This portfolio aims to review different problems connected to the class, social strata, and social mobility that affect students’ education using the examples of diverse groups of people. The argument considered in this portfolio is that both social biases and marginalized policies support the existing issues with access to education in the United Kingdom. Some of the key concepts that will be evaluated are social class and social mobility. The report will begin by examining grammar schools and education opportunities for working-class males and proceed to review black middle-class communities and higher education opportunities for different social strata.
The critical points in the ongoing grammar school debates concerning social class are connected to the actual impact that these schools have on social mobility. Social class is “a broad group in society having common economic, cultural, or political status” (Definition of ‘social class,’ no date). The main issue of debate about grammar schools is the opportunity that these institutions can provide to bright children who come from economically disadvantaged families. The underlying problem is that middle or upper-class children can get a better chance in terms of education. However, grammar schools enroll students based on their academic achievements, through an examination, suggesting that any able pupil can get an equal opportunity. The question of efficiency for such an approach remains unanswered and requires evidence-based research.
The main implication of supporting grammar schools and further developing this system is the belief that these institutions select pupils based on their knowledge and help children from working-class families excel academically and receive more opportunities. In their research, Morris and Perry (2016, p. 2) highlight the main issues with grammar schools that prompt the ongoing debates – ‘standards, social mobility, opportunity, and accessibility. The number of grammar schools in England has decreased drastically, in the 1960s there were approximately 1,300 of these institutions, while in the 1970s only 230 remained active. Currently, the main argument supporting the reintroduction of grammar schools and their selective systems is the social ability – or an opportunity for people to change their social strata. Since the transformation of the school system in England that occurred in 2010 and was marked by increasing independence of schools from the local authorities, the institutions were allowed to change their admission policies, allowing more schools to create a standard of admission. Hence, the debate around grammar schools in England has been ongoing for many years, and there is no unified view of the matter.
In the context of recent news about grammar schools, the debate around the efficacy of these educational facilities for working-class children has recently surged because of the increasing emphasis on diversity and independence of schools in England. Power (2017) argues that scholars have not conducted studies examining the merits and disadvantages of the grammar school system while citing that some critics believe grammar schools to be socially divisive and see them as remnants of an outdated system. Long-term research on the effect of grammar schools conducted in 1980 by Halsey et al. suggests that working-class children have better careers after graduating from grammar schools (as cited in Power, 2017). However, the opposite side of this debate is that not many of these children are eligible for additional benefits, necessary to support their education, for example, free school meals.
Therefore, grammar schools can impact their student’s social class and provide more opportunities for future career development, but the evidence on the matter is conflicting. Based on the examined evidence and debate about grammar schools, one can conclude that more research is necessary into the ability of these institutions to impact a person’s social class and to examine the policies that can help promote working-class support children who go to grammar schools.
Working Class Lads
The primary issue of working-class children’s education is the inequality they have to face to excel academically, in comparison to middle or upper-class individuals. Working-classness is reproduced through a male relationship with education because the system and the perception of working-class students shape the educational opportunities provided to them. For example, Stahl (2014) found that white working-class boys are perceived as underachieving or lacking motivation and aspiration to excel academically, based on the researcher’s assessment of 23 students from London. This view is shaped mainly by the perception of education as a competitive and status-based entity. Inevitably, such views shape the decisions and desire to study displayed by these working-class males and affect their future. These perceptions shape the boys’ aspirations and their view of the self as ‘average,’ which is the main issue with the male relationship with education.
Arguably, Willis accounts for a variety of factors relating to the working class-ness of children and the impact that this element has on their experience of education. According to Kane (no date, p. 2), ‘Arnot in reviewing the impact of Willis’s study, notes that Willis had shown how different masculinities were created, regulated and reproduced within the school setting’. Hence, although Willis’s research allowed a better understanding of how society shapes the working-class’ boys perception of education, this research has not been used in policy development and was marginalized. Therefore, Willis’ arguments suggest that working-class behaviors have a significant impact on one’s behavior at school because the social class perceptions affect the boy’s attitudes towards education. These attitudes, however, are shaped and supported by society, which promotes policies and regulations highlighting the attitudes towards working-class children as less worthy. Next, Arnot’s (2003) critique of gender relationships in education is valid because the author points out the marginalization of research. The issue happens because these students are typically viewed as ‘difficult’ because of their behavior, and their learning needs are overlooked.
Working-class children do not get respect in education institutions. Ray argues that the current education policies are making the inequality in education worse than before (cited in Ferguson, 2017). Here the debate of social mobility and the ability of children to move from working class to other strata arises again, since due to unfair perceptions of the working-class students and their capabilities, their academic aspirations may be viewed as unrealistic. This is supported by research from Stahl (2014) discussed above, which provides that working-class males’ view of their capabilities is affected by societal perceptions, meaning that they overlook personal capabilities and learning opportunities. Ray suggests that children perceive their status in the education system, and based on her experience can understand that they are perceived as underachieving (cited in Ferguson, 2017). This results in issues because these personnel perceptions shape their attitudes toward education. Notably, the point is mainly a policy problem because working-class children are usually placed in schools that receive less funding and have less qualified teachers (cited in Ferguson, 2017). Therefore, working-classness is reproduced through education because policies and social attitudes shape the perception of working-class students, mainly boys, as achieving and challenging, which does not allow them to learn adequately.
Black Middle Classes
Black middle classes (BMC) are members of the social group, in between individuals of the working class and upper class. Racism, mainly overt is the main problem that BMC cites when discussing the education of their children (Vincent et al., no date). Moreover, the issue of racism is further intensified by the fact that BMCs report that when mentioning the problem to the school staff or other authorities, they are met with resistance. As a result, BMC parents face the need to protect their children from racism at school, while having no support or recognition of the problem from the teachers and other personnel.
In general, BMC’s are identified as a member of a social class in between working and upper-class individuals, for example, business owners or professionals. According to Vincent et al. (no date), BMC put a great emphasis on education, prioritize it for their children and support them in obtaining higher education. Typically, they use a variety of resources available to them, such as professional networks, meetings with tutors and teachers, researchers, and others to make education-related decisions. Notably, although the middle class is a common type of classification of social strata, research by Vincent et al. (no date) suggests that BCM prefer to refer to themselves as ‘professional’ instead of ‘middle class.’ Hence, BMCs prefer to be referred to as professionals, and typically these are people with higher education and a whitecollar job or business owners.
Despite the problems faced by BMC when obtaining an education, the majority of them view education as an important element of social mobility and a way of counteracting against racism (Vincent et al., no date). Hence, the education of children is the top priority, meaning that BMCs monitor the process and use all the resources available to them to intervene in the process when necessary. Another issue is the problem of representation, where BMCs seek to connect with other BMC families to provide their children with positive role models (Vincent et al., no date). This suggests that the editing education system does little to support the educational efforts of diverse ethnicities, prompting families to seek educational opportunities and inspiration to study for their children outside schools. Vincent et al. (no date) report that many BMC parents involve their children in Black tutoring and mentoring programs apart from the standard extra-curriculum activities. Therefore, BMC families find it necessary to include educational activities within their communities to help their children interact with other BMC students.
Another issue is the expectation of teachers, shaped by society and policies. As research in different social strata suggests, for example, by Willis (1977) and Stahl (2014), the perception of one’s learning abilities affects children’s view of self. Simply, if children perceive the educator’s view of them as unworthy or incapable of succeeding academically, they are more inclined to have issues and struggle with their studies. Vincent et al. (no date) report a similar problem with BMC students, pointing out that the negative experiences of BMC parents at schools prompt them to demand a high standard of teaching and closely monitor the education process. Therefore, for BMC parents, the education of their children is a top priority, and they view it as an essential element of overcoming racism and as a part of social mobility.
The Divided Academy
HE choice illustrates represents the reproduction of class practices because, similarly to issues with other education facilities, HEs have barriers obstructing working-class individuals from entering. Other problems, such as social biases and perceptions of certain social strata, may also hinder one from obtaining a degree. Mainly, to study in an HE institution, one has to possess funds to pay for the tuition and to support their living by buying necessities such as food and renting a house. One way of deconstructing this is by developing policies and study programs that will aid bright students in obtaining a degree either through financial support or other types of help.
As suggested by research examined in previous sections, the existing education system in the United Kingdom is flawed and does not provide equal opportunity to all children. Hence, depending on their social status or skin color, these children may face oppression or policies that will not allow them to excel academically and make the best out of their studies. One way of deconstructing this is through distance learning – where educators and students interact via online resources and where practices that eliminate class bias are easier to implement and control. Hence, one approach of deconstructing class practices is by leveraging distance learning to aid students who cannot obtain a HE degree otherwise.
The marketing leaflet presented in the Appendix was developed for a university that promotes practices that should enable better access to HE. The Open University provides equal opportunities to all through distance learning. People of different social strata can attend and gain the degree they want. Notably, this is a non-traditional university, maintaining access to online education, the institution promoted HE for all classes. Mainly, by lowering the costs associated with obtaining the degree and mitigating the issues of viewing some degrees as unsuitable for certain social classes (Ferguson, 2017). Distance learning helps promote education by eliminating the socially-induced biases, since the tasks are graded and reviewed by professors without face-to-face interactions, leaving no opportunity for bias based on a person’s ethnicity or appearance. In addition, such courses promote the opportunity to obtain an education while working, which is essential for working-class individuals struggling to pay for their education. Finally, when compared to traditional HE education, the open university offers compatible prices, making HE more affordable, which helps deconstruct the class practices.
Overall, this portfolio examines the variety of issues connected to class and ethnicity that can obstruct children from obtaining an education. Firstly, the debate around grammar schools in the United Kingdom remains unresolved, meaning that there is no clear evidence suggesting that these schools promote social mobility. However, this can be connected to policy issues, for example, lack of funding for school meals. Another problem is the social bias that affects the working-class males and their education, leading to them viewing themselves as unable to learn. The BMC community faces the issues of racism and improper quality of education, requiring them to monitor the process carefully. One strategy that can be applied to address the problems of the class is distance learning.
Arnot M. (2003) Male working-class identities and social justice: a reconsideration of Paul Willis’s Learning to Labour in light of contemporary research in C. Vincent Social Justice, Education and Identity. London: Routledge-Falmer.
Ferguson, D. (2017) Working-class children get less of everything in education – including respect.
Morris, R. and Perry, T. (2016) ‘Reframing the English grammar schools debate’, Educational Review, 69(1), pp. 1-24.
Power, S. (2017) Grammar schools debate: four key questions answered.
Stahl, G. (2014) ‘White working-class male narratives of ‘loyalty to self’ in discourses of aspiration’, British Journal of Sociology of Education 37(5), pp. 1-21.
Vincent, C. et al. The educational strategies of the black middle classes.
Willis, P. (1977) Learning to labour: why working-class kids get working-class jobs. Farnborough: Saxon House.