PREVENT: Discriminating Against Muslims?

PREVENT discriminates against Muslims

PREVENT requires schools to monitor pupils for their potential to become radicalised into extremist views and become terrorist.

While PREVENT doesn’t specify that schools should focus mainly on preventing Muslims from becoming extremist, an increasing body of research suggests this is what happens and as a result PREVENT as a policy is discriminatory.

What is Prevent?

PREVENT was introduced in 2015 and today forms part of the United Kingdom’s counter-terrorism strategy. Schools are among those institutions which are required to prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism.

The government notes that terrorism is often driven by extremist beliefs and for the sake of prevent defines extremism as:

“vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” (1)

PREVENT requires Local Education Authorities to use terrorist risk profiles to assess the risk of certain students being drawn into terrorism, and where necessary take appropriate action, which might mean sharing information with other agencies such as the police themselves.

However for the most part PREVENT requires that schools teach British Values and the importance of community cohesion.

Problems with PREVENT

In 2015 the Muslim Council of Great Britain raised a number of concerns (2) that the way PREVENT was being deployed in schools was both discriminatory against Muslims and having a harmful effect on mainly Muslim children.

They noted that 60% of referrals under PREVENT had been against Muslim children, even though they only made up 5% of the population, while only 10% of referrals were for white extremists, despite the growth in far right views in Britain.

They cite a number of case studies such as:

  • A two year old with learning difficulties being referred to social services after singing an Islamic song and then saying “Allahu Akbar” spontaneously afterwards.
  • Two students were referred to Senior Leadership Team at one school for making way for a female student and lowering their gaze as she went past.
  • In one school a physics teacher referred a Muslim student to the PREVENT team because he asked how to make a bomb, he hadn’t made a similar referral for a white student who had asked the same previously.

Human Rights Watch (3) argues that the implementation of PREVENT has violated students’ right to education and freedom of expression, making many Muslim students feel as if they cannot freely discuss religious and political issues for fear of being referred to the police.

The report cites the case of one eight year old who was subjected to an interrogation by authorities because a teacher mis-identified a name in Arabic on his T-shirt.

The main problem has been relying on teachers who are not well trained enough to identify the signs of radicalisation in children. Because of lack of training and mis-interpretation, some teachers end up alienating mainly Muslim students.

PREVENT and Islamophobia

Even though the 2021 update of PREVENT guidance doesn’t specify that school policy should be specifically focused on preventing Islamic extremism (NB the 2015 original version of PREVENT did), in practice PREVENT is usually interpreted through an Islamophobic lens.

In other words, schools mainly target Muslim students with PREVENT policies.

Jerome et al (4) cite survey research which found that over half of Black and Ethnic Minority students feel stigmatised by the PREVENT policy and feel as if the policy has made the creation of an ethnically inclusive school environment more difficult.

Signposting and Related Posts

This material is mainly relevant to the education topic within the sociology of education.

Sources

(1) Gov.UK (2021) Revised Prevent Duty Guidance for England and Wales.

(2) Muslim Council of Great Britain (2015) Concerns on Prevent.

(3) Human Rights Watch (2016) Preventing Education.

(4) Jerome et Al (2019) The Impact of the Prevent Duty on Schools: A Review of the Evidence.

Postmodernisation

Postmodernisation is the process of modern culture transforming into Postmodern culture/ postculture.

Postmodernisation describes the transition of modern to postmodern culture. Modern culture was characterised by differentiation, rationalisation and commodification, but with postmodernisation these processes accelerate into hyperdifferentiation, hyper-rationalisation and hypercommodification resulting in postculture.

The concepts of postmodernisation and postculture were developed by Crook, Pakulski and Waters in 1992 in their book Postmodernisation: Change in Advanced Society (1)

Modern Culture

During modernity modern culture underwent three transformations:

  • Differentiation – the separating out of culture from other spheres of society and the development of specialist cultural institutions.
  • Rationalisation – the increasing application of science and technology to the production of cultural products
  • Commodification – increasingly turning cultural products into goods that could be easily bought, sold and consumed by the masses.

Differentiation

Differentiation is the separating out of different parts of society. It is where the economic, political, social and cultural spheres become more distinct and separate from each other and they come to be judged by different criteria:

  • Science comes to be judged by truth-claims
  • Morality and law come to be judged by justice and goodness
  • Art comes to be judged by beauty.

in the modern era, each sphere develops its own distinct specialist institutions and occupations.

In pre-modern times individuals were able to become musicians, artists and authors because of the patronage of the rich. With the onset of modernity specialist art schools developed to train individuals to become specialists in cultural production, and institutions such as theatres, art galleries and concert halls developed to make these products more widely available.

These specialist cultural institutions formed the basis for the emergence of high culture, which became distinct from folk culture which emerged from ordinary local peoples.

As modernity developed, new types of popular culture emerged also as specialist institutions separated out from other areas of social life, such as music halls and seaside holiday resorts.

Rationalisation

Rationalisation also shaped modern culture.

Music came to be more influenced by mathematical formula, leading to ‘harmonic rationalisation’ and there was also rationalisation in the mass-production of music.

Technology also contributed to the rationalisation of culture because it made it easier to copy complex forms of art and make them more accessible to wider audiences. Record players and radios for example made it possible to record complex forms of music meaning consumption of cultural products did not require people to be in the presence of a musician playing such songs.

Printing technology allowed for the mass production of artist and literary classics which enabled more people to access these works.

Crook et al argue that during modernity such mass production of high cultural products served to reinforce the status of high culture because it was mainly the classic high cultural works that were mass produced and consumed.

Commodification

The commodification of culture involves turning cultural products into commodities that can be easily bought and sold.

Arguing against mass culture theorists, Crook et al believed that the commodification of culture did not undermine high culture during modernity.

The commodification of culture served to reinforce the status of high culture because people had a choice over what to consume and most people came to regard high cultural products such as classical music and literature as superior cultural products.

High culture remains distinct in modern society.

Postmodernisation

In modern societies, culture is differentiated from other areas of life and high culture is distinct from popular culture. Postmodernisation reverses this trend.

Postmodernisation is where an intensification of differentiation, rationalisation and commodification leads to a reversing of some of the cultural trends evident in modernity and a new culture emerges which Crook et al call postculture.

Postmodernisation involves:

  • Differentiation being superseded by Hyperdifferentiation
  • Rationalisation being superseded by Hyper-rationalisation
  • Commodification being superseded by Hypercommodification

Hyperdifferentiation

With postmodernisation thousands of cultural products emerge and no one product is dominant. With so much variety it is increasingly difficult for anyone product to claim superiority.

For example

High culture is subsumed into popular culture, for example, classical music is increasingly used in adverts and thus high culture loses its elite status. Conversely aspects of popular culture are increasingly seen to have serious status in the eyes of those who enjoy them.

Ultimately though, at the societal level, culture in postmodern societies becomes de-differentiated: we end up with several different cultural styles each with its devotees who use their cultural products as sources of identity and see their culture as superior, but taken as a whole the idea that there is a cultural hierarchy when there is so much diversity seems increasingly ridiculous.

Hyper-rationalisation

Hyper-rationalistion involves the use of technology to privatise the experience of consumption of cultural products.

Digital technologies especially have allowed individuals to have much more freedom of choice over what music, television and films they watch, and over when they consume these products.

Such technologies have also made specific place-based venues such as concert halls and cinemas much less important as places where people consume music and film.

Following Baudrillard Crook et al argue that the hyper-rationalisation of culture erodes the distinction between authentic and inauthentic culture as media images come to dominate society. Media reproductions become more viewed than the underlying realities they represent and eventually their connection with reality is lost altogether and become what Baudrillard called Simulcra.

Hypercommodification

Hypercommodification involves all areas of social life becoming commodified.

In modern societies some areas of social life remained had escaped commodification, such as the family, community and class background. In modernity these spheres remained important sources of authentic, differentiated identity.

With postmodernisation, however, family, community and social class become increasingly subject to commodification.

Family life becomes increasingly invaded by the mass marketing of products and consumption increasingly takes place within the family-household. Part of this process is family members consuming different things. Parents and adults increasingly consume their own niche products, with children increasingly having their own T.V. sets in their bedrooms consuming their own children’s shows and adults watching adult shows in the living room.

This process drives families apart and results in the family no longer being a source of authentic collective identity as each individual family member increasingly chooses their own lifestyle.

Postmodernisation also undermines social class as a source of collective identity. With an increasing array of cultural products to choose from people from the same class increasingly choose different music, films, fashions and hobbies to indulge in which undermines traditional, modern social-class based identities.

Crook et al argue that with commodification identity is increasingly based on style which in turn is based on symbols rather than being rooted in shared experience based in the home or specific localities, thus identities are chosen and free-floating.

HyperDifferentiation, hyper-rationalisation and hypercommodification result in postculture!

Postculture

The end result of postmodernisation is postculture which is a culture characterised by diversity, choice and ultimately fragmentation, where lifestyle preferences replace a hierarchy of tastes based on social class and other social divisions.

At the time of writing, Crook et al saw postmodernisation as an ongoing process, believing that aspects of modern culture remained.

An interesting question to consider is whether we now live in a pure postmodernised postculture, 30 years on from their original theory!?!

Signposting

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Sources

This material has primarily been written for A-level students studying the Culture and Identity option.

(1) Crook, Pakulski and Waters (1992) Postmodernisation: Change in Advanced Society (original misspelling of Postmodernization corrected here).

Adapted from Haralambos and Holborn (2013) Sociology Themes and Perspectives, edition 8.

Education Policy and Gender

How have education policies addressed gender differences in society and school?

If we take a longer term historical perspective, education policies have tended to reflect the dominant gender norms within society, and for the most part have served to disadvantage girls in relation to boys.

It wasn’t until Feminism and the 1975 sex discrimination act that research and policy started to address what was then the underachievement of girls.

And since the 1988 Education and the National Curriculum there has been more concern with boys underachievement than girls.

Historical education policies are also very traditional in terms how they deal with gender: they focus exclusively on differences between males and females. There is a serious lack of research on the experiences of LGBTQ pupils in schools and no explicit policy initiatives to improve the experience of LGBTQ pupils.

This post focuses on the history of education policies designed to address gender differences in education from the early 19th century to the 1988 Education Act.

Education and Gender in the 19th and early 20th Centuries

In the 19th Century there was a distinct division between male and female gender roles in society, with men working and women being consigned largely to domestic roles. Women also had no political power as they were not allowed to vote.

In the middle classes women were encouraged to marry at which point they effectively became their husband’s rather than their father’s property, and women were not allowed to divorce.

Education policies for the middle classes reflected these gender power differences. Public and grammar schools were for boys only where boys learned the skills required for politics and/ or work.

Middle class girls were educated at home by governesses, and their education largely consisted of learning the skills to be a lady within society.

The Education Act 1870 made state education free to all pupils irrespective of gender, but the experience of education was gendered, different for males and females, for many years to come.

Even women getting the right to vote in 1918 didn’t do much to change the heavily gendered experience of education

The Tripartite System and Comprehensives

The 1944 Education Act introduced single sex grammar schools, and this introduced a gender divide which benefitted boys because there were more boys grammar schools. Boys thus needed lower 11 plus scores than girls to get into a grammar school.

Some secondary moderns were single sex, but not all, these were more likely to mixed.

The 1965 education act saw the abolition of single sex grammar and secondary modern schools and all pupils were educated in mixed sex comprehensive schools.

However the experience of education still remained very gendered – with girls and boys having different experiences – subjects were often determined by gender stereotypes with girls being pushed into needlework and boys into metalwork, for example!

Education policies designed to address differences in achievement by gender

1970s -80s Feminist inspired research into gender inequalities in schools

From the mid 1970s Feminists started to take an interest in the differential experiences of girls and boys in education, why girls were so much less likely to do hard science subjects and maths, and the underachievement of girls.

Whyte (1975) looked at gender stereotypes in the primary curriculum, finding that the representation of men and women tended to reinforce traditional gender roles.

Sharpe (1976) looked at gender sterotypes in secondary schools and how they encouraged girls to act in feminine ways and develop lower career aspirations.

Spender (1982) researched the marginal position of girls in classrooms, suggesting this reflected their marginal roles in society.

Curriculum Changes in the 1980s

The 1980s saw a few policy initiatives to improve girls underachievement and their low numbers in science subjects.

Girls Into Science (GIST) ran from 1979 to 1983 which investigated the reasons why so few girls were going into science and technology subjects and encouraged teachers to develop strategies to get more girls doing these subjects.

Genderwatch was an initiative which encouraged teachers to monitor gender differences in schools and develop anti discriminatory practices.

The problem with these policies were that while they may have worked for some middle class girls, they were very individualistic, offered very little in the way of real guidance and also provoked a male backlash.

The backlash was partly due to the myth of girls underachievement – despite their low take up of science and maths girls did better in English and Modern Languages at O-level and got better overall O-level Grades at A-C.

Gender and the 1988 Education Act

The 1988 Education Act was not concerned with any kind of equality of educational opportunity, just pure competition.

The publication of GCSE results showed gender differences in achievement more clearly than ever, and from the late 1980s it was clear that girls were outperforming boys in most subjects.

Since the late 1980s both boys and girls have improved in education, with girls generally improving faster than boys, hence the gender policy focus in the 1990s switched to helping boys improve.

Signposting

This material is mainly relevant to the sociology of education topic.

Sources/ Find out More

This is a great historical post on boys, girls and science subjects in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Death of Awaab Ishak

Awaab Ishak was a toddler who died in December 2020 as a direct result of exposure to black mould in his flat in Rochdale.

Awaab’s untimely death is a consequence of poverty in the U.K. and government policy which allows landlords to get away with putting profit (or money saving) before people’s health.

The death of Awaab Ishak

Awaab Ishak developed a respiratory condition due to exposure to black mould in his house which caused his death, just eight days after his second birthday, according to the Coroner’s report.

Awab’s family lived in social housing, renting from Rochdale Bouroughwide Council (RBH) and Awaab’s father, Abdullah, had repeatedly raised concerns with RBH about mould, first reporting the problem in 2017 shortly after he moved into the flat. At that time he was told to paint over it.

According to the inquest into Awaab’s death the toddler had frequently been plagued by respiratory problems and a health visitor had written twice to RBH in 2020, expressing concern about the mould and the negative health effects it could have.

Also, in 2020, Abdullah had instructed solicitors via a claims company to try and get RBH to conduct repairs, as it was the social landlord’s policy to not do repairs until a formal claims procedure had been initiated.

At the inquest into Awaab’s death RBH accepted they could have been more proactive in dealing with the mould issue (which to my mind sounds like something of an understatement!)

The Social-Structural Causes of Awaab’s death

The initial cause of Awaab’s death was the staggering inactivity of the social housing provider in Rochdale, but a wider enabling causal factor was the fact that government regulations over standards for social housing provision allowed them to get away with such inaction for so long.

The national level policy which allows a housing association to not deal with sub-standard housing conditions which are life threatening, such as the existence of mould, until tenants file a formal process via a solicitor means delays in addressing such conditions.

The very fact that a formal process, via a solicitor, is required means that some tenants simply won’t initiate such a process because of maybe language barriers, or negative experiences with such institutional authorities in the past, or just plain lack of time or organisational skills.

Tenants also require sufficient knowledge of the system to be able lodge such complaints, knowledge they may not have, especially when English is their first language, as was the case with Abdullah who first came to the U.K. in 2016 from Sudan, and this was probably a causal factor in his reporting the mould first in 2017 but then not going through a solicitor until much later in 2020 – it took him a while to learn the formal processes.

Some people have even accused RBH of blatant Racism, claiming an English speaking family would not have had so much of a problem getting the mould issue addressed promptly.

Awaab’s Law

At least there has been a policy reaction to this horrific event….

Following an online petition at change.org the government recently announced (3) that it will be amending Social Housing Policy to specify time limits for social housing landlords to address problems which are potentially threatening to human health.

Sociological Perspectives on the death of Awaab Ishak

This unfortunate case study is a reminder of the extent of poverty and relative deprivation in the United Kingdom today, the death of this toddler just being a very tragic and extreme indicator of this.

About 450,000 homes in England have problems with condensation and mould (2) so this is far from one isolated case, that’s about 2% of the housing stock, and most of that is going to be in the social and private rented sectors, those houses owned by landlords that are taking advantage of the lax laws to keep more profit rather than re-investing their passive income back into providing better quality housing.

Probably another underlying factor to the mould not being sorted promptly is underfunding for social housing from the State, which is caused by more than a decade of austerity policies by the Tory government.

If we move away from the social rented sector and consider those houses with mould in the wider private rented sector, this demonstrates the downside of the profit-motive within the capitalist system. This would literally be a case of those with capital keeping their profits for themselves rather than re-investing in improving society. It is literally a case of profit before people, and the fact that law currently still allows this to happen demonstrates that the state is aligned with Capitalism rather than the people.

Most people don’t die from poor housing conditions such as mould, but poor quality housing is still resulting in poor physical and mental health for millions of the poorest adults and children, and such conditions more generally will lower life expectancy and mean children are less able to do their homework effectively (in damp bedrooms) which explains differential educational achievement by social class.

In short, this is a very stark example of how poverty negatively affects life chances – in the sense that Awaab now has no life and his parents’ lives are probably now ruined as well given the emotional toll on them.

Finally, something else you might want to explore more is the possibility that Racism was a causal factor in Awaab’s death.

Sources

(1) BBC News (November 2022) Awaab Ishak: Mould in Rochdale Flat Caused Boy’s Death, Coroner Rules.

(2) The Guardian (November 2022) Death of Two Year Old from Mould in Flat a Defining Moment, Coroner Says.

(3) Manchester Evening News (January 2023) Government Announces Plans for Awaab’s Law.

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Transgender Education Policies in England and Wales

There is little specific formal guidance for schools and more than half trans pupils feel like they can’t be themselves in school.

85% of schools report (1) that they have seen an increase in the number of pupils identifying as either trans or non-binary, that is pupils identifying as a different gender to that which they were assigned at birth.

Schools have a long, historical tradition of being organised along a simple male-female divide which does not recognise trans identities, the most obvious examples of which include:

  • gendered school uniforms
  • gendered sports teams
  • male-female toilets.
  • Some schools are even boys and girls only schools!

Such simplistic traditional gender-divisions are potentially discriminatory against the increasing number of pupils with transgender identities, and this post explores the extent to which policies in schools are adapting to this increasing diversity of gender identities.

Government Policy Guidance on Transgender Children in Schools

The House of Commons Library last published guidance on how schools should support transgender children (2).

The briefing follows the Equality Act of 2010 stating that schools must not discriminate against pupils who are undergoing gender transformation, which doesn’t have to involve physical surgery, so any student transitioning to another gender is protected by law.

However besides this there is little central laying down of rules about what schools should do to support transgender pupils.

For example schools don’t have to provide gender neutral toilets or changing rooms, and they are free to continue with a traditional male-gender divide in P.E lessons.

The uniform restrictions are the most stringent as schools need to provide flexibility to accomodate cultural diversity, so transgender pupils are already covered against discrimination here in most cases.

The Home Secretary Seems to be Transphobic

I. yet another generational disconnect t doesn’t help trans pupils that the current Home Secretary, Suela Braveman (*) comes across as Transphobic.

As far as she is concerned people under 18 cannot obtain a gender recognition certificate and so schools are under no obligation to recognise or support trans children in any way at all (4)

She has explicitly stated that schools don’t have to recognise students by any name other than that assigned at birth, and that they MUST provided single sex toilets, she has also suggested that schools are obliged to out transitioning pupils to their parents if they are not aware of this going on.

(*) I deliberately misspelled her name as mark of disrespect for her transphobia.

Support for Trans Pupils in schools is lacking

The latest survey data on how supported trans pupils feel in school to feel comfortable with their own (rather than birth-assigned) gender identity is from Stonewall in 2017 (3) which found that between one third and two thirds of trans pupils don’t feel supported.

  • While 75% of trans pupils reported that they were allowed to wear a uniform which fitted in with their identity, this is almost irrelevant as an indicator of discrimination as most schools today have gender-neutral uniform options – that is girls can choose to wear trousers if they want to .
  • Most shockingly of all one third of transgender pupils reported not being to use their own name in school, which is just about the most basic aspect of one’s individual identity I can think of, which is pretty hard evidence that one third of trans pupils feel like they are being directly discriminated against.
  • Finally, the majority of trans pupils report not being able to use toilets or changing rooms or feeling comfortable with sports suited to their gender.

I can understand that schools might find it difficult to find sports options that trans pupils feel comfortable with, given that most traditional school sports are spilt along traditional gender lines, and there might be resource restrictions on offering a wider variety of gender neutral options, providing discrete changing rooms and gender neutral toilets are relatively minor changes which could be made quite easily, and clearly by 2017 most schools hadn’t made these changes.

In terms of pupils feeling they can’t use their own name, that strikes me as just an unwillingness on the part of schools to make a very easy adaptation.

but there is no coherent guidance on how schools should

However many schools are very supportive

It’s five years on since Stonewall’s last research on this issue, and even though we have a disconnected ageist and transphobic home secretary many schools do have policies in place which do support trans pupils.

A google search for ‘trans policies in schools’ yields several policy documents from schools which show a clear willingness to put in place mechanisms to make sure trans students feel comfortable, so thankfully many schools are more inclusive than central government!

Signposting and relevance to A-level Sociology

This material is designed to update the ‘gender identity’ topic within the sociology of education.

Clearly when it comes to trans identities schools were lacking in their support for trans pupils in 2017, and central government is not at all supportive, but it will be interesting to see what future research shows on this issue in the coming years – I’m sure there will be more support in place, but we’ll have to wait for more data to know for certain!

To return to the homepage – revisesociology.com

Sources

(1) Sex Matters (April 2022): Most Schools Now Have Trans-Identified Pupils

(2) Home Office Briefing (2020) Provision to Support Transgender Children in Schools

(3) Stonewall – The School Report 2017.

(4) The Week: Where Schools Stand Legally on Children’s Trans Rights.

Homeschooling in England and Wales

how many children are home educated, what are their characteristics and what are the challenges of increasing home education?

The number of children being homeschooled has more than doubled since 2015, with most of these children being between key stages 2 and 4. While the trend towards homeschooling is part of a broader process of postmodernisation in education, we still have only 1% of children being home educated in England and Wales, meaning this isn’t a significant trend.

How many children are home educated?

There has been a rapid increase in the number of parents choosing to homeschool their children in recent years in the United Kingdom.

Between 2013 to 2018 there was a 130% increase to bring the number of homeschooled children to just over 57 000 by 2018. (1)

In 2019 another survey found that there were 60,544 registered home educated children in England. This is an increase of around 15% compared to 2018 (2)

However, with a total of 9 million children in school this is less than 1% of children who are being home-educated.

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) produced a more
recent estimate of around 81,200 registered home educated children in
England as of October 2021. This was based on survey responses from 124 out of 152 LAs and so may not be representative.

The ADCS further estimated that around 115,500 pupils in England were known to be home educated at some point during the academic year 2020/21.

Taken together the above data suggest that the number of homeschooled children in England and Wales is increasing, but we need to be cautious with recent numbers as the pandemic may have skewed recent data upwards. Also, Homeschooling maybe a temporary status for some of these children, rather than them being homeschooled for their entire school career.

(1) Oxford Homeschooling: The Growth of Homeschooling

(2) House of Commons Library: Homeschooling in England

(3) Education Otherwise

What kinds of children are home educated

The Department for Education does not routinely collect data on all the characteristics of home educated children but we do know that 0.9% of home educated children have EHC plans, meaning they have a formal statement of special educational needs.

We also have data by age in 2020 which shows us that most home educated children are between key stages 2-4.

  • 1.3% of home educated pupils are early years
  • 10% are key stage 1
  • 28% are key stage 2
  • 30% are key stage 3
  • 27% are key stage 4
  • Only 3% are key stage 5.

So this suggests there is a pattern of parents pulling children out of education at key stage two and then home educated kids going back in to formal education by key stage 5.

There are no available data on gender, ethnicity or sexuality, or social class, but for later I think it’s reasonably safe to guess that we are talking about mainly middle class parents doing the home education given that they are the ones who are going to have the material and cultural capital to home educate.

Why do parents choose to home-educate?

According to a 2021 House of Commons Research briefing (2) in which parents were asked to state the top three reasons for home schooling, the main reasons parents in England and Wales opt for home schooling are:

  1. Covid related concerns
  2. Philosophical or lifestyle choice
  3. Physical and mental health
  4. No reason provided
  5. Disatisfaction with the school
  6. Did not get school preference
  7. Other reasons such as bullying, avoiding exclusion, but both of these are less than 1% of choices.

So if we discount the recent Pandemic, the two stand-out reasons are philosophical or lifestyle choices and the mental and physical health of the the child.

I’m not sure if ‘religious or cultural belief’s comes under the philosophical statement above, but that’s also a commonly stated reason on most home-education web sites.

What’s interesting about this is that these are pro-active choices, rather than re-active choices – in general parents are home educating because of their deeply held values or for the health benefit of their children rather than reacting to what they perceive as sub-standard schools.

What are the challenges of home education?

While it is every parents right to educate their children as they see fit, there is a risk that children who are home educated are going to receive a lower standard of education than their school educated peers and achieve lower exam results, but of course that all depends on the quality of schools available in the local areas.

An increase in home education could mean a more fragmented society as there will be more diversity of education, but as long as parents are encouraging their children to be reasonable and responsible human beings this shouldn’t be a problem.

Home educated children may also miss out on broader socialisation into friendship groups, but if the kind of children being home educated aren’t interested in this then I guess this is a net gain.

To my mind one of the biggest problems is inequality of opportunity – home education is really only available with the middle classes who have the resources to do this – if you’re a lower income family where both partners have to work full time home-ed just wouldn’t be an option!

This recent blog post by Schools Week suggests there has been a move towards parents pulling children out of school to avoid fines for poor attendance, and a move away from religious or cultural/ ideological motivations.

This could mean more low quality home education with schools left to fill in the gaps of anything the children miss out on.

Home Education – Relevance to A-Level Sociology

This material is mainly relevant to the education aspect of the A-level sociology course.

Home-ed is part of the postmodernisation of education, but TBH it is such a minor trend it is socially insignificant at time of writing, but interesting to observe nonetheless!

All pupils to study maths until 18…?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of making all students study maths until they are 18?

Rishi Sunak wants every student in the U.K. to study maths up until the age of 18 (1)

In his first speech of 2023 Sunak stated that he wants people to better equipped with numeracy skills so that they are better equipped to deal with an increasingly data-driven society and to manage their personal finances.

A further argument for making some kind of maths or numeracy lessons compulsory until 18 is that doing so should make British students more competitive internationally: many other countries which are higher up the PISA league tables do so, such as Finland and Canada.

Approximately half of 16-18 year olds currently do maths or science subjects at A-level, but most of these are those who achieved lower than a C grade at GCSE and are forced to resit their GCSE.

Only a minority of students who get C and above in maths go on to do a maths related subject at A-level, there are currently at least 400 000 16-18 year olds in Further Education institutions who are qualified to maths or science subjects but aren’t doing them, having opted for humanities subjects instead (20)

The speech was thin on details but the government has ruled out making A-level maths compulsory at 16-18 and has suggested that developing some innovate approaches to teaching numeracy post-16 will probably be required.

Increasing Maths Teaching: Supply and Demand Challenges…

On the supply side, the government is currently 5000 maths teachers short of its recruitment target.

A brief look at the statistics illustrates this: there were only 35 771 Maths teachers in state secondary schools in 2021, compared to 39 000 English teachers, with one in eight maths lessons being taught routinely by a non-specialist.

It seems unlikely that the government is going to be able to recruit more maths teachers given the 24% real terms pay cut teachers have been subjected to since 2010 and the current below inflation 5% pay increase being offered by the government for 2023.

And jobs in teaching are going to be especially unattractive for maths and science graduates, given that maths and science degrees tend to be gateways to higher paying careers.

A related supply problem is that sixth form colleges have seen drastic real terms funding cuts compared to other sixth form providers in recent years, being 20% underfunded in comparison, so these probably don’t have the funds to boost 16-18 math provision effectively.

On the demand side there is the problem that most students simply do not want to do maths related subjects beyond the age 16, and forcing all students to spend an hour or two a week studying a subject they don’t want to is a waste of resources, and so increasing maths provision could come at the expense of teaching students a broader range of subjects that they think will actually be of use to them.

There are a whole load of other subjects students could be usefully taught besides maths, such as critical thinking, political issues and debating contemporary news items civilly, for example.

And besides this A-level maths is actually the most popular subject already, with entries having increased from 83 000 in 2018-19 to almost 89 000 in 2020/ 2021. (3)

Finally, forcing 16-18 year olds to do maths won’t help the 8 million adults in the UK who only have primary levels of numeracy.

Signposting

This post is most relevant to the sociology of education, especially education policies.

Sources

(1) BBC News (January 2023) Rishi Sunak Wants All Pupils to Study Maths Until Age 18.

(2) The Guardian (January 2023) Multiplication of Teachers and Funds Needed for Sunak’s Post-16 Maths Policy.

(3) Gov Data on STEM A-level subject entries, accessed January 2023.

Learning During Lockdown

students from independent schools did 7.4 hours more schoolwork per week during lockdown compared to students from state comprehensive schools.

Students from higher socio-economic backgrounds had significantly more support from their schools during lockdowns compared to students from lower economic backgrounds.

This is according to the latest findings from a contemporary longitudinal study (1) being carried by the Sutton Trust which is analysing the short and longterm consequences of the disruption suffered by students during the Covid lockdowns.

Social class differences in learning during lockdowns

Better of schools (in terms of FSM provision) were able to adapt much more quickly during Lockdown one to minimise disruption to student learning compared the most deprived schools.

Students attending independent schools (compared to state grammar and state comprehensive) and students attending the least deprived schools by FSM provision were more likely to receive online lessons during lockdowns; more likely to get more frequent online lessons; had more access to teachers outside of lessons; and suffered fewer barriers to learning such as lack of access to laptops at home.

By lockdown three the support offered to students by the more deprived schools had caught up with that of the least deprived schools, but significant differences remained.

For example, by lockdown three:

  • Students from the least deprived schools were doing 2.9 hours more schoolwork per week than students from the most deprived schools.
  • 71% of students from the least deprived schools reported having 3 or more online lessons per week compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived schools.
  • Only 6% of pupils from higher managerial backgrounds reported only having a mobile device (rather than a computer) to access learning compared to 14% of pupils from routine/ manual/ non-working backgrounds.  

Teacher contact during lockdowns

73% of students from independent schools reported having contact with teachers outside of lessons at least once a week during the first lockdown compared to only 43% of students from comprehensive schools. This gap had narrowed by the third lockdown with 77% of students from Independent schools and 52% of students from comprehensive schools reporting teacher contact.

Students from the most deprived quintile reported more teacher contact than those from the least deprived during the first lockdown and there was almost no reported variation during the third lockdown.

Hours of schoolwork during Lockdowns

Students from independent schools did almost twice as many hours schoolwork per week during the first lockdown compared to students from state comprehensive schools. The gap was narrower during the third lockdown with independent school students reporting 23.7 hours per week compared to 16.3 hours per week for comprehensive school children.

Pupils from the least deprived quintile did 3.2 hours more schoolwork per week during the first lockdown than pupils from the most deprived quintile and 2.9 hours more during the third lockdown.

Provision of online lessons during lockdowns

During the first lockdown 94% of independent schools provided online lessons compared to only 64% of state comprehensive schools. By the third lockdown state comprehensives had caught of a lot but there was still a large difference with 96% of independent schools providing online lessons compared to 87% of comprehensive schools.

By the third lockdown 95% of the least deprived schools (by FSM provision) were providing online learning compared to only 80% of the most deprived schools.

The above differences are significant but if we look at the amount of online learning which took place (immediately below) we find that independent schools and the least deprived schools were much more likely to provide MORE online classes…

How many online classes during lockdowns?

84% of pupils at Independent schools reported having more than three online lessons per day during the first lockdown, compared to only 33% of students from state comprehensive schools. The figures were 93% compared to 59% respectively during the third lockdown.

71% of students from the least deprived quintile reported having access to three or more online lessons a day during lockdown three compared to only 53% of students from the most deprived quintile.

NB this basically means that students attending the more deprived schools were more likely to get very little in the way of online learning, just one or two lessons a day, while students attending the better off schools were more likely to get three or more lessons, closer to a regular school day.

Barriers to learning during lockdowns by social class

Students faced several barriers to learning during lockdowns including:

  • Minimal provision of online lessons or, in some cases, no online lessons.
  • Internet connectivity problems.
  • Inability to access teachers during the lockdown periods.
  • Lack of access to desktop or laptop computers and having to rely on mobile devices.
  • Having to share a device with siblings.
  • A small percentage of students didn’t have any devices to access online learning
  • Lack of a quiet study space.
  • Parents who lacked the confidence to help students with learning during lockdowns

Students from lower social class backgrounds were more likely to suffer barriers to learning during lockdowns compared to students from higher social backgrounds.

For example 34% of students from higher and professional managerial backgrounds reported infrequent teacher contact during lockdowns compared to 39% of students from routine/ manual/ never worked backgrounds. The figures for having to share a device were 9% and 15% respectively for these two social classes.

Pupils without a device during lockdowns

Only 2% of pupils from independent schools reported not having access to a suitable device by lockdown three compared to 11% of pupils from state comprehensives.

5% of pupils from the least deprived backgrounds reported no access to a suitable device during lockdown three compared to 19% from the least deprived quintile.

Conclusions and policy implications…

15-18 year olds doing GCSEs and A-levels suffered just as much learning loss as younger students, and students from lower socio-economic backgrounds suffered proportionately more learning loss. Thus the pupil premium should be extended and paid out for 16-19 year olds for a couple of years. ATM Pupil Premium ends with year 11 students.  

By lockdown three 30% of all year 11s who needed a laptop had received one, which was significant. However, HALF of all students who lacked a laptop or didn’t have access to one during the pandemic still haven’t received one.

Sources

Cullinane, C., Anders, J., De Gennaro, A., Early, E., Holt-White, E., Montacute, R., Shao, X., & Yarde, J. (2022). Wave 1 Initial Findings – Lockdown Learning. COVID Social Mobility & Opportunities (COSMO) study  Briefing No. 1. London: UCL Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities & Sutton Trust. Available at: https://cosmostudy.uk/publications/lockdown-learning

Comparative Education

comparative education studies are useful to policy makers because they allow the ‘adaptation’ of best educational practice, but there are problems because what works in one culture may not be so successful in another!

Comparative education studies involve comparing aspects of one nation’s education system with another and analysing the reasons for similarities and differences within those systems.

Typical motives for doing a cross national comparative studies of education systems would be to find out why some countries get better overall outcomes (in terms of qualifications) for their pupils, or why some countries have better outcomes for disadvantaged students, and thus better equality of educational opportunity.

Comparative education studies have become increasingly popular in recent years and are one response to the increasing interest in education globally, as evidenced by the PISA testing regime which publishes comparisons of student performance in standardised international tests.

Why compare education systems…?

Comparative education studies are themselves part of the globalisation of education and there are different reasons why actors may wish to compare education systems.

Probably the most obvious is the pragmatic aim to improve education policy – this is where policy makers in one country will employ researchers to study aspects of education systems in another country to see what works well with the intention of adapting or even just copying those aspects for use in their home country.

Such studies may be done by policy makers in post-industrial countries hoping to maintain their competitiveness in a fast changing global economy, or by developing countries hoping to use education to modernise quickly.

One specific phenomena which has led to recent increase in this kind of practical study is ‘PISA shock’ – where countries have found their positions in the PISA league tables to be lower than expected, which can spur them on to conduct research into the education systems of countries higher up the league tables looking for ways to improve their own systems.

Besides pragmatic reasons for comparative education studies some researchers also do purely academic studies, just to develop a deeper understanding of how education systems interact with other institutions within a society – purely focused on theory building and with no intention of applying findings at a policy level.

Bartram (2018) notes that international comparisons of education are increasingly motivated by economic and political reasons rather than purely theoretical motives.

Problems with comparing national education systems

Educational practices need to be considered in the context of the local culture.

It may not be possible to simply lift aspects of one education system and apply it to another and get improved results, because educational practices which ‘fit’ the culture in one country might not fit the national or local cultures of another.

For example, in Western countries educators have introduced more collaborative learning in recent decades (such as more group work) and this has led to improved performance for most students, but this may not work as well in some Asian cultures which are more sensitive to ‘public image’, and in such cultures more individualised ‘sit down and be quiet learning may get better outcomes for students.

You also have to think about WHO is doing the comparisons and applying the (potential) policy changes. Often such research studies are dominated by western experts who may well regard western models of education as superior to traditional indigenous, community based models which may be regarded as inferior.

There is actually a long history of this, stretching back to colonial times when Western powers used their education systems a means of subjugating indigenous people in their colonies, but even after independence new states were coerced into accepting Western education systems as a condition to receive international development aid (Nguyen-Phuong Mai, 2019).

It is simply not the case that Western practices can be transplanted and fitted into local indigenous cultures with easy success, and in many cases countries and local cultures simply don’t want this kind of education, as is the case in many Islamic countries for example.

There is also a problem with comparing results obtained from international tests such as the PISA tests: for those countries appearing near the bottom of the international league tables it is easy to blame their education systems for their poor performance, but this simply may not be the case – it could be a range of other factors such as the prevailing wider economic problems in those countries.

In fact, there is some research (Pasl Sahlberg, 2015) that shows that neoliberal marketised education systems which preference parental choice do not yield better educational performance, even though this has been the dominant educational ideology of the last 40 years.

Signposting and Relevance to A-Level Sociology

The material above is most relevant to the sociology of education module, developing the theme of the relationship between globalisation and education.

Sources

Barlett and Burton (2021): Introduction to Education Studies, fifth edition

The Arrest of Andrew Tate

Andrew Tate is the poster boy for toxic masculinity – why did he get so popular in 2022 and why was he arrested?

Andrew Tate, the self-styled King of Toxic Masculinity was arrested in Romania on 29th December 2022 and is currently in being held in jail pending possible charges for human trafficking, rape and forcing women into pornography against their will.

Tate subscribes to an incredibly toxic brand of masculinity which holds that men are superior to women, and the main markers of successful masculinity are how much wealth a man has and how successful men are with women. He also believes that ‘strength rules’ – the only valid arguments are those that can be won with violence, and he has no time for weaker or poorer men – he doesn’t believe that depression is real and regards anyone who is poorer than him as not worth knowing.

He has a stated preference for sleeping with teenagers because ‘he can leave more of a mark on them’, despite the fact that he his very critical of women who are sexually promiscuous.

He has a penchant for radical freedom and conspicuous consumption and it was the later that triggered his recent arrest.

He took it upon himself to troll Greta Thunberg on Twitter…. goading her about how many gas-guzzling cars he owned.

Great’s response was one of the most popular tweets in 2022 and promoted a video response from the egoist Tate in which he had Pizza delivered and asked that ‘they not be recycled’.

The only problem with that was the Romanian authorities managed to figure out where Tate was staying because of the brands on those Pizza boxes and within just a few hours his house was raided and he is now under arrest, along with his brother and two Romanian nationals for allegedly sex-trafficking women to Romania.

A hideous individual, finally brought down by his own arrogant ego, hopefully!

Who is Andrew Tate?

Andrew Tate was a relatively little known figure until August 2022 when he managed to gain huge visibility on social media thanks to an army of followers who edited and re-posted his content using his name as a hashtag, successfully gaming especially TikTok’s content-ranking algorithm.

He was born on an estate in Luton, so he is British, and is an ex kickboxer who won international titles, he is also a chess-master. He gained some notoriety in 2016 when he was booted out of Big Brother after video footage emerged of him beating a woman with the buckle of a belt – he claims it was consensual but we don’t know this for certain.

He earns his money mainly through online pornography. He ’employs’ mainly Eastern European women to do cam shows and he takes a cut, claiming that at its hight his ’empire’ consisted of 75 women in five locations brining in $500 000 a month.

He moved to Romania a few years ago claiming that 40% of the reason for this was that it was easier for him to evade rape charges in that country.

Andrew Tate’s Toxic Masculinity

Andrew Tate is an anti-feminist who consciously defines himself as a misogynist. He has previously stated in online content that women are men’s property, that women should be controlled by men and that women’s best defence against rape is to not put themselves in risky situations. He believes that women who go out and get drunk are themselves responsible for being raped.

He regards women as inferior to men in every respect, having stated that all they want to do is post pictures of themselves on instagram to gain attention, and has questioned why women are allowed to drive.

He thinks contemporary masculinity is threatened by women’s equality and the feminist movement and runs a web site called ‘Hustlers University’ which claims to help men be more successful in life, ‘helping’ them to earn more money and be more successful with beautiful women.

A lot of this so-called help involves encouraging men to themselves adopt his own brand of toxic-masculinity which means not accepting women’s equality with men and has men firmly in control of women, and he has even suggested than male violence against women is acceptable to keep them under male control.

Andrew Tate – Why is he so popular?

Tate has been peddling his toxic messages for several years and has been banned from Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

However, despite being cancelled he has become one of the most well-known social media influencers, with his popularity peaking in August 2022 when his name was searched more times than Kim Kardashian or Donald Trump.

There have been more than 12 billion views under his hashtag, TikTok being the platform guilty of giving him the most airtime.

Andrew Tate is popular because of at least three factors:

  1. He has encouraged his followers to edit and repost his videos using his name as a hashtag – effectively he created a trend storm which successfully gamified social media algorithms, especially on TikTok
  2. His content is presented in an entertaining way and it is shocking – so people tend to watch to the end, something which social media sites reward with higher rankings.
  3. Unlike with Pick up artist culture he has a broader appeal – he is talking al ALL men, whether they have jobs or are in relationships, not just the single unemployed ‘losers.
  4. He has become a kind of poster-boy for cancel-culture – despite being cancelled he has been invited onto chat shows and been the subject of newspaper articles, which has all helped to raise his profile, perversely.

The problem with Andrew Tate’s Toxic Masculinity

Tate talks about violence against women in such a flippant way that there’s a danger he’s helping to normalise violence against women.

And he’s not just anti-women – he is well networked with alt right – Alex Jones, Nigel Farage, Tommy Robinson, so his views align with their’s to an extent, and he’s a massive anti-environmentalist.

He basically has no social conscience at all.

Pretty much anyone under the age of 30 has heard of Andre-Tate, and he is very popular with young men, with teachers reporting increasing numbers of young boys mimicking him.

How to deal with Andrew Tate?

It’s impossible to ignore this guy as he is so visible on social media, but it’s also difficult to know how to deal with him.

A starting point would be to have more discussions around masculinity with young men, especially offline, because otherwise we are just leaving it to this guy and others like him to fill that void.

It’s also a wake up call about how little social media companies care about the content they display – yes he was cancelled, at least formally, but this didn’t stop him being able to game the search algorithms to remain one of the most visible and toxic personalities of 2022.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This material is most relevant to Feminism as part of A-level sociology – it reminds us that Feminism still has a lot to guard against.

It is also relevant to the sociology of the media, in terms of the power of spamming to keep even cancelled content visible.

If you want to find out more I recommend this Guardian Podcast.

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