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:
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!
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
The pre-release information for the 2022 A-level sociology exam from the AQA selected the relationship of the family to the social structure and social change as the topic area that WILL come up for the 20 mark essay.
NB we are talking here about the Paper 2 exam: topics in sociology the families and households option, and this post is just a reminder of the core content that comes within this sub-topic!
What is the social structure?
The idea of a social structure is most commonly associated with the two classic sociological perspectives Funtionalism and Marxism:
Functionalists argue that society is structured through institutions which all perform specific functions, all working together to maintain the whole system of society – like organs in a body (the ‘organic analogy’) – the family is seen as playing a crucial role in (obviously?) the reproduction of the next generation.
Marxists see the social structure as being organised along social class lines – with the bourgeoisie exercising control over the major institutions of society
Feminism has a more complex view of the social structure whether you’re talking about Liberal, Marxist or Radical.
Postmodernists and Late Modernists suggest the social structure which Marxists and Functionalists refer too is much more fluid than it used to be and that it constrains the individual much less today than in the late 19th and mid 20th centuries when Marxists and Functionalists did most of their writing.
Recent social changes you might consider….
The social changes associated with the shift from modernity to postmodernity are what you could address, such as:
The breakdown/ increasing fluidity of social structure
More individual freedom and choice
The relationship of the family to the social structure
The ‘classic’ approach to this topic is to address it through the main sociological perspectives, and if you know what the different perspectives think about the family and social structure, you SHOULD automatically be addressing social change at the same time, as the two are fundamentally related.
The rest of this post offers a brief summary of what the main sociological perspectives have to say on this topic.
for further details and especially evaluations be sure to check out the linked posts below!
The Functionalist view on the family and social structure
Talcot Parsons developed the Functional Fit Theory to explain how the main type of family changed from the extended family to the nuclear family with the shift from pre-industrial to industrial society.
He argued that the nuclear family better fitted the needs of an industrial society because it was smaller and more mobile, and the changes with industrialisation meant that families needed to be able to move around more easily.
He also argued that the family in industrial society had to perform fewer functions than in industrial society because other institutions developed to perform functions more efficiently than the old extended family could – schools for education, for example.
The family in industrial society performs only two functions – the stabilisation of adult personalties (emotional security) and reproduction.
The Marxist view of the family and social structure
This stands in direct contrast to the Functionalist view – the nuclear family emerges with industrialisation, according to Engles, but only to legitimise the passing on of property down to the next generation – with Capitalism, there are now wealthy people and the family unit makes sure their new wealth stays in the family.
Before Capitalism Engles argued that families were a kind of ‘promiscuous hoard’ – when there was no property people cared for children collectively – it’s only when SOME families have property under capitalism that the nuclear family emerges.
Later Marxists suggest the nuclear family continues to perform functions for Capitalism by becoming a unit of consumption, for example.
Radical Feminists see the nuclear family as the main institution which keeps Patriarchy going.
The traditional nuclear family and the ideology of the housewife role for women keeps women in the domestic sphere and out of the work place, preventing them from developing financial independence and limiting them to a caring role and a life of dull-drudgery.
Moreover, women are effectively exploited with the nuclear family, and far from the family being a safe haven, domestic abuse within family life is a common, yet hidden feature of many relationships.
A core belief of radical feminism is that the nuclear family needs to be broken down and women are better off seeking alternative relationships.
Writing since the 1980s, Postmodernists argue that there is no such thing as a normal family anymore – rather, family diversity is now the norm – with there being more variety of families than ever before – as shown by the increase in single person households and single parent households for example.
For postmodernists, every aspect of family life is a choice – and hence we see people getting married and starting families later and divorce rates persistently high.
Late Modernists suggest it is not as simple as family life being all about choice – rather social life today makes holding down a relationship and having a stable family life more difficult – people still want these things, but busy working lives and constant distractions make family life much more difficult.
Find out More
This has been just a quick reminder post, be sure to check out the linked blog posts for further details.
Be sure to check out the New Right and Personal Life Perspective too!
Also, remember that the specific question you get asked could be either broad or very narrow, AND the 10 mark questions will probably be from other areas of the module!
The AQA have ‘very generously’ informed A-level sociology students that the 30 mark essay question in the June 2022 exam will be on the topic area of ‘crime, deviance, social order and social control’.
The problem is that this doesn’t necessarily narrow down the specific content of the question that much. In fact, this ‘advice’ is probably a good candidate for the most useless piece of advice given for any A-level.
I mean, they’ve basically given you the general title of the crime and deviance module, which pretty much gives them license to ask you about ANYTHING in that 30 mark question, so keep that in mind.
But let’s be forgiving, and let’s assume for a moment that the senior sociology examiners were thinking like the text book authors, teachers and students when they wrote this year’s 30 mark question (yes, it’s almost certainly already been written folks!), this means the MOST LIKELY focus of the question should be on any or all of:
My A-level sociology senses are telling me that Surveillance might well feature heavily in this 30 mark question – that would make sense given the role of Surveillance in controlling Covid-19 AND given that it’s a difficult topic, it would be fair of the examiners to give you advanced warning.
But you’re probably better off NOT gambling on one very specific topic coming up and being prepared for the whole general topic area.
ALSO, don’t forget they can still combine the above with other topic areas – you might be asked to assess specific theories of crime control, or why women are more ‘controlled’ than men, or you might be asked to think about crime control in relation to globalisation, the later would make sense in any exam these days!
Possible Crime and Deviance Exam Essay Questions for June 2022…
Just a few suggestions, NB I don’t know what’s coming up….
(Using material from the item….)
Evaluate sociological perspectives on the role of surveillance in controlling crime and deviance (30)
Evaluate sociological perspectives on the role of informal or formal agents of social control (30)
Evaluate the view that informal agents of social control are more effective at controlling crime than formal agents of social control (30) (Nice question, huh?!?
I might, over the coming weeks, have a crack at some of these myself!
NB – top tip for this paper: go HARD on using Covid-19 rules as evidence to illustrate your points!
The AQA recently released its advanced information for the June 2022 A-level Exams, and for A-level Sociology this means telling students what the big essay questions are going to be on in each of the three main papers
(Paper 1 Education, 30 mark essay): Education policies – including policies of selection, privatisation, marketisation, improvement of outcome or equality of opportunity AND globalisation (few!)
(Paper 2 Families Topics, 20 mark essay): The family and social change, in relation to the economy and state policies
(Paper 2: Beliefs in Society, 20 mark essay): Ideology, science and religion
(Paper 3): Crime with Theory and Methods. 30 mark crime essay): Crime, deviance, social order and social control
(Paper 3, 20 mark theory or methods essay): Consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories.
NB These are ONLY the essays, the shorter (4/6/10 mark) questions can be on anything, and there is NO advance guidance on Methods in Context.
In short, the AQA are telling you content for about HALF of exams over all, so by all means spend a bit more time revising the above topics but you still need to revise EVERYTHING!
What should your revision strategy be given this advanced information?
This isn’t a typical year, now that you’ve been gifted the topics for the questions in advance, as this means many students will change their revision practices to focus on these ‘five known topics’.
This means that it’s advisable to spend proportionately more time on these topics to make sure you’re at the same level.
HOWEVER, I would personally (and humbly) suggest that you should also be practicing essay technique – focussing on how to USE the knowledge in these chosen sub-topics to answer specific questions precisely – this is what’s going to give you the edge.
Think about it – EVERYONE is going to know these topics better than in the typical year, so the standard student will be going into the exam ready to splurge all that knowledge down on paper – but if that’s all they do, they’ll get no more than a C grade (even though they’ll walk out thinking they’ve earned an ‘A’.
The mark schemes only give around half the marks in those essays for knowledge, the rest of the marks are for analysis and evaluation, actually using that knowledge to answer the question.
So make sure to practice those higher order skills too.
ANOTHER VERY IMPORTANT POINT….
When I say spend more time revising the topics above, I mean like spend about another 5-10% of the time on them – DO NOT sacrifice revising the other topics – collectively everything else is still worth half the marks, you simply have to devote almost as much time to these as well, because it’s still the case that anything else can come up in those shorter questions.
So personally I’d spend a fraction more time revising the above topics, but don’t shift ore than 10% away from all the other topics, and focus a lot on exam technique.
In short, don’t change much and do mostly what you’d usually do anyway!
Nearly double the amount of students received top grades in 2021 compared to 2019:
While a politician might try to convince you these two sets of results are measuring the same thing, it’s obvious to anyone that they are not.
The 2021 results are ‘Teacher Awarded Grades’, they are not the same thing as the 2019 exam results (NB this doesn’t necessarily mean the 2021 results are ‘worse’ or ‘less valid’ than 2019s, it might be the the former and all previous years’ results which lacked validity).
The 2019 results measured the actual performance of students under exam conditions, we can call those ‘exam results’.
The 2021 results were ‘teacher awarded grades’ based on some kind of in-house assessment, and marked in-house.
And this difference in assessment and marking procedures seems to be the most likely candidate which can explain the huge increase in top grades.
NB – this means there is no reliability between the results in 2020 and 2021 and all previous results, there is a ‘reliability break’ if you like, no comparison can be made because of this.
This is quite a nice example of that key research methods concept of (lack of) reliability.
The 2019 exam procedure
The 2019 results measured what students actually achieved in standardised A-level examinations –
ALL students sat the same set of exams prepared by an exam-board at the same time and under broadly similar conditions.
It is guaranteed that students would have sat these exams blind.
All exam work was assessed independently by professional examiners
The work was moderated by ‘team leaders’.
What this means is that you’ve got students all over England and Wales being subjected to standardised procedures, everyone assessed in the same way.
The 2021 Teacher Awarded Grade procedure
Schools and teachers set their own series of in-house assessments, no standardisation across centres.
There is no guarantee about how blind these assessments were or any knowledge about the conditions, no standardisation across centres.
Teachers marked their own in-house assessments themselves – in small centres (private schools) this may well have been literally by the same teacher as taught the students, in larger centres more likely the marking was shared across several teachers in the same department, but not necessarily, we don’t know.
There was no external moderation of teacher assessed work, at least not in the case of regular exam based A-levels.
You have to be a politician to be able claim the above two procedures are in the remotest bit compatible!
They are clearly so different that you can’t compare 2019’s results with 2021s, there’s been a radical shift in the means of the assessment, this is a socially constructed process of grade-inflation.
So which is the more valid set of results – 2019s or 2021s?
IF the purpose of grades is to give an indication of student’s ability in a subject then maybe this years results are more valid than 2019s?
I’m no fan of formal examinations, and the one big advantage of 2021 is that there were none, allowing more time for teaching and learning, and less time worrying about exam technique, and probably a lot less stress all round. (the later not the case in 2020).
This year’s assessment procedures would probably have been more natural (had more ecological validity) than a formal examination – it’s hard to get more artificial than an exam after all.
And of course the students are the big winners, more of them have higher grades, and no doubt those that have them are chuffed – and Ive nothing against more young people having something good happen to them, lord knows they have enough problems in their lives now and going forwards as it is!
The problem with the 2021 model is the lack of objectivity and standardisation – we simply don’t know which of those students would have actually got an A or A* under standardised conditions – certainly not all of them, so possibly we don’t know who is the best at exams.
But does the later matter? Do we really need to know who is marginally better at performing under the artificiality of exams anyway?
When it comes the job market further down the line, it’s unlikely that A-level exam performance will have that much baring on someone’s ability to do a job, so maybe it’s better that more students won’t have a string of Cs held against them as would have been the case for the 2019 and previous cohorts.
And someone’s ability to do a job can be determined with a rigorous interview procedure, after all.
The difficult decision is going to be what we do with next year’s results, assuming that exams are re-instated – IF the class of 2022 come out with a spread of results similar to 2019 rather than 2021, that doesn’t seem like a fair outcome to me.
So on Wednesday the government announced that exams in England and Wales are to be scrapped in favour of ‘assessed grades’.
But does this may not necessarily mean you’ll be able to chillax for the next 6 months!
Given that this government has a track record of being reactive rather than pro-active in responding to Covid-19 – lurching from one inadequate response to another and U-turning dramatically where education is concerned, I wouldn’t bet on GCSE and A-level grades just being put entirely in the hands of teachers just yet.
Sure, that’s the message, but I’d be amazed if this scenario doesn’t develop further over the next few weeks with the education department putting in place some kind of centralised dictate that all schools and colleges must subject their students to some kind of controlled assessment which are basically just like the regular GCSEs and A-levels.
And the nature of the assessment will be set centrally, by the exam boards, who otherwise will just be laying around idle for another year (no exams means nothing to do) – I mean presumably if the government are paying these boards’ wages surely they’re going to get them to bodge something together in the next few weeks.
There will probably be some degree of flexibility over when students can sit said assessments, and probably some kind of sampling and standardisation procedure put in place, but I can’t imagine that the department for education is just going to ‘let schools get on with it’.
I mean, they haven’t done that with lockdown in general, why on earth are they going to give schools an easier-ride now and ‘trust teachers’, they only did that last year under an extreme public backlash, so it’s highly unlikely they’re just going to allow teachers the freedom to just ‘carry on and teach and assess’ as they see fit all the way through to June!
Now that the Scottish exam results have reverted back to those based on teacher predictions, students have done MUCH better than previous years, around 10-12% improvement, or over a grade compared to previous years.
To put this in a chart – here’s what it looks like: The middle column is what the results were last year, the last column is what they now are, with the government’s U turn.
2020 SQA moderated
2020 teacher predictions
To display this graphically – we’ve leapt from blue to yellow, while even with moderation (red) that kind of increase is just about feasible, even if unlikely.
It is highly unlikely that this year’s students on average would have achieved 10-12 % points higher than the previous year’s students, had they sat their exams, had there been no disruption.
Had they sat the exams, they would have been moderated by the exam boards so that the pass rate and A* rate was broadly in line with previous years, and then the spread of results would have probably also been broadly similar.
What’s happened instead this year is that we now have results based on teacher predictions, rather than ‘pure moderation’ by the exam boards, which broadly keeps things in line year on year.
In case you don’t know, what the exam moderating authorities do with actual exam results, is they look at the raw marks, and then tweak the fail/ pass and A* raw mark boundaries so that there’s a similar percentage passing and achieving high grades every year, but now they’ve had that power stripped from them.
Now the grades are based purely on teacher predictions and teachers always over-predict, it doesn’t take much explaining to figure out why – because of the competitive education system, and it’s one of the few rules you can bend as a teacher, so nearly every teacher does it, because they know every other teacher does it!
TBH I don’t think either system is that valid. You’ve seen the results year on year, it’s highly unlikely that there’s going to be a gradual trend upwards, without there ever being a single ‘spike year’ – but that’s what you get when exam moderating authorities ‘control’ the grades every year – a gradual increase gives the impression of credibility.
Teacher predictions might well have more credibility, because they actually know the students, but there is a problem of reliability when, for just one year, this year, 2020, you allow exam results to be determined by teachers, and then you get a massive spike compared to previous years.
Students who sat exams in 2017 to 2019 should be complaining
Students from the last three years are the one’s who are being harmed by this unjust political interference – not only do they now have a worse track record of exam results compared to this year’s students, these are the students who are now graduating into a world of contracted employment, so they’re going to have ‘worse’ results, and a longer period of unemployment on their CVs.
This year’s students by contrast, if they’re going on to 2-5 years of FE/ HE, the chances are the economy will be recovering by the time they graduate, so they’ll have a better education record and less of a track history of unemployment.
Now they’ve had a day to do some basic analysis of the Scottish exam results the newspapers have had a chance to put their spin on the story – and the narrative runs something like this:
First narrative – ‘Scottish pupils have had their teacher predicted grades lowered by the qualifications authority’.
Second narrative: – Poor Scottish pupils have had their teacher predicted grades lowered more than rich pupils.
Links to both the above are at the end of this article
This makes for a great story, but I think they might be misleading. As far as I can see, this year’s National Five Scottish students have done better than they would, on average, had they sat the exams.
If you compare the previous years’ results with the teacher predicted grades you get to see how exaggerated those predictions were…..
A comparison of previous year’s results with teacher predicted grades and the actual downward-adjusted grades
All of the data above is from the articles linked below – NB the blue column for the least and most deprived clusters is only 2019 data, A-C pass rate, and the exam results I’m looking are the National 5s, equivalent to the English GCSE.
What’s really going on?
Teachers in Scotland grossly inflated the predicted grades of their pupils, by 10% compared to previous years on average.
They exaggerated the results of the poorest students more than for rich students (bloody left-wing teachers that is!)
The exam authorities modified the results downards, but the results received are still much better than the previous years, showing an improvement.
The poorest students have improved dramatically.
It’s highly unlikely that this bunch of students is hyper-successful compared to previous years, so thus unlikely we would have seen an increase in 10% points in the pass rate.
I think the real thing to keep in mind here is what really goes on in exams – pupils sit them, they are marked, and then stats magic is done on them so we end up with a similar amount of passes and grades distribution to the previous years – so it’s hard-wired into exams that little is going to change year on year.
That’s what we’re seeing here – the exam board adjusting to fit the results in with business as usual, but they’ve had to compromise with those optimistic teachers trying to game the system, and as a result, excuse the pun, this year’s Scottish students have done very well, especiallly the poor.
The students who should be angry are last year’s – they’ve lost out relative to this years, next year’s probably too, and those poor mugs actually had to sit their exams, and didn’t get four months off school!
This probably won’t be the way it’s spun in the media – it’s easy enough to find a few students a parents with individual axes to grind, against the overall trend of the 2020 cohort doing very nicely, thank you teachers!
A-level Sociology of Education Key Word List from Specification
the role of education
functions of the education system,
differential educational achievement
the hidden curriculum
the organisation of teaching and learning
policies of selection,
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
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.
Paul Willis: Learning to Labour – found that the traditional working class male identity came into direct conflict with the norms of the school – for the ‘lads’ he studied being male for them meant being cool, and not caring about school work. For them ‘real boys didn’t try hard at school’ and they were more interested in dossing around.
Louise Archer –found that girls that didn’t conform to traditional gender identities (passive and submissive) came into conflict with the school. For most of the girls, constructing and performing a heterosexual, sexy feminine image was the most important thing to them. Each of the girls spent considerable money and time on their appearance, trying to look sexy and feminine which gave the girls a sense of power and status. The peer group policed this.
Mac an Ghail argued that the African Caribbean community experienced the world in very different ways to white people – namely because of institutional racism in the college and he argued that any anti-school attitudes were reactions against this racism. He mainly blamed the school rather than the students
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