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The impact of a school ability banding system on white, working-class males

Scattergood, Andrew ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4122-1155 (2024) The impact of a school ability banding system on white, working-class males. British Journal of Sociology of Education.

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As part of a wider study into the educational attitudes and experiences of white, working-class male pupils in the north of England, this paper explored the ways that male pupils in years 10 and 11 navigated and experienced the six-level (A-F) academic banding system present in their British mainstream secondary school (Ayrefield Community school – ACS). Following an initial four-week period of both covert and overt observations (including guided conversations), three distinct groups of male pupils emerged. Influenced in part by Paul Willis’ seminal study (1977) of males in a working-class school environment, these three ‘lads’ groups were representative of pupils in the top, middle, and bottom academic bands and were subsequently named Performers, Participants and Problematics respectively by the researcher. Following this initial phase of observations, a total of 74 male pupils from these top (n = 29), middle (n = 26) and lower (n = 19) academic bands were specifically selected to take part in a total of 14 group interviews with the aim being to explore the lads’ experiences of, and attitudes towards, being taught in academic bands, as well as their views on education and qualifications more generally. Passages from these group interviews are combined with guided conversation responses to make up the findings presented in this paper which are then explored and explained using some key concepts from Norbert Elias’s field of figurational sociology alongside key academic literature linked to the use of academic banding in schools. The paper suggests that despite the fact that all male pupils at ACS were exposed to very similar working-class upbringings and social pressures as part of their wider social figuartions, members of each of the three lads’ groups became part of, and were subsequently influenced by, the specific, school-based figuartions that emerged as a result of their allocation to their respective academic group. Influenced by the increasingly diverse and complex social relations within these school-based figuartions, the lads from the three different groups seemed set to achieve relative ‘success’ at school, albeit on route to different destinations, for different reasons, and towards quite starkly different end goals – all whilst still being very much aware of, and influenced by, the wider social figuration of which they were inextricably a part.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2024.2315123
School/Department: School of Science, Technology and Health
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/9369

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