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Example Answer for Question 4 Paper 1: AS Sociology, June 2017 (AQA)

AS, A-Level

Last updated 17 May 2017

Question 4. [10 marks]

The introduction of marketization in education, specifically league tables, may have indirectly hindered the progress of black pupils by encouraging a process of ‘educational triage’. League tables traditionally measure the proportion of pupils gaining five or more A*-C grades at GCSE. This puts pressure on schools to focus their support on those underperforming students that teachers consider most likely to respond to additional help. Critically, Gillborn and Youdell see this triage process as based on teacher labelling. Since studies show black pupils may be viewed as more disruptive and placed in lower streams, they are denied a fair opportunity to academic support and higher tiered exams, thus undermining their experience of education. However, since the root of this inequality is negative teacher labelling, the introduction of league tables cannot be held entirely to blame.

A second way in which educational policies may have affected the experience of minority ethnic groups is also proposed by Gillborn. In 2003 a new way of measuring primary school pupils’ abilities was introduced. The foundation stage profile (FSP) replaced the old ‘baseline assessment’ and had two key differences. No written test was required by the FSP, so it was based entirely on teachers’ judgements. Whereas the baseline tests took place at the start of primary school, the FSP is conducted at the end of foundation stage. Gillborn found statistical evidence that black children went from being the highest achievers immediately before the introduction of the FSP to below white children afterwards. However, this was only the case in one of the local authorities investigated. Gillborn concluded that the function of nationally standardised assessments is to reinforce the dominant culture’s superiority, and that the FSP increased the opportunity for racist stereotypes to influence black children’s scores.

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