Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 2

Notes for teacher trainees thinking of carrying out some independent research in to

the relationship between social class and educational outcomes.

Louise Gazeley (2009).

Some reasons why social class is an important subject for independent research…
1. Despite efforts to ‘narrow the gap’ there continues to be a very strong connection
between social class/family background and educational outcomes. Differences in
educational outcomes that are linked to social class/family background can be
measured at every stage: pre-school, during Primary and Secondary school and in
Higher Education. Improving our knowledge of this relationship could help to
narrow the gap.
2. Poor educational outcomes are associated with an increased risk of living in
poverty. Educational outcomes have life-long implications for individuals as well as
for society as a whole. Strategies that improve educational outcomes also improve
future life chances.
3. There is a strong correlation between parental levels of educational attainment and
pupils’ levels of attainment. Proactive interventions inside schools help to reduce
the impact of intergenerational educational disadvantage.
4. Social class shapes schools as institutions. More insights in to the way in which the
needs and interests of different social groups are served by school processes and
practices could help to reduce social class inequalities
5. At policy level there has been a lot of emphasis on improving the educational
outcomes of the least socially advantaged children. Although terms like deprivation
and disadvantage are often used instead of social class, education policy has
increasingly focussed on issues linked to social class such as social mobility and
social justice.

Some things that are said that could discourage your interest in social class….
1. That there is no such thing as social class. This is not an uncommon view. Perhaps
it reflects the absence of agreement about how social class can be defined and
measured– or a reluctance to stereotype and a preference for seeing each person
as an individual?

2. That social class is less relevant today than it used to be. If this were true, would it
still be possible to link differences in life expectancy to social class? Recent
research suggests that these are getting larger not smaller.
3. That social class is too difficult to define. There are a number of different
approaches to measuring social class and all have their limitations. It is important
therefore to discuss the implications of the measure(s) that have been selected.
4. That social class is too sensitive an issue. It is true that asking about someone’s
social class position may be felt to be offensive and that careful thought might need
to be given to how to do this if it is felt to be necessary.

Some things to consider when thinking about identifying social class position…
1. Social class position is complex and fluid. For instance, some teachers might
identify themselves as working class – although as graduates in a professional
occupation others might see them as middle class. How would you define your own
social class position?
2. Social class groups may be broad. For instance, not all people who would identify
themselves as working class would be entitled to Free School Meals.
3. Quantitative approaches. These consider the outcomes experienced by specific
groups of pupils and use measures such as being in receipt of Free School Meals,
area data such as IDACI or parental occupation.
4. Qualitative approaches. These focus on social interaction and take account of such
things as speech, appearance, attitudes and values. Concepts such as ‘cultural
capital’ are important here and the idea of positioning.
5. Social class is only one aspect of identity. It may be useful to consider how it
intersects with other factors such as ethnicity, gender and Special Educational

The Multiverse glossary has links to useful resources. See for instance glossary items:
1. Social class
2. National-Statistics Socio-economic Classification
3. Free School Meals
4. Cultural capital
5. Social mobility
6. Widening Participation
7. Poverty