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Sociology Essay – Why do some do better at school than others


I have chosen to do my essay on ‘why do some do better at school than others?’ This essay explores the home environment, social class, gender, labelling, teachers, ethnicity, politics, mixed ability, ability and gender differences.

Social class

Working-class pupils do not do as well on average as middle – class pupils. Some of the arguments about underachievement by working-class pupils go back to the 1970s and earlier. When most working-class pupils were sent to secondary modern schools the underachievement was linked to this type of school. This is no longer the case. State education is free, so the fact that working-class families are less well off should not make a difference.

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This may be a matter of money but still can reflect differences in values. Middle – class children are more likely to have been socialized into ideas about how important it is to do well and how it is worth studying hard to get a good job in the future.

Working-class children may even find the way they speak holds up their achievement. Success in schools requires being able to speak and write in what is seen as ‘correct’ English; middle – class children are likely to find this easier because are living in a society that speaks the ‘correct English’ therefore it is much easier for these children to speak properly. Whereas working-class children may lack role models in their everyday life.

Home Environment

We may not succeed if we are from a poor background because they do not have the cultural things that help. For example access to information, internet etc…

Parents are asked to pay for a lot of things like P.E kit, uniforms and so on. Middle – class parents are more likely to be able to afford extras like a place on an optional school trip, extra books or even a tutor to give them extra help if they are finding a subject hard. For children from working-class families, it is a struggle to get by, many families are working to meet their survival needs there may not even have a proper breakfast, which makes it difficult to concentrate in class.

Living Conditions at home might help middle-class students to study. They are more likely to have a quiet place to do homework. For example, the working class may be living in crowded, unhealthy living conditions etc…

Middle- class parents are also more likely to be able to provide ‘cultural capital’. For example, there may be money for a tutor, more books in the home, educational toys, a computer to use, visits to museums and so on.

It is mostly older schools students who truant – the further along with the education the higher the truancy rates. Students who truant tend to be from poorer home backgrounds; those from low skilled, low-income families, living on local authority housing estates particularly have high levels of truancy. Certain minority groups – most traveller children, one-third of whom have attendance levels of less than fifty per cent and an unknown number not even registered for schools.

There are many reasons for truancy for example it may be because their friends influence them or put peer pressure on them, it may be that their older siblings are in trouble with the police, or maybe that they are getting bullied at school and it is the only way of getting away from it.


The minorities who do the least well are Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Afro- Caribbean because they are from working-class backgrounds.

Working-class children may find it hard to adapt to the English needed in schools. Asian children are likely to be bilingual. Afro – Caribbean children may speak a Creole (language developed from a mixture of different languages which has become the main language of place) language which pupils speak and teachers might see as ‘bad’ English.

Afro – Caribbean boys are seen as disruptive and obscene that afro – Caribbean boys were more likely to get a more severe telling off from the teacher than white boys who had done something similar because some teachers have expectations from these children and children live up to these expectations made by adults


Politics play a huge part in education based on the social class where people are more vocal in asking for funding to educate their children better. This does not always go to the areas needing it more.


There are low numbers of teachers from minority ethnic groups. Teachers from ethnic minorities are under-represented in schools. Their fore children do not have positive role models to look up to.

Some teachers may have stereotyped views of different ethnic groups. Afro – Caribbean’s, boys, in particular, may be thought of as loud and disruptive while Asians are more likely to be seen as capable and hard-working, and maybe ignored because it is felt they do not need help.

Ethnic minority students do sometimes come across institutionalised racism from teachers and other students. Some racism is harder to tackle. For example, it has been argued that when teachers put students in sets and steam, they are influenced by behaviour as well as ability. So an Afro-Caribbean who would be able to succeed in a top set may end up in a lower setting if they think the behaviour will affect those in the top set.

Teachers have different stereotypes so teachers expect children to live gender stereotyping for example – boys mess around. Within schools, certain subjects are identified to girls and others to boys.

Teaching by Ability

School students can be taught at the correct academic level. They can be taught at the appropriate pace and appropriate subject matter. Those who want to learn won’t be distracted by those who don’t want to learn. Teachers will be able to adapt their teaching to the needs of the particular stream.

Mixed Ability Teaching

Students in lower steams feel humiliated if their friends are all achieving high marks and they are not doing very well.

Teaching in mixed ability groups takes away the ‘labels’ which students have according to their stream. Students learn to help and co-operate with each other. There is no problem with unmotivated lower steam school students instead there is a sense of community and belonging.


The student’s educational achievement is affected for example without realising it, teachers may label us as ‘bright’ or ‘naughty’ and we behave according to the label.

Teachers labels may lead to a self – fulfilling prophecy through which the student’s educational achievement is affected for example students who have been told they are not good at a subject are more likely to stop trying than to set out to prove the teacher wrong.

Peer groups can also affect teenagers. A teacher might label a student as ‘bright’ or ‘able’ which is a positive label. But other students may see the same behaviour differently and label the student as a ‘boffin’.

Students label teachers as well on the basis of if they are strict, how approachable they are, how strong their rules are, what punishments they give and also on how hard they are made to work.



In the 1970s and 1980s was a big deal of concern; among feminists, in particular, about the education girls received. Girls took different subjects and got jobs that were lower paid and had lower status. Girls found it difficult to get the same opportunities as boys.

The feminist view men held about girls are that girls do not need a good education, because they will be mothers and housewives. Women have lower intelligence than men that too much education will spoil their feminine nature. These ideas suited the best education and jobs for the males only! This shows that girls got less attention from teachers than boys. Teachers did not expect girls to do as well as boys; teachers did not think careers were as important for girls.


In the past few years have been underachieving rather than with girls. But boys are doing better today but their performance has not risen as quickly as that of girls.

Here is some factors that have been suggested a ‘lad dish anti-learning culture’ boys do not work as hard because they will be criticised by other boys. For boys lower levels of their children and are seen leading for pleasure themselves, so boys associate reading with females. There is a shortage of male teaching at the primary level to act as role models.

There are also related differences in attitudes to school and work: girls work more consistently: boys are more easily distracted from their work. Girls can work steadily on long projects like coursework boys find it harder to be organised. Girls are willing to spend more time doing homework, not rushing it.

There are fewer traditional men’s jobs in manufacturing, engineering and so on than there used to be and more jobs in service industries, which have been seen as women’s jobs. Although there are new opportunities for boys, in computing and technology, for example, it has seen said that boys face a more uncertain future. Boys worry about their futures (though they may not like to talk about it) while girls are far more confident.


In the 1970s girls usually outperformed boys in the earlier stages of education for example at GCSE’S but they did not in maths and science.

Girls are outperforming boys in all GCSE’s except physics and the gap is getting wider.

In the 1970s girls used to fall behind at A level. But now more females are passing their A levels.

More males went to university, now more women go to university than men.

It has also been suggested that boys do better without girls. Boys often say girls distract them and some of their disruptive behaviour may be showing off intended to impress the girls.

Gender Differences

Schools and teachers are being much more aware of these issues and trying to treat boys and girls the same to ensure equal opportunities.

Teachers are trained to make their resources more girls friendly. National projects set up to encourage girls to participate in science and technology.

Changes in employment and expectations of employment- girls and their parents are having much higher expectations, aiming for qualifications and careers. This is a big change from a few years ago when most girls thought of their future in terms of getting married young and having children. Many girls do, however, as they used to, go into routine clerical or shop work combined with domestic works.

There are now more opportunities in the workplace for women there are also a lot more successful and professional role models for women so their expectations are higher.


In conclusion, the social class makes a difference in how well you are educated. There are other important factors such as your gender, ability, ethnicity, home environment. The level of sport from parents/ carers. The persons own cognitive ability and level of motivation. Politics also plays it part in how well the schools are able to prepare their pupils with essential life skills depending on the funds they receive.

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