ‘illegal’ doesn’t mean they are bad schools.

In fact you could say it’s fair enough that such schools have increased (probably, it’s difficult to count!) since Covid-19 – given the disruption to education in regular schools, and what I can only imagine is an extremely stressful environment which is very unpleasant to be in, maybe it’s BETTER that some parents and teachers are ignoring the rules and setting up their own ad-hoc schools.

Don’t go falling into the trap/ myth that formal-‘legal’ state sanctioned ways of doing things are the best or only options!

Invalid Official Statistics on Volunteering?

I caught an episode of Woman’s Hour last week in which the presenter kept mentioning that according to a recent survey 62% of people in the UK had volunteered in the last week, and inviting people to discuss their experiences of voluntary work.

The survey in question (excuse the pun) was the Volunteering and Charitable Giving Community Life Survey 2020-2021.

The show was then peppered with references to people’s volunteering efforts, such as working with the homeless at Christmas, staffing food banks, helping out with the Covid-vaccination efforts and so on.

And such examples fit very well with my own imagination of what ‘voluntary work’ involves – to my my mind a volunteer is someone who commits an hour or maybe more a week (I have a low bar in terms of time!) to do something such as the above, probably in conjunction with a formal charity or at least other people as part of a team.

But I just couldn’t believe that 62% of people did that kind of voluntary work last year.

And it turns out that they don’t

The government survey (a form of official statistics) that yielded these results distinguishes between formal and informal volunteering.

The former type: formal volunteering is what I (and probably most people) think of as ‘real volunteering’ – it was these kind of things the Woman’s Hour presenter was interested in hearing about and publicising.

However, only 17% of people did formal volunteering last year…..

Just over 50% of people did ‘informal volunteering’ but this has a VERY LOW BAR for inclusion. Basically, if you babysat your friend’s kids for one day at some point last year, you get to tick the box saying that you did ‘informal volunteering’.

This basically means that ANYONE with a young family has done what this society defines as ‘informal volunteering’ – I mean surely EVERY FAMILY babysits once in a while for their friends – this is just normal parenting – children have friends, parents want a day to themselves every now and then so you ‘babysit swap’ – or sleepovers, technically you could count having your friends’ children over for a sleepover with your own kids as ‘having done voluntary work’ in the last year’.

Add formal and informal volunteering (/ mutal parental favours) together and you get that 62% figure that the Woman’s Hour presenter was talking about.

However to my mind 62% is a completely misleading figure – 17% is how many people ACTUALLY volunteer every year!

It’s a bit annoying TBH – as also in the ‘informal volunteerin’ category are things such as buying shopping for someone who can’t get out of the house and that’s LEGIT, or valid volunteering in my mind, but the category is too inclusive to give us any useful data on this.

Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This is a wonderful example of how a definition which is too broad, in this case what counts as ‘volunteering’ can give a misleading, or invalid impressing of how much actual voluntary work really goes on in the UK.

This survey is a form of official statistics, so you can use this example to be critical of them.

it is possible that the government officials deliberately made the definition so broad so as to give the impression that there is more community spirit, or more of a ‘big society’ around than there actually is – because if there’s lots of community work and voluntary work going on, it’s easier for the government to justify doing less.

However, even with these very broad definitions, the trend in volunteering has still been going down in recent years!

A Merry but Secular Christmas!

A YouGov Poll conducted last year in 2020 shows that the majority of those who celebrate Christmas (and Easter) in the UK do so in an entirely secular way.

The survey results provide some useful evidence to support the view that religion does not play a significant role in British society, as this traditionally Christian and religious event seems now to have lost its religious meaning for the majority of people.

These findings are mainly relevant to the beliefs in society module, especially the secularisation debate.

Below I share some of the findings from this recent survey. NB the Survey looked at both Christmas and Easter, but i only report on XMAS below, ’tis the season, after all!

The Declining Significance of Religion at Christmas

According to YouGov’s sample of almost 2000 people, 61% of them celebrate Christmas in an entirely secular way.

And while 31% say they ‘combine the religious and secular’ at Christmas, if you look at what people actually do, only 20% of them go to Church with 10% reflecting on the meaning of the Birth of Christ, and there must be some kind of overlap between these, so some of those 30% above may say they mix the secular and religious, but at least some of them don’t actually do anything to express that religiosity!

I quite liked this alternative way of measuring ‘religious attitudes at Christmas’ – 71% pay no attention to what the Pope or Arch Bishop of Canterbury say at Christmas…..

Although this doesn’t necessarily measure people’s level of belief, because you can be religious and yet no believe in religious authorities, but this does show us low levels of interest in formal religious hierarchies.

TBH I’m surprised that 27% of the population do pay some attention, I expected that to be lower.

Finally, the perception people have is that Christmas is becoming less religious….

While it’s interesting to know what people think, remember that questions about perceptions don’t tell you what’s actually going on, just what people think is going on!

Sources/ Find out More

You can find out more about the results from this YouGov survey here.

China’s Anti-Privatisation and Anti-Global Education Policy Changes

China recently banned for-profit tutoring after school for 5-15 year olds. This means that private companies who charge parents for tutoring their children can no longer operate.

This news is very relevant to both the sociology of education and the topic of globalisation.

The ‘banning’ of foreign companies is part of a broader Chinese-strategy to reduce homework for 5-15 year olds in order to make school less stressful and give children a more balanced childhood.

New guidance from the central Chinese Communist Party says that no homework should be give to children in grades 1 and 2, with only 90 minutes a day being given to those in the later years of their schooling.

The guidance also states that schools and parents should take steps to ensure that children are not spending too long on their electronic devices, they are getting some physical exercise and they should promote their mental well-being.

Private tutoring can still take place but it has to be run by non-profit companies with a physical base in China.

The changes mean that many foreign education companies who ran online zoom-based tutorial lessons have had to shut down.

NB some parents are already getting around these measures by employing live-in tutors!

Sociological Analysis and Relevance to A-level Sociology

At first glance this looks like China finally developing a more child-centred approach to education, like has been the case in Britain for decades, and especially the last 20 years, where safeguarding policies are extremely well established.

This looks like what me might call ‘social progress’ as China moves away from its ‘extreme’ education system – with its very long hours for children in school and with most (75% in 2016) children doing further study after school and at weekends.

Another possible reason behind these changes is China’s Ageing population – after years of policies which restricted the numbers of children families could have (such as the one-child policy) China now has a rapidly ageing population, but people are no longer choosing to have lots of children because they are expensive, partly because of parents having to spend so much money on tutoring due to the highly competitive education system.

By strictly limiting the amount of private tutoring and banning for-profit tutoring altogether, this should reduce the cost of having children and possibly encourage parents to have more children!

This is also an example of reversing the privatisation of education – the Chinese State has made it a lot more difficult for private foreign companies to operate in China – they now have to register through a non-profit Chinese company with a physical base in China. It’s not an outright ban, but has already meant many foreign companies just given up on China.

This also seems to be an example of a reversal of the globalisation of education…with China to restrict access to foreign education companies, preventing money flowing from wealthy Chinese parents out to foreign companies, and is an example of protectionism by stealth.

In the same vein, this is also an example of a move away from neoliberalism.

Find out More/ Sources

China Briefing (2021): Regulatory Clarity After China Bans For Profit Tutoring in Core Education.

Reuters (2021) China Bans Private Tutors from Given Online Classes

Why is China Cracking down on Private Schools?

See this post on a ‘Chinese School Experiment‘ done in the UK for an insight into how ‘extreme’ Chinese education can be.

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