'White Working Class Achievement: an ethnographic study of barriers to learning in schools'

Lewis, Kirstin and Demie, Feyisa. 2011. 'White Working Class Achievement: an ethnographic study of barriers to learning in schools'. Educational Studies, 37(3), pp. 245-264. ISSN 0305-5698 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This study aims to examine the key barriers to learning to raise achievement of White British pupils with low‐income backgrounds. The main findings suggest that the worryingly low‐achievement levels of many White working class pupils have been masked by the middle class success in the English school system and government statistics that fail to distinguish the White British ethnic group by social background. The empirical data confirm that one of the biggest groups of underachievers is the White British working class and their outcomes at each key stage are considerably below those achieved by all other ethnic groups. One of the main reasons for pupil underachievement, identified in the case study schools and focus groups, is parental low aspirations of their children’s education and social deprivation. It is also perpetuated by factors such as low‐literacy levels, feelings of marginalisation within the community exacerbated by housing allocation, a lack of community and school engagement, low levels of parental engagement and lack of targeted support to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage, a legacy of low aspiration that prevents pupils from fulfilling their potential across a range of areas. The study concludes that the main obstacle in raising achievement is the government’s failure to recognise that this group has particular needs that are not being met by the school system. The government needs to recognise that the underachievement of White British working class pupils is not only a problem facing educational services but profoundly a serious challenge. Policy implications and recommendations are discussed in the final section.

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Educational Studies



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Date Deposited:

21 Jul 2015 15:30

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 09:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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