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Hayesfield Girls' school is an all girls secondary with a co-education sixth form college situated within the Bath and North East Somerset local authority. The school serves 1144 pupils from central Bath on a split site. The year 7 to 9 pupils are educated on the lower school site with the year 10 - 13 pupils educated on the upper school and sixth form building sites. The school population is majority White British with the remainder of the population made up from a wide range of ethnic minorities. A few pupils speak other languages at home rather than English. The school has an average population of pupils that have diverse learning difficulties or disabilities (11.3%). In the schools last OFSTED inspection Hayesfield Girls' School was graded to be outstanding 'in which pupils' achievement is excellent.' 53% of pupils in 2010 achieved 5 grades A*-C including English and Mathematics which is the same as the national average.
Bath and North East Somerset is a local authority of two halves, according to National Statistics in the 2001 census, 59% of the local authority eligible working population was working in at least a managerial or professional role. The rest of the local authority's eligible working population work in skilled or unskilled manual jobs or are unemployed. Pupils enter the education system from all different backgrounds however the pupils from the poorest of backgrounds are the most likely to achieve the poorest of results. This education study was carried out to determine whether underperformance of pupils from poor socio-economic backgrounds can be highlighted and how early can it be highlighted.
The Every child matters government vision of children services was designed to help achieve the key goals for well-being in childhood and later life. Its aims regardless of background and circumstance are to support children in the following areas;
Enjoy and achieve.
Make a positive contribution.
Achieve economic well-being.
Despite pupils entering the education system at the same age and in the same school, the success of pupils' academic achievement can be seen to be determined by the pupil's gender, ethnic and social class background. A number of studies and initiatives have been conducted over many governments on gender and ethnic underachievement. A report by Gillborn and Mizara with the aim to 'that examines how different groups share in the rising levels of attainment' showed that in the 1990s that all ethnic groups had improved attainment with Indian pupils out performing all ethnic groups including the white majority by the end of the 1990s, as shown in figure 1.
Figure 2 from the report shows the attainment gap in relation to gender, race and social class in 1997. The gender gap is the narrowest 9 percentage point gap. The attainment gap between black and white pupils was double the gender gap at 18 percentage point gap. The biggest attainment gap is that between managerial/professional and unskilled workers at with a 49 percentage point gap.
The report highlighted that the gender attainment gap to be less of a significant importance when in comparison to race and social class. It is important with regards to the three social dimensions presented above that all pupils have a gender, race and social class and therefore should not be viewed as separate individual dimensions. It is also not accurate to say that low attainment is 'caused' by gender, race or social background but rather on 'average' a low attainment will more likely be from a low earning family income. Some lower income families will succeed academically, and some higher income families will also achieve poor academic results.
Education is seen to have a pivotal role in bringing young people out of poverty and social exclusion. However this is seen to be by some to be difficult if you are less likely to achieve academic success based on your social-economic background. The importance of academic success can be highlighted in a number of reports
The Equality Act 2010 legislates against discrimination of characteristics relating to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partner, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or beliefs, gender and sexual orientation. Social class on the other hand has no legislation to protect from discrimination.
A number of theory's are around to the reasoning behind social-class underachievement so which is now discussed.
Barry and Williams counter the argument that of cultural deprivation ageing that it is not the child's langue that is to problem with underachievement but a schools attitude towards a childs language. Dunne and Glazeley argue that teachers' implied the recognition of pupils' social-class and that it is a key issue in a pupil's underachievement. The study involved 22 teachers identify underachieving pupils from a class sample of 327. The teacher identified 88 pupils as underachieving. The first important issue the report highlighted was teacher used a wide range of criteria to identify underachievement. This can be understandable as underachievement can be taken to mean failure to reach or fulfil potential. But underachievement has no statutory or universal definition. The 88 pupils that were identified as underachieving had a wide range of attainment from the school data. However, 70% of those identified as underachieving came from a working-class background. The report also highlighted teachers stereotyping of working class pupils with lower educational and occupational aspirations. The report goes on to interview the teachers and showed the teachers believe working-class underachievement can be cause by a wide range of influences such as parental influences and lower nutrition. Whereas teachers from the report believe middle-class underachievement is more cause and can be addressed by classroom influence. Stereotyping and expectation of pupils is important issue as the teacher-pupil relationship is an important factor in attainment.
Cultural deprivation is one argument for underachievement within the working class. Hyman suggest opposite view between the working class and middle class in terms of social mobility. The working class have less of a desire to improve upward in social mobility as it would involve them to remove themselves from a close connected working class community. Hyman also believes that the working class families see little opportunity for individual improvement, see little importance on achieving a good job and hence see little importance in education itself. Hymans theory believes middle class value is the exact opposite of that of the working class in that social mobility is both desirable and achievable see higher education as the most practical mechanism to achieve this.
One difference between pupils from lower and higher income families is the reading ability of the pupil. A number of studies have shown a 'reading gap' between pupils from lower income households and higher earning families. The cause of the reading gap is thought to be due to the different experiences of the pupils at home. Pupils from a middle class background are thought to experience more parental reading and are encouraged to read for themselves on a daily basis. This is exacerbated when pupils start school because a pupil that can recognise words and read stories would be easier to teach than a pupil that hasn't even held a book. This 'reading gap' could then cause a knock on effect causing an attainment gap for all other school work.
Bourdieu developed the concept of cultural capital where the cultural experiences of the parents are 'inherited' by the children. Cultural capital is the name given to linguistic and cultural competence and Bourdieu believe educational institutions assume pupils have cultural capital when in fact only minority of pupils actually possess it. This assumption of cultural capital means pupils loss out in learning because they do not understand what their teacher is trying to put across to them. Through experience at museum and reading material middle class pupils acquire an 'educated' language from these experiences. Sullivan argues that Bourdieu theory of parents' cultural capital is inherited to their children and that cultural capital improves educational attainment is not backed by empirical evidence. However Sullivan does go on to provide evidence for Bourdieu theories. Sullivan showed that parental cultural in terms of reading, access to TV, newspapers, participation in cultural activities (theatre, museums) and vocabulary use is unevenly distributed between the social classes. Sullivan goes on to show reading is by far the greatest effect on educational attainment but does argue that GCSE attainment is highly bias toward high culture with the national curriculum.
A criticism of cultural deprivation is that it presents inaccurate stereotypes of working class and middle class families. Rather than cultural deprivation there is an argument for working class underachievement caused by material deprivation. Material deprivation is term to describe the effect of low income has in a home. Pupils from lower income families will not be able to afford the things they require for academic success such as a computer, quality food, a quite place to study etc. Hasley et al. have showed the link between the educational attainment and the material deprivation differences within the different social classes. Emotion well being can be an effect on a pupils achievement, Ridge highlights want could be perceived as a obvious notion that pupils from a lower income families are aware that their experiences at school will be not be of the same standard to that from a richer family.
'The school is a middle class institution' the values and aspiration of which a school holds could be argue to be preferred by the middle class. If this is considered true, then social classes that do not accept and conform to middle class values and aspiration may never succeed. Research has shown that pupils from different social classes have different experience within school and this is caused by the structures and teaching practices within school. An example of this is setting which contributes to different level of attainment. In lower sets where working class pupil population can be overrepresented pupils are at risk of lower teacher expectation, loss of self esteem and being more disruptive.
There is an argument for parental influences as a cause for what is perceived as social-class underachievement. Douglas argues that parents' attitude and values are influential factors in educational achievement of a pupil. However, in general it working class families that place less importance on education, have a lower career expectation and are less encouraging in their pupils education. Feinstein supports this view when he showed (from a teacher's perspective) that working class parents showed a lack of interest compared to those from a professional background. In fact the study suggests that the interest of a parent through motivation, discipline and support has more of an effect on pupils' education than the effect of social-economic background.
Working class pupils are more likely to be excluded.
The importance reducing academic underachievement is shown is a number of studies in the consequence of underachievement. Low achievers are more likely to receive poor housing; few jobs; lower paid jobs; experience poor health and high crime rates. A study has shown the connection between pupils who have not succeeded at school to be more likely to be involved in delinquent activities.