2022’s A-level Grades aren’t real, but then again they never were….

Unsurprisingly this year’s 2022 A-Level results are considerably worse than the previous two years with only 82.1% of entries gaining a grade C or above compared to 88.2% in 2021.

This is because this year’s results are based on students having sat actual exams rather than the results from 2021 and 2020 when the results were simply taken from what is euphemistically referred to as ‘Teacher Predicted Grades’, although maybe ‘Teacher Fantasy Grades’ would be a more accurate term.

The overall results haven’t slumped all the way back down to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019, the last time students sat actual exams under normal conditions, but they are around half way back to where they were…

I want to say this ‘feels’ about right – it feels right that we are now back to half way between 2019 and the ‘fantasy grades’ of 2020-2021 which were gifted by teachers – and it feels right because students had ‘advanced information’ this year so that they knew some of the specific topics they would be tested on in their exams.

So it makes sense that the grades are better than the previous norm.

But one of the most interesting quotes surrounding this year’s results is from Dr Jo Saxton, the chief regulator of Ofqual….

To my mind this implies that Ofqual has simply set the grade boundaries for this year so that they fall midway between last year’s fantasy results and the last set of pre-pandemic results.

NB – this setting of grade boundaries is done AFTER all the papers have been marked in terms of number grades and the A* to E boundaries are stretched to broadly fit last year’s percentages, so in normal years we’re unlikely to see a radical spike or fall in the amount of any students getting certain grades.

And what they’ve done here seems to be pretty much the only thing they could have done to stop the whole exam system losing credibility – bring them crashing back down to 2019 levels and it makes the Teacher Predicted Grades into literal Teacher Fantasy Grades (which they are but us humans are quite good at kidding ourselves), keep them the same as last year and it makes a total mockery out of the pre-pandemic standards.

So they are left with a ‘staging year’ – bring the results 50% back down and then next year we’ll be back probably to within 1% of 2019 levels with ‘credibility restored’.

Do A-level Results lack validity..?

Well clearly YES, SOME of the teacher-given results from 2020 and 2022 are just false – they are NOT what some students would have achieved under regular exam conditions and the teachers and students probably knew this.

This year’s results have more validity than the previous two years because at least students sat some kind of test – in fact I’m inclined to say that maybe the 2022 results have MORE validity because students had an idea what was coming up – meaning they could be better prepared for the exams, rather than having to take a broad-based approach and revise EVERYTHING less thoroughly.

If we look at the last FOUR years of results taken together what they really lack is RELIABILITY – students not being assessed in the same way across any of the four years 2019-2022 means we can’t compare results fairly from across these four years.

But is this a problem….?

It most certainly is for universities who will currently have students on their courses who shouldn’t be because of TFGs – and I think this years’ cohort who just got their 2022 results will be negatively affected too as they are having to compete probably harder with a higher proportion of students with TFGs who would have deferred from last year.

And employers are going to have a mess with figuring out who the best candidates actually are because they can’t make accurate comparisons between 2019-2022 A-level graduates based on their grades which are measuring different things.

However let’s not forget that education has a value in itself, an intrinsic value and exam results are only a small factor, and in the grand scheme of things the important thing is that all of these students over the last four years would have learnt hopefully some useful knowledge, it’s only their paper results that are messed up, and that’s not the end of the world!

Children on Free School Meals earn less as adults

New research from the Office for National Statistics suggests more support for the long term impact of material deprivation on the educational outcomes and future earnings potential of poorer students compared to richer students.

Analysis of long term data trends by the ONS shows that students who have been in receipt of free school meals are less likely to go onto university and less likely to go onto higher paid graduate jobs as a result, compared to students who have not been in receipt of free school meals.

The researchers compared the earnings of people who were aged 30 between April 2016 and April 2019 (but not published until August 2022), and found that the median income of independently schooled children was twice that of Free School Meals children in state schools…

  • Free School Meals (FSM) pupils had a median income of £17 000
  • Non FSM (State school) pupils had a median income of around £20 000
  • Independently schooled pupils (where there are no Free School Meals) had a median income of around £35 000.

They also looked at what the top 1% of earners were earning….

  • The top 1% of non FSM pupils earned £63 000
  • The top 1% of non FSM pupils earned £85 000
  • The top 1% of independently schooled children earned £180 000.

So ‘class differences’ in earnings are large in the middle (median) and get larger when you get towards the top of income earners, at least at age 30.

This is a useful update for A-level sociology students studying the education module, typically as part of their first year.

You can find details of the full research, analysis and data sets here: ONS: Why Free School Meal Recipients Earn Less Than Their Peers.

Why do Free School Meal Students earn less than Independently Schooled Students?

This longitudinal analysis was able to look at several factors together to try to explain why FSM students earn less at age 30 that non-FSM and independently school students and concluded that the two main factors were:

  • FSM students were much less likely to go to university than their non FSM and independently schooled peers.
  • FSM students had accrued less labour market experience by age 30 than their peers.
  • 5% of the differences in earnings at age 30 remained unexplained.
  • NB the study also noted that it didn’t have the data to explore the role which social and cultural capital and direct class discrimination may have played in the above.

Selected Data from the Study….

IMO this data belongs firmly in the ‘punishingly depressing’ category. For starters FSM kids are around 3 times less likely to go to university than their independently schooled peers…

Only 16.2% of FSM kids go onto university compared to 57.2% of privately educated kids. The differences get larger when we go up to Masters and PhD level…

Possibly even more depressing is the data below….

Graduates from independent schools at age 30 earn twice as much as graduates who had been in receipt of free school meals.

However the differences are smaller once we get beyond degree level…

Limitations of this research study

The primary limitation is that this study uses historical data from 2016-2019 and thus may not be relevant to our current post-16 educational landscape.

The introduction of tuition fees for University and the rapid increase in Apprenticeships over the last five years could mean this situation is already changing.

And as the researchers say they are limited to a relatively narrow set of quantitative data – there is no ‘rich data’ that enables us to measure factors such as the role of cultural or social capital.

But despite these limitations this is another important, if punishingly depressing reminder that by age 30 average independent school pupils are earning as much as bright FSM pupils, so maybe this is yet more support for the continued relevance of the Marxist perspective on education…?

Why has Competition for the Top University Places Increased…?

According to The Guardian, over 10 000 A-level students who are predicted to get three Bs in their A-levels this summer haven’t got a firm offer at any university – they will be relying on clearing.

This is because competition for those top places has increased this year, and there are two main reasons for this it seems…

In the short term, universities were forced to take on more students in the last two years because of grade inflation from Teacher Predicted Grades so they are chock-full already.

Universities have responded to this by increasing their required grades this year, because they don’t want to risk being over-subscribed for a third year in a row. They are simply being more cautious!

In the longer term there are also more 17-18 year olds applying to university now because of the (small) baby-boom in the mid 2000s – those babies are now coming to the age where they are applying for university…

The sad news for today’s younger teenagers is that the competition for places is going to be fierce for a few more years yet because this year’s university application cohort were born in 2005, and that ‘mini boom’ doesn’t peak until 2011….

Of course if the Pandemic doesn’t come back and get responded to with another chosen lock-down then Universities might be able to gradually increase capacity over the next few years to meet the increasing numbers of applicants, it’s not a severe spike after all, just a combination of factors causing a squeeze for this year.

In the meantime if you’re not getting your first choice It might be an idea to take a year or two out, you can always do a degree later on in life, and it’s becoming increasingly questionable whether they are worth doing anyway!

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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

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