A Level Sociology of Education Revision | A Level Sociology Education Notes

Links to posts on the sociology of education for A Level Sociology, including perspectives on education (Functionalism, Marxism etc.), explanations for differential educational achievement (class, gender, ethnicity), in-school processes (labelling etc.) and the impact of social policies such as the 1988 Education Reform Act. 

The first section of this page includes links to posts covering the main content for the different sub topics within the Education topic for A-level sociology, the structure of which is taken directly from the AQA’s specification. These posts are either medium form (like a text book section) or revision notes form, sometimes both!

The second section includes links to my assessment posts – either essay plans, 10 mark questions or general exam advice relevant here to the sociology of education.

Education brief


A level sociology scheme of work

Sociology A-level scheme of work AQA education

An Introduction to the Sociology of Education

An Overview of the Education System in England and Walesan introduction to the different types of school in England and Wales, the primary, secondary and ‘tertiary’ stages of education and the main compulsory national exams which make up the ‘education system’.

Education and Schools in the United Kingdom – Key Statistics a look at of some of the most basic statistics on the UK education system, including the number of schools, school types, pupils and teachers, along with some comments on the validity of such statistics.

Education with Theory and Methods – A Level Sociology Paper 1an overview of the first of the three exam papers within A level sociology (AQA focus)

Education Key Concepts brief definitions of key concepts relevant to the A-level sociology of education module.

The role and functions of education, including its relation to the economy and to class structure

This really means ‘the perspectives’ on education – mainly Functionalism, Marxism, and the The New Right, but it might also be useful to know about Feminism and Postmodernism, especially for evaluation purposes.

Many of the perspectives discuss education in relation to work and the economy, ‘role allocation’ in Functionalism is about this for example’, and the link to class structure is hopefully obviously mainly ‘Marxism’.

Although vocational education is not explicitly on the syllabus, it would be useful to know something about it here because there are obvious links to work and the economy.

Perspectives on the Role of Education – Knowledge Check Lista simple check list for this sub-topic, covering the five main perspectives you need to know (Functionalism, Marxism, The New Right, Feminism and Post/ Late Modernism), the key concepts and some selected short answer and essay questions

The Functionalist perspective on education – brief revision notes covering four key ideas of Functionalism on education: how school encourages social solidarity, teaching skills for work, school as a bridge between home and wider society and role allocation and meritocracy. 

Emile Durkheim’s view on the role of education in societyclass notes which take a more in-depth look at Durkheim’s view on the role of education in society. Including his views on education and the transmission of share values, education and social roles, and the role education played in the Division of Labour in society. 

Talcott Parson’s perspective on educationclass notes which take a more in-depth look at Parson’s views of the role of education in society. 

Evaluating the Functionalist view of the role of education in contemporary societydetailed evaluative post exploring a range of contemporary evidence which either supports or criticises the Functionalist view of education.

The Marxist perspective on education – brief revision notes covering four key ideas of the Marxist perspective on education: school as part of the ideological state apparatus, the correspondence theory, and the reproduction and legitimation of class inequality. Also includes a section on Paul Willis’ neo-Marxist study ‘learning to labour’. 

Bowles and Gintis – The Correspondence Principle detailed class notes on this classic piece of Marxist theory on education from Bowles and Gintis’ classic (1976) work ‘Schooling in Capitalist America’.

Evaluating the Marxist perspective on educationmedium length evaluative post focusing on a range of contemporary evidence which either supports or criticises the Marxist view of education.

The New Right perspective on education – brief revision notes covering the key ideas of the New Right, key New Right Policies and some evaluations. NB should be read in conjunction with the 1988 Education reform Act post. This just covers the theory. 

Evaluating the New Right’s perspective on education – a medium length post which looks at the long term trend in GCSE results, PISA international league tables, Stephen Ball’s work and Sue Palmer’s concept of toxic childhood to evaluate the impact (positive and negative) of marketisation policies on pupils in England and Wales.

Postmodernism and educationa medium length post outlining some of the ways in which education seems to have responded to the shift to postmodern society, by becoming more individualised and diverse, for example. 

Sociological perspectives on the relationship between education and work a brief summary post covering the Functionalist, Marxist, Feminist, New Right and Postmodern perspectives on education and work. 

Functionalist, Marxist and The New Right Views of Education  – summary vodcast comparing the three perspectives

Sociological Perspectives on the Role of Education in Society – Summary Grid summary revision grid covering Functionalism, Marxism, The New Right, and Post and Late Modern perspectives on education

Explanations of Differential Educational Achievement of Social Groups

The main ‘groups’ here are different social classes, genders and ethnicities. You absolutely need to know which groups to better and worse TODAY – in summary, girls do better than boys, Chinese and Indian students to best in terms of ethnicity, and white working class students are the largest group with the lowest results.

You also need to know about why some groups do better than others, which is typically broken down into home versus school explanations.

Sociological Explanations of Educational Underachievementclass notes, and an introduction to the sub-topic 

Social class and educational achievement

The effects of material deprivation on education – material deprivation refers to lacking in money or resources. This post explores how factors such as low income and poor housing have a detrimental effect on educational achievement for children.

The effects of cultural deprivation on education – In the 1960s cultural deprivation theory believed that working class children failed in school because of the lack of appropriate norms and values relevant to education. These revision notes cover the concepts of immediate and deferred gratification, restricted and elaborated speech codes.

The effects of cultural and social capital on education – brief revision notes on how the values and connections of middle class parents give their children an advantage in education

Cultural Capital and Education – more detailed class notes on the above.

Social Class and In school factors and differential educational achievement – revision notes on how labelling, pupil subcultures, banding and streaming and the hidden curriculum have differential affects on working class and middle class children.

Gender and educational achievement

Best thought of in terms of three sub topics

  • Why do boys do worse than girls, and vice versa
  • why do boys and girls choose different subjects
  • How do different genders/ sexuality experience school differently (gender and identity)

What is the gender gap in education? – an introductory post outlining the extent of gender gap in education, focusing on GCSE and A-level exam results and degree entries by gender. The headline fact is that girls do better than boys in almost every subject and nearly every level of education!

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education – External Factors – revision notes covering how factors such as gender socialisation and changing gender roles explain why girls do better than boys in education.

Evaluating the role of External Factors in Explaining the Gender Gap in Education -An evaluation post focusing on what the most significant factors are in explaining why girls do better than boys.

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education – In School Factors – revision notes explaining how things such as teacher labelling and pupil subcultures affect boys and girls differently

Gender and subject choice

Gender and identity – revision notes exploring how hegemonic masculinity and femininity hinder or help boys and girls in education.

Ethnicity and differential educational achievement

Material Deprivation and Ethnicity – material deprivation doesn’t seem to explain differential achievement by ethnicity.

Cultural factors and ethnicity – revision notes covering such things as ethnic variations in parental attitudes to school and family structure and how these affect education

In school factors and institutional racism – revision notes focusing on how pupil subcultures and also teacher labelling and racism might affect educational achievement by ethnicity. Includes summaries of Tony Sewell, David Gilborn and the concept of educational triage.

The relative importance of gender/ class and ethnicity in differential educational achievement

White Working Class Underachievement the white working classes have some of lowest achievement levels l – this post is a summary of a thinking allowed podcast which tries to explain why.

Relationships and Processes Within Schools

Interationists tend to focus on processes within schools, which primarily means teacher labelling, pupil subcultures, banding and streaming and school ethos.

In school factors all partly explain differential educational achievement by class, gender and ethnicity, but are probably not as significant as out of school factors.

Teacher labelling and the self fulfilling prophecydetailed class notes covering the definitions of labeling and the self fulfilling prophecy, summaries of David Hargreave’s work on typing, Rosenthal and Jacobson’s classic field experiment, and C. Rist’s study of an American Kindergarten which focused on the relationship between social class and labelling, Also includes some evaluations of the labelling theory applied to education. 

Pupil subculturesdetailed class notes on pupil subcultures in school, covering pro and anti-school cultures and Peter Wood’s work on the range of subcultures in-between these extremes – such as retreatist subcultures. 

School Ethos and The Hidden Curriculum – brief revision notes focusing on how the ethos (basic values) of a school and the hidden (or informal rules) of a school advantage some students and disadvantage others. 

The Significance of Educational Policies for an Understanding of the Structure, Role, Impact and Experience of, and Access to Education in British Society

This section includes links relating to policies of selection, marketisation and privatisation; policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, and the impact of globalisation on educational policy.

Education Policies in the UK – a very brief overview of the Tripartite System, Comprehensives, the 1988 Education Act and New Labour’s and the Coalition government’s policies of 1997 and 2010.

Social democratic perspectives on education – social democrats emphasize the important role which education can play in promoting equality of opportunity. Social democratic views lead to comprehensivisation 

The 1988 Education Reform Act – detailed class notes covering all of the specific policies introduced to implement the marketisation of education – namely GCSEs, league tables, formula funding, OFSTED and the national curriculum.

New Labour’s Education Policies (1997-2010)detailed class notes covering the  introduction of Academies, Sure Start, Education Action Zones. This post also analyses the impact of New Right or Neoliberal and Social Democratic ideas on Labour’s education policies. 

New Labour’s Education Policies – summary revision notes of the above.

2010–2015 – The Coalition Government’s education policiesdetailed class notes covering funding cuts to education, further acadamization and the pupil premium, among other things. 

2010-2015 – The Coalition Government’s Education policiessummary revision notes of the above topic.

Free Schools – Arguments For and Against – class notes summarising some of the arguments and evidence for and against Free Schools, which are a type of academy.

The Privatisation of Education – class notes covering endogenous and exogenous privatization of education.

Selective Education Since Comprehensivisation – revision notes on ways in which education has become more selective, including selection by mortgage and covert selection.

Arguments for and Against Reintroducing Grammar Schools this was suggested a few years ago now my Theresa May, but I’m not sure it’s on the cards anymore. class notes

Assess Sociological Perspectives on Vocational Education essay plan

Joel Spring – Education Networks – Power, Wealth, Cyberspace and the Digital Mind – book summary. Good supporting evidence for the Marxist view of education.

Essay Plans/ Revision Resources

Mega Bundle Cover

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my A level sociology revision mega bundle – which contains the following:

  1. over 200 pages of revision notes
  2. 60 mind maps in pdf and png formats
  3. 50 short answer exam practice questions and exemplar answers
  4. Covers the entire A-level sociology syllabus, AQA focus.

Assessment Material

This section includes links to exam technique, and model answers for essays, the two types of 10 mark questions and the short answer questions you’ll find in the education section of the AQA’s A-level sociology paper 7192-1

Other posts about education which may not be immediately relevant to the A-level:

Education in America an overview of key facts and stats of the American education system.

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2 thoughts on “Education”

  1. Really useful information, it is clear and concise and really helped with my understanding of the topic

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