Marxism Applied to Topics in A-level Sociology

The easiest way for students to prepare for the Theory and Methods parts of the A-Level Sociology Paper 1 and Paper 3 exams is to revise how Marxism applies to the different topic areas usually taught as part of the specification – typically the Family, Education, Religion and Crime and Deviance.

For an overview of these two papers please see my ‘exams advice page’.

This post is a summary of how Marxism applies to these topic areas.

Research Methods Implications

  • Scientific Marxism – The purpose of research is to find out more about the laws of Capitalism to see when revolution is ripe
  • Requires a Cross National Macro-Approach to social research focusing on economics and how the economy affects society
  • Humanistic Marxism – Research can be more varied, focusing on highlighting social injustices in order to make people more critical of Capitalism (Not value free!)

Marxism applied to the family

  • Capitalism, Private Property and The Family
  • The family as a safe haven

More at the Marxist Perspective on the Family.

Marxism and Education

  • The ideological state apparatus
  • Reproduction/ Legitimation of class inequality
  • Correspondence Principle
  • Cultural Capital

More at the Marxist Perspective on Education.

Dependency Theory

  • Colonialism and Slavery
  • The Modern World System
  • Unfair trade rules
  • TNC exploitation

More at Dependency Theory .

Marxism applied to Crime and Deviance

  • Private Property and Crime
  • The costs of Corporate Crime
  • Selective Law Enforcement
  • Criminogenic Capitalism (‘Dog Eat Dog“ Society)

For more see The Marxist Perspective on Crime and Deviance.

Marxism – more advanced theory

Using what Marxists say about the above topic areas is just one way to approach a theory question on Marxism, another way is to use the work of specific Marxists such as Althusser and Gramsci, and of course Marx himself. These ideas are outlined in this revision post: Marxism A-level Sociology Revision Notes.

For more links to Marxist theory please see my Theory and Methods page for A2 Sociology.

The Covid Catch Up Premium – Woefully Inadequate…?

The UK government’s main policy to help students catch up on missed schooling during the Pandemic has been to provide extra funding to schools on a per pupil basis.

The extra funding amounts to around £600 million, which sounds like a lot, but this is only equivalent to £80 per pupil, but with more being allocated for students with special educational needs.

If you are studying for this years A-level sociology exams you should consider and critically evaluate this policy, not only as it should have affected your own life, but also because you should be able to use this in the PAPER 1 exam as ‘education policies’ is the topic selected in the pre-release advanced information – something about Policies WILL come up, most likely an essay, and so you SHOULD be able to use material on covid catch-up policies.

To give you an idea of just how little money this is once it gets to schools check out this policy response document from one school.

So that’s £68 000 for 966 pupils.

Let’s assume that this school is going to focus on the 35% disadvantaged pupils….

So that would be £68 000 for 350 pupils (approximately), each of whom would have missed around 20 weeks of schooling over the last two years.

So what can that $68K buy for the school….

Let’s assume like for like and that they’re going to fund 6 months worth of catch up, then that £68K would buy….

  • About 3 qualified teachers (pay their salaries for 6 months) – with classes of 35 and 5 lessons of an hour a day (to make the maths easier) that could mean an extra 2.5 hours of lesson per pupil per week.
  • With smaller classes of 15-20 that’s 1 hour and 15 minutes a week.
  • Or about 3400 hours of one on one tuition (at £20 an hour) – a total 10 hours each per pupil over 6 months.
  • Or they could pay for around 6 Full time support workers, but the benefits of those are more difficult to quantify.

NB all of the above assumes ONLY the 35% of disadvantaged students getting extra help at the same rate, it doesn’t factor in SEN pupils and assumes 65% of students get nothing.

So TLDR – this catch up funding means 10 hours of extra tuition for disadvantaged pupils for 6 months in smallish classes of around 15 pupils.

So ask yourself – is 10 hours enough to catch up on 20 weeks of missed schooling?

Is it fair that 65% of pupils get nothing? (In my hypothetical model)

Oh and one final thing, if you feel as if you’ve got no extra support to catch up following lessons lost due to Covid, this might explain why!

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is directly relevant to the Education topic, and should be useful in this year’s 2022 exam!

The ‘Adultification’ of Black Children in Schools

Black children are still three times as likely than white children to be excluded from school according to a recent report by the Commission for Young Lives.

One of the main reasons for this is what the report calls the ‘adulfication’ of black children – where teachers (and other authority figures such as the police) tend to see black children as being older and less innocent than children from other ethnic minority backgrounds. This enables those in power to justify treating black children more harshly.

This recent research is relevant to the sociology of education, and especially the continued relevance of labelling theory in explaining differential exclusion rates.

Different exclusion rates

Exclusion rates saw an overall increase in the decade up to 2019, before the socially chosen reaction to the Pandemic (i.e. Lockdown which included school closures) made comparisons of such trends more difficult.

Immediately prior to the Pandemic, some types of student were much more likely to be excluded than others.

Depressingly not that much seems to have changed since the 1990!

Why are some children more likely to be excluded than others?

There are different reasons depending on each case, but one thing the report highlights is the ‘adultification’ of black children.

This is where authority figures such as teachers tend to see black children, both boys and girls, as more grown up and less innocent than white children. Thus they think they are more responsible for their actions and this can justify the harsher punishments they receive for deviant behaviour, such as being excluded.

The report also includes a story from a mother of a boy with Autism which documents his journey of being labelled with ‘behavioural difficulties’ in school, to being temporarily and then permanently excluded.

The boy moved to a Pupil Referral Unit, then back to mainstream education, but his mother and the school kind of lost track of him during the Pandemic somehow, he got involved with ‘the wrong friends’, possibly gang and drug connected, and ended up murdering someone before he turned 16.

in this case the mother claimed that the school system let her son down through inadequate provision for his special educational needs.

The consequences of being excluded

While it’s not a path set in stone the report notes that 60% of young people getting court orders and 60% of those in prison have been excluded from school.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean one causes the other, there are multiple factors at work in such pathways!

Sources:

Commission for Young Lives (2022) All Together Now: Inclusion not exclusion: supporting all young people to succeed in school.

Advanced Information for the AQA A-level Sociology exam 2022: Education Paper 1

The [pre-release information](https://filestore.aqa.org.uk/content/summer-2022/AQA-7192-AI-22.PDF) for Paper 1 has selected the broad topic of education policies as the one which students will DEFINITELY be tested on…

the significance of educational policies, including problems of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy’.

The problem is, this is very broad topic, probably best further broken down into a number of separate bullet points:

There are FOUR broad types of policy:

  • selection policies
  • marketisation policies
  • privatisation policies
  • policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome,

You need to be able to consider all of the above policies have affected the social structure and other institutions, the way in which (different types of) student experience school, and how they have affected equality of access to education, and educational outcomes (who gets what results.

In addition to all of the above you also need to be able to discuss and evaluate the impact of globalisation on educational policy!

Phew!

NB I don’t think there are any quick fixes with this topic area, it’s just going to be a hard grind of revision trying to cover all the material!

Where I covered these topics on ReviseSociology.com

NB the exam board has been asking students to focus on policies ‘since 1988 for several years’ so I think it’s reasonable to expect the same

  • Every student should know in depth the 1988 Education Reform Act – which introduced Marketisation.
  • New Labour’s policies carried on with Marketisation (choice) and introduced more policies to do with equality of opportunity
  • The Coalition’s Policies included Free Schools (more choice) and the Pupil Premium – the later an attempt at
  • Selection Policies include the tripartite system from the 1940s, but the linked post in this bullet point covers more recent selection policies and concepts such as ‘selection by mortgage’
  • Privatisation polices come in two ‘broad types’ – endogenous and exogenous, covered in this linked post.
  • Globalisation and Education is covered here

You will find more links to posts on education policies on my sociology of education page.

Good luck with the 2022 exams and happy revising!

Inequality and the Covid Crisis in the UK

The Covid Crisis in the UK increased inequalities in several different ways such as:

  • School closures disrupted the education of poorer students more than students from wealthier backgrounds.
  • Lockdowns and social distancing meant less work for the less well educated and those in lower paid jobs compared to those in more middle class jobs.
  • and in the longer term missed schooling and less work experience could mean the disadvantaged fall even further behind in years to come.

This is according to a recent report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies released in December 2021, which is VERY RELEVANT for any student studying the Education Module as much of the increasing inequalities referred to are due to school closures.

It’s worth noting that from a policy perspective, the report sees Covid catch up policies as ‘papering over the cracks’ of the widening inequalities caused by the Pandemic, the government isn’t doing enough in the short term, and almost nothing for the longer term implications.

NB this topic – policies and educational inequality is also on the advanced release information from the AQA for the 2022 Sociology exams!

This post summarises some of the key points of this study.

School closures and increasing inequality during Covid

Schools closed for two periods during the Pandemic – for 10 weeks in the Spring of 2020 and then for 9 weeks in the Winter of 2022.

School closures removed the ‘equalising’ affect of schools – by removing for a total of 19 weeks (half a school year) standardised curriculums and learning environments and replacing them with heterogeneous (different) home environments.

This meant that those students from lower income households studied less at home once home education was introduced – basically because lower class parents have less cultural capital and are less able to support home learning than middle class parents…

Once schools re-opened, schools in poorer areas were less likely to offer support for students who were off school and isolating at home (remember there was still a lot of disruption through absences even after schools reopened:

University/ Apprenticeships and Declining job Opportunities

The report notes that University learning suffered minimal disruption – online learning is well established there and the switch to ‘lockdown mode’ was relatively easy.

However, there was massive disruption to apprenticeships, most of which require people to be at work – new apprenticeships during the Pandemic fell by around 30% overall.

Something else to keep in mind is that because it is mainly lower class jobs that have suffered during the Pandemic (middle class jobs kept going through furlough and homework) there is now MORE COMPETITION for lower class jobs than before the Pandemic – meaning a further reduction in opportunities for the lower classes….

The Affect of the Pandemic on Education and Inequalities: Final Thoughts

It seems that disruption to education, apprenticeships and the job market has increased inequality because the disruption was greater for the lower classes.

And it feels unlikely that the government is going to put in place policies with sufficient funding to close these increased gaps.

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?

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!

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.

Evaluating Apprenticeships in England and Wales

There are currently around a million people doing Apprenticeships in England and Wales, and about one in seven of the current workforce is either doing one or has done one as part of their training, but how effective are apprenticeships today?

If it is possible to generalised, what are the strengths and limitations of modern apprenticeships?

Strengths of Apprenticeships

This 2021 government report on apprenticeships points to the fact that standards of apprenticeships have risen in recent years, with a new minimum length of training being one year, the increasing number of advanced apprenticeships, and more rigorous monitoring.

The public sector is also now heavily involved with apprenticeship training and there is a commitment to ensuring apprenticeships are supporting diversity and social mobility.

Interviews with small firms who have taken on apprentices recently point to a number of benefits of doing so such as:

  • Being able to meet increasing demand in a cost effective way. Apprentices can help to boos productivity.
  • Increasing diversity of skills and challenging set ways of thinking – apprentices with new skills and fresh ways of looking at things can establish new innovative ways of working and challenge the status quo in a company, keeping it dynamic.
  • Being able to mould future leaders of a company – some employers like taking on young apprentices especially as they can train them appropriately over a series of months and years to go into management positions.  

For many employers taking on new apprentices is going to for a key strategy of rebuilding after the pandemic. Apprenticeships are well suited to helping both businesses and individuals recruit and retrain after the disruption caused due the government imposed restrictions on work during the Pandemic.

Limitations of Apprenticeships

Some recent research by the London School of Economics suggests that apprenticeships are stalling –– the increasing of the minimum training time to one year is possibly linked to this, interestingly, the introduction of the Levy on employers in 2017 doesn’t seem to be correlated.

There has also been a shift towards apprenticeships being directed more towards the over 25s and away from the more disadvantaged, as the number of higher apprenticeships has increased compared to intermediate.

The report also notes that not all of the available funding (from the Levy) is used.

Some apprenticeships were also disproportionately affected by the government’s chosen response to the recent Pandemic – most notably those related to travel and hospitality, although that’s not a criticism of apprenticeships themselves as such, just something to be aware of! (some apprenticeships can’t work effectively when there’s a government imposed lockdown going on!

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