Gilborn and Youdell – Rationing Education

This study demonstrates how marketisation polices and racialised banding and streaming disadvantage black students in education.

Gilborn and Youdell (2000, 2001) studied two London Comprehensive schools (which they called Taylor and Clough) over two years, focussing on Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) and GCSE results.

They used a mixed methods approach using classroom observation, interviews and the analysis of secondary documents.

Black students underachieving compared to white students

Gilborn and Youdell noted that in both schools, white students where achieving twice as many good passes (A-C) as white students.

Differential educational achievement by ethnicity was even starker when they compared those achieving a grade C or above in Maths, English and Science Subjects. In Clough school, 18% of white students achieved this, but only 4% of black students. In Taylor school, 37% of students managed it, but 0% of black students!!!

GCSE Tiers and and Educational Triage

Gilborn and Youdell believe that the introduction of tiers at GCSE was the main underlying reason for the ethnic differences in achievement outlined above.

Different GCSE tiers meant that students sat different papers based on their perceived ability – higher ability students got harder papers, which would allow them the opportunity to achieve an A, while lower ability students sat an easier exam paper, where the maximum grade they could achieve was a C.

14-16 education in both schools was organised through banding and streaming: students were put in the top bands if teachers believed they had the ability to sit the higher tier, more difficult exam paper, but restricted to the lower bands if it was thought their maximum potential was a C grade.

Gilborn and Youdell further argued that the schools operate a ‘triage’ system based on the perceived ability of the students.

Triage is a military-medical term which describes how medical treatment for wounded soldiers is rationed:

  1. Those who need urgent treatment to survive are prioritized
  2. Those with less urgent, non life threatening needs are dealt with later
  3. Hopeless cases are left to die

Educational Triage works along similar lines, with schools rationing education based on the perceived chances of a student gaining five good (A-C) GCSEs.

  1. Borderline students who could get 5 good GCSEs but need help to do so are prioritized.
  2. More able students who will probably get 5 good GCSEs anyway are dealt with as necessary
  3. Hopeless cases are written off.

Racialised Expectations

Gilborn and Youdell believed that teachers were not intentionally racist, in fact most of them were committed to equality of opportunity.

However, they also found that teachers tended to have lower expectations of black students compared to white students, which resulted in them being put in the lower sets, and written off as having no hope of ever achieving five good GCSE grades.

In Clough School for example, 29% of white students but 38% of black students where written off into the lower sets.

One of the reasons for lower expectations was because teachers often believed black students had a harder home life with higher poverty levels and high rates of absent fathers, making studying at home difficult, hence they often judged that black students would be less able to cope with the higher levels of work demanded of being put into higher tiers.

Gilborn and Youdell also found that teachers expected to have more discipline problems with black students and that ‘control and punishment’ should be given a higher priority than ‘academic concerns’.

When interviewed the black students themselves felt discriminated against tended to believe that their entry into low sets and lower tiered papers was not warranted based on their academic performance.

However, if black students questioned their low predicted grades or why they were in a lower set this would be seen as a challenge or a threat to authority rather than a legitimate councern.

Conclusions/ evaluations and relevance to A-level sociology

This is a useful study to show how the macro (marketisation policy) and micro (teacher labelling ) aspects of education work together to disadvantage black students.

However, given the current trends in educational achievement, with black Caribbean students catching up with white students, I wonder how relevant this is today.

I also have to wonder how representative these schools were. To have no black students in one of those schools achieving a grade C in English, Maths or Science, that has to be extremely rare?

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

Advertisements

Make your own exam questions

Generate your own exam questions for A-level sociology of education exam papers!

40 000 students should be sitting the A-level Sociology of Education with Theory and Methods Paper (7192/1) today, but they’re not because of Coronavirus.

In case you feel like you’re missing out, why not design your own exam paper and answer the questions for fun.

Below is a list of the main key words taken from the AQA’s A-level sociology specification, just the education topic:

A-level Sociology of Education Key Word List from Specification

the role of education

functions of the education system,

the economy

class structure

differential educational achievement

social class,

gender

ethnicity

teacher/pupil relationships,

pupil identities

subcultures

the hidden curriculum

the organisation of teaching and learning

educational policies

policies of selection,

marketisation policies

privatisation

policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity

experience of education

access to education globalisation

Make your own exam questions!

All you need to do to design your own questions is cut and past this list into this random word generator, click ‘create random anything’ and then you’ve got the basis for some 10 mark and 30 mark questions.

You have to be a bit creative to make up the questions, by adding in your own action words, but the question formats are quite limited in variety: 10 mark analyse questions ask for ‘two ways/ reasons’ and a 30 mark will ask to evaluate the extent to which something is true, so making up your own questions should be fairly easy to do.

Pupil Identities and the Functions of the Education system example

To take one example above, the generator randomly selected ‘pupil identities‘ and ‘functions of the education system‘, so two potential questions might look like the following:

  • Analyse two ways in which pupil identities might come into conflict with the functions of the education system (10)
  • Evaluate sociological perspectives on the relationship between the functions of the education system and pupil identities (30)

I’m not even sure if the above questions make sense, so answering them might be a challenge – maybe something about social control and hyper-masculinity and work related functions and class based identities.

NB both of the links above take you to two examples of 6 mark ‘outline’ questions I put together a while back, so they’ll give you some idea of how you might start to build up an answer to the more complex 10 and 30 mark questions.

Other random sociology word combinations I got:

  • policies of selection and pupil identities
  • social class and globalisation
  • marketisation policies and the hidden curriculum
  • policies of selection and the economy
  • the experience of education and the hidden curriculum
  • gender and the economy

Have a go, and post your questions below!

Remember that the AQA bots can’t distinguish between a sensible and terrible question so it’s best to be prepared for all potentialities – so why not have a go and generate some random questions, and have a think about the answers.

What else have you got to do after all, no Glastonbury, no Reading, and certainly no Gap Yah!

Keep in mind that this technique doesn’t provide you with an item, which you would need to use in both the 10 mark and the 30 mark questions in the actual exam.

Racial Harassment seems to be common in British Universities, but largely ignored by them.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently conducted an Inquiry into Racial Harassment in Universities.

The findings from the inquiry are broken down into three reports, all published in October 2019.

Survey of University Students

This was a short online survey (7-8 minutes) which was completed by just over 1000 students. Ethnic minorities were deliberately over-represented to boost the sample size of some of the smaller sub groups (roughly 50-50 white to ethnic minority sampling).

The survey reports that:

  • Just over one in ten of all students (13%) had experienced racial harassment since starting their course.
  • Around a quarter of students from an ethnic minority background (24%) had experienced racial harassment, compared to 9% of White students.
  • Men were twice as likely as women to have experienced racial harassment (16% and 8% respectively).

The main types of harassment experienced

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is type-of-racial-harassment.jpg

Only 33% of cases reported

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is reported.jpg

The report notes that the main reason for not reporting (cited in 44% of cases) was that the victims had no confidence that the matter would be dealt with effectively.

Survey of Universities

The EHRC’s survey of universities reveals that they receive very few complaints of racial harassment from either students or staff. The report notes that:

“Institutions received an average of 2.3 complaints of racial
harassment of staff and 3.6 complaints of racial harassment of
students between the start of the 2015/16 academic year and
January 2019.

This equates to roughly one complaint for every 1,850 university
employees and one complaint for every 4,100 students since the start
of the 2015/16 academic year.”

Main reason for reporting racial harassment

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main type of harassment reported is verbal…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is most-racial-harrassment-is-verbal.jpg

Confidence levels in the reporting figures.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is confidence-levels-racist-reporting.jpg

56% of staff are confident that the above figures are accurate, slightly lower for students

Outcomes of reports for harassment

Less than 40% of cases for students, and only 17% for staff result in some kind of redress fro the victim…

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is racist-complaints-universities.jpg

A few problems with the methodology of this study…

  • It’s not clear how the students were sampled (it doesn’t say in the report) – this may be a self selecting sample – students who have experienced racism are maybe more likely to take part.
  • There’s a lot of problems with subjectivity over definitions of terms, and whether some of the incidents being reported are actual harassment. Students reporting that they’ve been eluded from events on racial grounds for example – it’s very difficult to prove this is because of race, and I’m fairly sure it doesn’t count as harassment.

Conclusions

According to students in England’s universities, the experience of racial harassment is common place, with 13%, or roughly 1 out of every 7 students having been a victim of some sort of unfair treatment on the basis of race.

If we look at just ethnic minority students, 24% believe they have been a victim of racial harassment.

However, the universities seem to be largely oblivious to this – they only record 1 incident per 4000 students, which is so far away from the stated figures that the students themselves.

Maybe more worryingly 55% of universities think their own recordings are accurate. I think we can at least conclude from the above survey of students that this is something they may need to investigate!

Finally, if 33% of cases of harassment are being reported to universities, they are certainly not being recorded, again something which seems to suggest that universities are ignoring the issue!

Find out more

You could investigate the above reports for yourself, and even check out the qualitative findings if you like!

The PISA Global Education Tests – Arguments for and Against

The PISA international assessments are part of the globalisation of education. The OECD (which runs the tests) claims there are benefits to having a global system of assessment because we can learn what the best educational practices are and apply them globally. However, critics argue that these tests could be doing more harm than good, by focusing on a narrow range of educational outcomes, which reflect the biases of Western educationalists.

The PISA international assessments are part of the globalisation of education. The OECD (which runs the tests) claims there are benefits to having a global system of assessment because we can learn what the best educational practices are and apply them globally. However, critics argue that these tests could be doing more harm than good, by focusing on a narrow range of educational outcomes, which reflect the biases of Western educationalists.

What are the PISA tests?

The PISA Tests are sat by a random sample of 15 year old students every three years, and measure their ability in reading, mathematics and science. More than 3 million students in over 90 countries have participated in the PISA tests since they started in the year 2000, with the latest round being in 2018, the next will be in 2021.

The PISA Tests aim to assess whether what students have learned in school can be applied to real life situations, focusing on their ability to reason and communicate rather than factual recall.

PISA stands for the ‘Programme of International Student Assessment and is run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. An overview of the PISA programme and summary of the 2018 results can be found on the PISA website here.

Countries volunteer to take part in the PISA tests and if a country isn’t equipped to conduct the test country-wide, then regions of that country can participate instead.

If a country volunteers to participate, then individual schools are selected to represent all 15 year olds, and the individual students who are to sit the tests are then randomly selected from within those schools.

Students take the test in their native language, and the tests involve interpreting texts, solving problems and using their reasoning skills.

According to the video below, the primary aim of PISA isn’t to rank countries next to each other, although this is what tends to catch the headlines, rather it is about assessing how successfully students are being equipped for further study and work , and about collecting data to put together a picture of what the most effective education systems look like.

PISA’s positive spin on ‘PISA’.

Examples of PISA test questions

You can find some examples of the PISA test questions on the PISA web site here.

These questions really are worth having a look. The ‘reading’ questions really do challenge students to read thoroughly and think about their answers, and the maths questions all seem to be applied to real-world circumstances.

An overview of the 2018 PISA Results

Top ranked countries

Selected regions in China (not all regions do the tests!) came out on top, with a mean score in all tests of 555, closely followed by 3 other wealthy Asian city-states, then Estonia, Canada and Finland. Overall, there’s not too much of a mix at the top end – it’s either Asian city or Euro-American-Australian!

Bottom ranked countries

Much more of a mix down at the bottom: The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Argentina stand out for me, either due to large population size or to just surprise due to their having quite a high level of development!

Problems with the PISA tests

This excellent (and short) 2019 article in The Conversation outlines seven problems with PISA tests, among which it mentions that economic and cultural factors in some countries can explain a of the difference in test results – poverty may account for up to 50% of the difference, for example,

It also mentions that the sampling of schools may bias the results – ‘indiginous’ schools which have higher SEN rates are not included in Canada’s sample, for example, which could boost it up to near the top.

This 2019 Washington Post article makes several main criticisms of the PISA tests, all based on a lot of research by serious academics. The gist of these criticisms are that the tests are very narrow – focusing on English, maths and science, and this narrow agenda reflects the biases of the rich people who have mainly been involved with designing them.

Despite their claims that the tests are universally applicable, they are not: the real world challenges faced by students in poorer countries probably aren’t being assessed by these maths/ english and science tests, they are probably more appropriate to students in wealthier countries.

Why do pupils in some countries get better PISA test scores than others?

Do European countries do well simply because the tests have been designed for them? And do the students in countries such as Saudi Arabia do worse because the tests aren’t culturally relevant (too narrow)?

Or is there at least some validity to these tests and then real underlying factors which might explain differences in student peformance?

Do those countries/ regions at the top end of the scale have features in common? Do their students perform well because of cultural factors such as parents valuing education, or economic factors because of the degree of equality, lack of poverty? Or is it because of the quality of education systems and amount of resources or way the schools are organised?

This is definitely something worth exploring, and it’s something I’d recommend all students think about doing.

You can do so by using either the individual snapshots of countries from PISA, or simply by doing your own independent research on the education systems of those countries at the top end of the league tables.

Are the PISA tests damaging education?

This letter, written in 2014 by education academics and published in The Guardian outlines several concerns about the negative consequences of the PISA testing regime. Some of these concerns include:

  • It has increased the pressure on national governments to rise up the rankings, which can increase the amount of testing (rather than education).
  • It encourages countries to focus on a narrow range of quantitative measures in mathematics, science and English rather than a broader range of qualitative educational goals.
  • It encourages a focus on a three-year improvement cycle, rather than longer term development.
  • ‘Work readiness’ is not the main aim of education in some countries, yet this is what the PISA tests are designed to assess.
  • PISA has no mandate in countries, it has just ‘imposed itself on them’.
  • It opens the doors to private companies to sell ‘education improvement’ products based on PISA findings.

Sources

Social class and educational achievement statistics

The relationship between social class and educational achievement is one of the main topics within the sociology of education at A level.

The problem is, the government does not routinely collect statistics on the relationship between social class and educational achievement!

Instead, we have to reply on statistics which look at the relationship between household income and educational achievement, rather than the relationship between social class and educational achievement.

Household income is related to social class, but income alone does not tell us exactly which social class someone is from. Some parents might work in traditionally ‘working-class’ jobs which could be very well paid, such as the building trades; while other parents might be earning a limited amount of money working part-time in traditionally middle-class jobs – as private music teachers for example.

Also, income does not necessarily tell us about the cultural aspects of class – how well educated parents are or how much social and cultural capital they have, for example.

Thus you must remember that household income indicators are only proxies for social class, they may not show us precisely what a child’s social class background is.

Two sources we might use to to examine the relationship between social class and educational achievement are:

  • Free School Meal (FSM) achievement rates compare to non FSM achievement rates
  • Data on independent school results compared to government schools results.

The Achievement of Pupils Eligible for Free School Meals

Three is a 13.7% achievement gap in the ‘attainment 8’ scores of pupils eligible for Free School Meals compared to non-FSM pupils

In 2019 parents in households with a gross annual income of no more than £16190 were entitled to claim for Free School Meals. (Source).

This means that approximately the poorest 1/6th of households are eligible, so the above statistics are comparing the results of children from the poorest 1/6th of households with the richest 5/6ths all lumped into one.

One limitation with the above statistics is that if you were to stretch this comparison out and compare the poorest 1/6th with the next poorest 1/6th and so on up to the riches 1/6th, you would probably see much starker differences.

Independent School Results Compared to State Schools

If we look at the top 10 independent school results compared to the top 10 state schools, we see quite a difference in results.

In order to be able to pay the fees to get your children into an independent school, you have to be comfortably in the top 10% of households. There are a few scholarships for pupils from poorer households, but not in significant numbers!

Top 10 independent schools

Top 10 state schools

You can see a clear 8-9% difference in achievement in favour of the fee-paying independent schools.

One advantage of the above stats is that it’s much more likely that you’re seeing the solidly upper middle class in these schools, rather than this just being about income.

However, we are only talking about the the top 5-10% of the social class scale, we are not able to make social class comparisons more broadly.

Conclusions

If we use the above data, we can see there is a drastic difference in the achievement rates at the very top and the very bottom of the household income scales.

IF we think household income is a valid indicator of social class, we can also say there are huge social class differences in educational achievement based on the above statistics.

However, we don’t have systematic, annual data on the relationship between the vast majority of middle income households and educational achievement.

Sources

DFE Education Statistics

Why do Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Children have such low educational achievement?

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children underachieve significantly compared to students from all other ethnic backgrounds (source for graphic below):

Attainment 8 Results, 2018 data, DFE

The most obvious explanation is to look at their poor attendance rates. Gypsy and Roma and Traveller (GRT) children have much higher absence rates than children from other ethnic groups: 13% and 18.8% respectively.

Absence from School, 2019, DFE.

However, Professor Kalwant Bhopal, from the Center for Research in Race and Education at Birmingham university has conducted research with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children and cites two main reasons for poor attendance and high drop out rates:

  • Firstly they they don’t feel represented in the school curriculum
  • Secondly that they have experienced racism in mainstream schools

Not feeling included in the school curriculum

Parents felt that the curriculum did not adequately represent their unique histories, they felt that they were effectively excluded, and that the curriculum wasn’t really for them.

They also felt suspicious of sex education being included in the curriculum – in their communities, this is something that is done within the family rather than talked about in public.

Finally, simple activities where children are asked to talk about their home lives can make GRT children feel very different very quickly. Asking a child to draw a picture of their home-life, for example can lead to most children drawing pictures of homes and gardens, which is different to what GRT children are going to draw.

In short, it sounds like children are experiencing the curriculum as ‘ethnocentric’!

Being victims of discrimination and racism

Parents and pupils claimed that they had experienced racism from both children and teachers within schools, however, when they reported incidents of racism this tended not to be taken seriously as they were white.

GRT parents were also very sensitive to stereotypes surrounding the GRT community.

Funding Cuts

Funding cuts to Traveller services as a possible barrier to maintaining attendance levels of GRT children.

Changing Times?

Having said all of the above, times are changing. Younger GRT parents are much more pro-school than older parents, and much more likely to work with.

Sources

Are schools institutionally racist?

Based on available research evidence I would conclude that schools are not institutionally racist

One sociological explanation for differences in educational achievement by ethnicity is that schools are institutionally racist.

This means that the school system as a whole is racist, or that schools are organised in such a way that children from ethnic minority backgrounds are systematically disadvantaged in education compared to white children.

If schools are institutionally racist then we should find evidence of racism at all levels of school organisation – both in the way that head teachers run schools and the way in which teachers interact with pupils. We might also expect to find evidence of racism in government policies (or lack of them) and regulation.(OFSTED).

What might institutional racism in schools look like?

There are numerous places we might look to investigate whether schools are racist, for example:

  • The curriculum might be ethnocentric – the way some subjects are taught or the way the school year and holidays are organised may make children from some ethnic backgrounds not feel included.
  • We could look at school exclusion policies to see if the rules on behaviour and exclusion are biased against the cultural practices of students from particular ethnic backgrounds.
  • We might look at how effectively schools deal with issues of racism in school – do the victims get effective redress, or is racism just ignored?
  • We could look at teacher stereotypes and labelling, to see if teachers en-mass have different expectations of different ethnic groups and/ or treat pupils differently based on their ethnicity.
  • We can look at banding and streaming, to see if students from minority ethnic backgrounds are over-represented in the lower sets.

Below I summarise some recent research evidence which may suggest that schools are institutionally racist…

A disproportionate number of GRT and Black Caribbean students are excluded from schools

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children are 5 times more likely to be excluded from school than white children, while Black Caribbean and Mixed White and Black Caribbean students are three times more likely than white children.

I’ve included the temporary exclusion rates below as you can see the difference (you can’t really see the difference with permanent exclusions because the percentages are too small to really show up).

Source: Pupil Exclusions, published January 2020

Whether or not these particular ethnic minority students are being excluded because of institutional racism is open to interpretation, and is something that needs to be investigated further. There is certainly qualitative research evidence (see below) that both groups feel discriminated against in the school system.

Schools punish Black Caribbean Pupils for Hair Styles and ‘Kissing Teeth’

Campaign Group ‘No More Exclusions’ argue that schools with strict exclusion policies are unfairly punishing Black Caribbean pupils for having different cultural norms to pupils from other ethnic backgrounds.

They cite evidence of Caribbean girls having been temporarily excluded for having braids in their hair, while other students have been sanctioned for ‘kissing teeth’, a practice mostly associated with Black students.

Such exclusions are mainly being given out by Academies with strict ‘zero tolerance rules on student behaviour, but according to David Gilborn there is a problem of discrimination when black Caribbean students are being disproportionately sanctioned as a result.

In defense of this policy, Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela Community School in London, which enforces very strict rules on behaviour, argues that we should expect the same standards of behaviour from all students, and that Black students know that ‘kissing teeth’ is rude, and so should be punished for it.

Source: The Independent (no date provided, just lots of adverts, but it must be from late 2019 as it links back to a previous article from October 2019. )

Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children feel excluded from mainstream education

Professor Kalwant Bhopal has conducted research with GRT children and found that they don’t feel represented in the school curriculum: parents believed that their histories were not adequately represented, and were uncomfortable with sex education being done in school, as this was something usually done within the family in their culture. In short, it sounds as if they are experiencing the mainstream school curriculum as being ethnocentric.

Parents and pupils also claimed that they had experienced racism from both children and teachers within schools, however, when they reported incidents of racism this tended not to be taken seriously as they were white.

Source: Find out more details at this blog post here.

Racist Incidents In Schools Are Mainly Dealt with by Fixed Period Exclusions

According to a recent Guardian article (September 2019), Hate Crimes in schools rose 120% between the years 2015 and 2018. There were 1987 hate crimes recorded by the police in 2018, of which 70% were recorded as being racist. This means that approximately 1500 racist incidents occurred in schools which were deemed serious enough to warrant police involvement.

Now this won’t be all hate crimes going on in school. Adult hate crimes only have a 40% reporting rate, and this might be lower for crimes against children given the increased levels of vulnerability, naivety and anxiety .

Schools handed out 4500 fixed term exclusions for racist abuse in 2017/18, but only 13 permanent exclusions.

Source: Permanent and Fixed Period Exclusions, DFE, July 2019.

If the under-reporting rate is similar for children as it is for adults and if most of these racist crimes aren’t ‘very serious’ then it seems that schools are doing a pretty good job at dealing with Racism, even if they are not always involving the police. This certainly seems to be backed up by the case study below…

Case Study 1: How One School Dealt with its problem of racism:

Some pupils do experience racist abuse from other pupils. One example is the case study of eight year old Nai’m, a boy who moved to from Bermuda to Britain with his mother in 2017, who was a victim of at least five racist incidents in a year. (article link from January 2020)/

His mother was contacted by the school when one student, apparently his friend, called him a ‘black midget’. Another pupil told Niam’h that his parents had told him he wasn’t allowed to talk to black or brown people. Niam’h plays football for his local professional club and says a lot of racist name calling occurs on the football field.

Besides Niam’h being a victim staff at the school where this incident happened (The Lawrence Community Trust Primary School) had also overheard racist comments from other students – such as ‘go back to your own country’ being directed at ethnic minority students and discussion about skin colour between students.

The school seems to have taken measures to address this problem with some of the racist attitudes being verbalized by some students by taking the following actions:

  • they seem to have excluded at least one student
  • they encouraged Niam’h to give a special assembly on Bermuda
  • They called in Anthony Walker Charity to deliver a presentation to students on Racism

Conclusion: Are schools ‘institutionally racist’?

The above is only a small selection of evidence, but based on what I’ve found I’ve got to conclude that they are not.

Sources, find out more

The Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

2019 statistics show a decline in the number of households in material deprivation

Material deprivation* refers to the inability to afford basic resources and services such as sufficient food and heating.

To put it more simply, all of those who suffer material deprivation in the UK  exist in a state of relative poverty, and some may exist in a state of absolute poverty.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) recent publication: Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK: 2019 is a good source informing us about the extent of material deprivation in the UK today. 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that “families are classified as materially deprived if they feel they cannot afford a certain number of items or activities, with greater weight assigned to items that most families already have.”

According to the IFS, between 8-15% of households are suffering from material deprivation, depending on what threshold you use. (If you want to know how the thresholds are worked, out click on the link above!).

In order to figure out how many households are suffering material deprivation, households are asked whether they can afford a number of items, such as the ones below. The more items a family can’t afford, and the higher up the list they appear in the chart below, the more likely a family is to be classified as ‘materially deprived’.

You can see that there is a downward trend in material deprivation between 2010-11 (careful, the chart above is over a longer time scale!)

Related concepts

The above study focuses on the trends in material deprivation as well as trends in both absolute and relative poverty. All three indicators are different ways of measuring poverty.

Related Posts 

Evaluating the Extent of Material Deprivation in the UK

The effects of material deprivation on education

Something Extra…

*A fuller definition of material deprivation is provided by the The OECD which defines Material deprivation as ‘the inability for individuals or households to afford those consumption goods and activities that are typical in a society at a given point in time, irrespective of people’s preferences with respect to these items.’ It’s work noting at this point that this is a relative rather than an absolute measurement of poverty.

Historical Material

I wrote this back in 2015, it’s my old version that I didn’t want to delete! It shows you some different, historical definitions/ measurement of material deprivation

The government’s material deprivation rate measures the proportion of the population that cannot afford at least four of the following items:

  1. To pay their rent, mortgage, utility bills or loan repayments,
  2. To keep their home adequately warm,
  3. To face unexpected financial expenses,
  4. To eat meat or protein regularly,
  5. To go on holiday for a week once a year,
  6. A television set,
  7. A washing machine,
  8. A car,
  9. A telephone.

As can be seen from the statistics below, the number of people suffering from ‘severe’ material deprivation has remained stable in recent years, but the numbers of people struggling to pay for holidays and meet emergency expenses has increased. Percentage of population unable to afford items, UK 2005-2011

How does Educational Achievement Vary by Ethnicity?

a look at how GCSE, A-level and degree results vary by ethnic group in England and Wales.

The Department for Education makes it very easy to access statistics on educational achievement. Below I summarise some of the recent trends in educational achievement in England and Wales by ethnicity and offer some commentary on what I think needs explaining, and some thoughts on the limitations of these statistics

Average attainment 8 Score by Ethnic group 2018

Attainment 8 is a way of representing all GCSE results as a single percentage!

The average score for all ethnic groups together was 46.5/90. It’s no surprise to find this is very close to the ‘White British group as White British children still make up the vast majority of school children.

To my mind the headline figures from the above statistics are as follows

  • White, Pakistani and Black African children have results very close to the national average of 46.5, and Bangladeshi children achieved 3% higher. All of these figures are quite close together and so nothing really needs explaining for these broad groups.
  • Chinese children achieve 18% higher than the national average
  • Indian children 10% higher
  • Black Caribbean children underachieve by about 7% points
  • Irish Traveler and Gypsy Roma children have the worst underacheivement levels with 18% and 22% respectively.

So what needs explaining from the above is why Chinese and Indian children do so well, and why Black Carribean children underachieve, and why Irish traveler and Gypsy Roma children do so badly.

In terms of impact of research it’s probably worth focusing on Chinese, Indian and Black Caribbean children because there are many more of these than of the last two ethnic groups.

A final point to note about these statistics is that it doesn’t seem useful to lump together ‘Black’ and Asian’ students because there are SIGNIFICANT differences in the achievement rates within these groups.

Educational Achievement (attainment 8) by Free School Meals and Ethnicity

If we look at GCSE results by free school meal eligibility (roughly the poorest sixth of children) we see that ethnicity still has an independent effect on achievement – the pattern is broadly the same as in the chart above, but with the following two differences:

  • No free school meal children (roughly the wealthiest 5/6ths of children) move closer together slightly.
  • For the FSM groups, white and mixed children are now the lowest achievers, suggesting that poor white and mixed kids do comparatively worse than poor kids from all other ethnic groups.

NB – I think the DFE here is doing a cunning job of disguising the fact that ‘income’ has a larger affect on results than ethnicity – we are seeing here the poorest 1/6th (FSM) compared to the richest 5/6ths (No FSM). If we were to stretch this out and compare just the poorest 1/6th (which we’ve got) to the richest 1/6th my guess would be that you’d find very similar levels of achievement across what would be the upper middle classes for all ethnic groups.

Statistics on Participation in Further Education

This demonstrates a long standing trend – that ethnic minorities (Black and Asian) students are more likely to carry on into further education compared to white students. This should mean that you’ll see a higher proportion of white kids starting work based apprenticeships.

NB – making comparisons to the overall population is a bit misleading as the age profile for ethnic minorities tends to be younger.

Students achieving at least 3 As at A-level

The overall average is 12.9%.

These are quite interesting.

  • Huge ‘over-achievement’ by Chinese kids – 22.5%
  • Indian kids do slightly better than average at 15%
  • Signficant underachievement for Pakistani and Bangladeshi kids – around 7%
  • Terrible underachievement for Black African and Caribbean kids at 5.6% and 3.5% respectively.
  • The source notes that the Irish Traveler population is only 7 people, so one can’t generalize, still, at least it busts a few stereotypes!

These stats show something of an exaggeration of what we saw at GCSE.

I put these stats in the ‘interesting but not that useful’ category – I’d rather see the percentages for high grades or A-C grades to make these a bit more representative.

Degree results by ethnicity

Surprisingly, we see white students gaining significant ground on ethnic minority students with 30.9% of white students gaining a first class degree (*).

Black students in comparison come crashing down to just 14% of first class degrees.

These kind of differences – from similar GCSE results for Black and White students to such different A-level and degree results need further investigation.

(1)The education statistics above form part of the government’s Ethnicity Facts and Figures series, you can check out a wider range of statistical evidence on ethnicity and life chances by clicking here. (As always, remember to be critical of the limitations of these statistics!).

(*) WTF – 30% – sorry kids, but a lot of those first class degrees are probably down to grade inflation, which in turn is probably down to the fact that students are now paying £30 K for yer for their degrees.

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education

This post aims to outline some of the factors which might explain why girls outperform boys in education, focusing on factors external to the school such as changes in gender roles, the impact of feminism and women’s empowerment.

This post aims to outline some of the factors which might explain why girls outperform boys in education, focusing on factors external to the school such as changes in gender roles, the impact of feminism and women’s empowerment.

Changes in women’s employment

According to Social Trends (2008) the number of men and women in paid work is now virtually the same. There is a growing service sector where women are increasingly likely to be employed over men and employers increasingly seek women for higher managerial roles because they generally have better communication skills than men. This means women now have greater opportunity than men in the world of work which makes education more relevant to them than in the 1970s when there was a relative lack of opportunity for women compared to men.

Conversely, there is now less opportunity for men. The decline in manufacturing has lead to a decline in traditional working class men’s factory based jobs. Boys like the lads studied by Paul Willis would have intended to go into these jobs. Now these jobs have gone, many working class boys perceive themselves as having no future.

Changes in the family

The Office for National Statistics suggest that changes there have been changes in family structure: Women are more likely to take on the breadwinner role; there is now more divorce, and more lone parent families; women are more likely to remain single. This means that idea of getting a career is seen as normal by girls.

However, the increasing independence of women has lead to a more uncertain role for men in British society, leaving many men feeling vulnerable and unsure of their identity in society – suffering from a crisis of masculinity.

Girl’s changing ambitions

Sue Sharpe did a classic piece of research in the 1970s, repeated in the 1990s in which she interviewed young girls about their ambitions. In the 1970s there priorities were to get married and have a family, but by the 1990s their priorities were to get a career and have a family later on in life.

The impact of feminism

Feminism has campaigned for equal rights and opportunities for women in education, the workplace and wider society more generally. Feminist sociologists argue that many of the above changes have been brought about by their attempts to highlight gender inequalities in society and their efforts to encourage the government, schools and teachers to actually combat patriarchy and provide genuine equality of opportunity which has lead to raising the expectations and self-esteem of girls.

Differential socialisation

Fiona Norman in 1988 Found that most parents think the appropriate socialisation for a girl is to handle her very gently, and to encourage her in relatively passive, quiet activities. Parents are also more likely to read with girls than with boys. Gender stereotypes held by parents also mean that ‘typical boys’ need more time to run around and play and ‘let off steam’, and parents are more likely to be dismissive if their boys are in trouble at school often seeing this as just them being ‘typical boys’. These gender stereotypes and differences in gender socialisation disadvantage boys and advantage girls in education.


The Limitations of external factors in explaining differential educational achievement by gender

  1. The decline of manufacturing and crisis of masculinity only affects working class boys, possibly explaining their achievement relative to girls, but middle class girls outperform middle class boys too, who are less likely to associate masculinity with factory work.
  2. McDowell – research on aspirations of white working class youth A sample of males with low educational achievement living in Sheffield and Cambridge aged 15. Followed from school to work. Criticizes the notion of a crisis of masculinity leading to aggressive male identities These lads had traditional laddish identities but were not aggressive or put off by ‘feminized work’ They are best described as reliable workers making the most of limited opportunities available to them.
  3. Willis in 1977 argued that the Lads formed a counter school culture and rejected education even when they had jobs to go to, meaning there are other causes of male underachievement besides the crisis of masculinity.
  4. It is difficult to measure the impact of Feminism – changes in the job market that lead to improved opportunities for women may be due to other technological and cultural changes.
  5. The socialisation girls does not explain why they started to overtake boys in the late 1980s – if anything gender socialisation has become more gender neutral in recent years.

Concepts and research studies to remember

  • Crisis of Masculinity
  • Gender socialisation
  • Gender stereotyping
  • Research studies to remember
  • Kat Banyard – research into gender stereotyping in the family
  • Sue Sharpe – the aspirations of girls.

Related Posts

Evaluating the role of External Factors in Explaining the Gender Gap in Education

Explaining the Gender Gap in Education – The Role of Internal Factors

Feminist Perspectives on Family Life