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An examination of inequalities in a Comprehensive School in an area of high disadvantage : what do student and practitioner perceptions tell us about the relationship between current and historical inequalities in English schools?

This study examined the assertion that, in spite of the twenty-first century rhetoric of equality in English education, class and values based prejudice in schools remains strong. It particularly explored how practitioners perceived different groups of students, students’ self-reported attitudes to school, and whether or not the between-group differences perceived by practitioners reflected the self-reported views of students. Furthermore it examined whether practitioners’ perceptions of students were linked to gender, SEN, ethnicity, academic ability, or economic, familial, and cultural capitals, and whether students with socio-economic status and cultural capital closest to that of practitioners were viewed more positively than other students. Finally, it questioned whether school practice widened the achievement and attitudinal gaps between different groups of students. The study followed 156 students for their first four terms in secondary school. Student questionnaires were used to create group profiles for initial and post-first-year attitudes, academic self-concept; cultural capital, and socio-economic capital. Practitioner perceptions of students used teacher-awarded motivation grades, detention and behaviour logs, ability-group placements, and questionnaires with pastoral managers. Analytical procedures included factor analyses, comparisons of means, and a regression analysis. The findings showed that practitioner-perceived group differences were much larger than the differences perceived by students. Practitioners perceived larger differences between English ability groups compared to Maths groups. Also, practitioners perceived girls and high cultural capital students as more motivated and in-tune with school values than others. Poorer male students, SEN students, and students with a single parent were perceived less positively than others. An elite group of students had more economic and cultural capital than others, and were viewed very positively by practitioners. There was a suggestion that non-white students were not viewed as positively as they should have been. The study suggested a need to further explore the situation of mixed-heritage children. The study suggested that teachers as individuals, and schools as institutions, need to question whether they discriminate against poorer students and those with cultural capital different from their own. They also need to question whether they are gender stereotyping and ask if they are offering boys from disadvantaged backgrounds an appropriate curriculum delivered in an effective pedagogical style. The findings of this study had important policy implications for pedagogy, curriculum content, school organization, and equal opportunities. They suggested that some practices exacerbated pre-existing achievement and attitudinal gaps.
Date January 2015
CreatorsGriffiths, Austin O.
PublisherUniversity of Warwick
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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