The Class Distribution Of Young People Education Essay

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These views are echoed by Reay (2006) who evaluates and argues for a reinvigouration of analysis based on class data. This argument is supported by Power et al. (2003) and Ball and Beck (2007) who conclude that analysis of class should include a focus on the educational experiences of both working and middle class students.

The introduction commences with an evaluative description which depicts education from a perspective of the needy, linking free school meal data with social disadvantage and progression to educational level 3 courses. It restates the focus of the study i.e. to foreground class with reference young people's educational progression.

Evaluations from Hyland (2002) and Raggatt and Williams (1999) support the view of the neglect of Further Education (FE) due to class issues and also due to FE being regarded as 'second best' educationally.

Further evaluations from Bathmaker (2005), Ball, Macrae and Maguire (1999) and from the author, label entry to FE as; a tacit acknowledgement of lower status (Bathmaker); a route that lower class students take because they know what they cannot do (Ball et al.), and that lower class students are unlikely to reflect the Government's view of FE as the 'learning society' (author).

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There follows a description of the Youth Cohort Study, the data from which has been used to inform this study. There are currently twelve cohorts of students being followed by the Youth Cohort Study. Cohort 11 'sweep1' (March - June 2002) has been used to produce the data for use here. Cohort 11 contains 16,707 young people aged 16/17 years, from different social classes and both genders. Social class analysis was carried out using the family (or household) as its point of reference and resultant figures compiled using the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification. Several authors support the use of the family as the unit of class analysis (Rose, Pevalin and O'Reilly 2005). Theoretical inference is evident here when Rothon (2006) argues that using household as the class analysis unit is 'theoretically and practically superior'.

b. The study finds that middle - class students as well as working - class students are well represented in colleges of further education.

The study contains a description of the current status of education in England and Wales. It states that compulsory education ends at age 16 and contains an 'often used' definition of the term 'further education'. The study then goes on to identify and describe the selection of post 16 routes that young people can follow to further their education; these being school sixth form, sixth form colleges, colleges of further education and tertiary colleges. For the purposes of this study the author has defined colleges of further education and tertiary colleges as similar structures and therefore combined their results as though they were one entity. This section of the paper describes schools sixth form and sixth form colleges as offering an academic curriculum whose purpose is to secure entry into higher education. FE colleges (including tertiary colleges) offer a wider range of courses including some academic, vocational and also specific courses to provide lower achievers with the skills needed to enable progression to future higher value courses.

The analysis of data from the Youth Cohort Study is verbally descriptive with supporting numerical representations in the form of five tables of results.

c. Middle - class representation is often related to gaining lower grades in prior examinations. Lower - class students who are low achievers are more likely to leave education altogether than to enter FE.

The data was analysed showing the educational achievement of the young people of cohort 11 as they left compulsory education. This data is depicted in table 3 and supported by a verbal description of the resulting analysis. This concludes that there is a greater likelihood of low achieving students from higher social classes entering FE than from these classes in total.

For lower class students an explanation is given for the increased likelihood of them entering FE. The reason put forward is that these young people may not have the educational qualifications of a sufficiently high grade to permit them entry onto higher status courses in other institutions. These students experience the 'closed doors' of Ball, Macrae, and Maguire (1999) and enter vocational or other courses in FE; or, as demonstrated by Table 3, would leave education completely rather than attend FE.

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d. The findings draw on the notions of habitus and field as conceptualised by Bourdieu.

The discussion section of this paper contains theoretical inferences from several writers and cites the conceptualisations of Bourdieu to inform its findings. Other contributors named are Bourdieu and Passeron (1990), Reay (2004), Power et al. (2003), Power and Whitty (2006) and Whitty (2001).

Conceptual basis of NS-SEC classification system. Talks about service relationship contracts (autonomy, security, authority) and labour contract (close supervision, control and conflict relations). Intermediate employment relationships contain elements of both types.

Bourdieu describes family habitus i.e. how the family act normally will determine how future family members will act (e.g. children will tend to follow in their parents footsteps). Definition of habitus - aspects of a groups culture that become apparent in the way that they act, the habits they have, the daily practices they carry out etc. Bourdieu calls this a 'practice generating grammar'. As Reay points out conceptualizing habitus in this way makes choice available, but at the same time, the way habitus is viewed actively limits choices to those that would be 'acceptable' to the group. Therefore if the social group is large employer and higher professional class then they will choose their educational path towards the gain of capital or theoretical knowledge.

The increasing level of participation in post 16 education with increasing class level; and a greater uptake of FE courses, or exit from education with lower class students, is seen to support Bourdieu's conceptualisation of habitus.

2. Evaluation of the validity of the article's main claims and conclusions.

a. Concept of class and data from the Youth Cohort Study

One set of problems arises from the fact that judging people as being of a certain class requires some standard definition of class. There are multiple mentions of the word 'class' in this study e.g. FE colleges are described by Thompson (2008) as being largely working class institutions, Richardson (2007) talks about ………FE in class conscious England and Colley et al. (2003) describes FE as being populated mainly by students from working class backgrounds.

Different definitions could be used with discrepant results: someone could be included in the group 'large employers and higher professionals' but have been raised according to Bourdieu's view of habitus, within a family as the prospective 'semi-routine', or 'routine' class.

Reay compares class directly with the rise of social deprivation in the UK. It is not clear from this report what Reay bases his definition of social deprivation on. The report talks about 'social disadvantage' (could this be the same as social deprivation?), and defines this as marked by how many of the cohort receive free school meals and these students' subsequent progression to Level - 3 qualifications. The author claims that social disadvantage has had a 'drastic effect' on progression to Level - 3, as children from lower social backgrounds (free school meals) are much less likely to be entered for them.

Youth Cohort Study data - Adequacy of the research data base.

Despite there being a large volume of data from the Youth Cohort Study, the evidence base underpinning the report is fairly thin. Several particular weaknesses are apparent. There is little systematic information on when choices about post 16 pathways are made. The Youth Cohort Study concentrates on data from students already in post 16 education, or those who have exited education altogether. The study analyses numbers without a regard for the original reason for the choice of educational establishment. The Youth Cohort Study contains data on parents occupations but not on their attitudes and behaviour. It is assumed in the report that middle class, or lower class parents behave in particular ways when the choice of post 16 education is decided.