Legitimizing Black academic failure: deconstructing staff discourses on academic success, appearance and behaviour

Rollock, Nicola. 2007. Legitimizing Black academic failure: deconstructing staff discourses on academic success, appearance and behaviour. International Studies in Sociology of Education, 17(3), pp. 275-287. ISSN 0962-0214 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The continued lower academic attainment of Black (especially Black Caribbean) pupils is now well established. Yet, to date there has been no single coherent national Government strategy that has successfully closed the gap in educational attainment between either Black and White pupils or between Black pupils and the national average. Academic and policy debates centring on the causes and potential ways of addressing this gap remain marred by controversy and disagreement. This paper is based on qualitative research, which explores how staff and pupils at an inner city secondary school in the south of England construct academic success. Focusing on one aspect of the findings, it reveals that staff subscribe to two forms of success: an inclusive, low D to G grade success and an exclusive, high A* to C grade success, each of which are seen as attainable only by certain types of pupils. The appearance and behaviour of Black pupils, particularly those engaged in what is termed ‘Black street culture’, are seen as directly at odds with the aims of the school and therefore minimize their likelihood of attaining success in exclusive terms.

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Educational Studies


September 2007Published
14 August 2007Published Online
14 August 2007Accepted

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06 Jan 2020 12:40

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06 Jan 2020 12:40

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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