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Study Notes

Vincent et al (2012): The Educational Strategies of the Black Middle Class


Last updated 8 Oct 2021

This study note summarises the key findings of this study into education and ethnicity and social class.

Key terms:

Managed trust: Interactions between the parents and school – trusting the teachers to provide the best experience for their children, but intervening when this fell below expectations

Symbolic violence: The rejection of an individual’s tastes and attitudes as deficient or undesirable

Power-holders: Those with the power in education, mostly headteachers – indicative of unequal relationships between parents, pupils and teachers on the grounds of ethnicity

  • Vincent et al. interviewed black middle-class parents and found that they employed a range of strategies to overcome negative stereotypes of black pupils in the education system.
  • Challenges faced by parents included institutional racism and low expectations of black pupils, alongside stereotypes of reduced involvement of black parents and peer group interactions.
  • Black parents had overcome their own negative experiences of education and recognised them in the teachers’ expectations of their own children.
  • While black parents had a managed trust of their children’s education, they were more aware of potential issues, such as institutional racism and low expectations from teachers.
  • Black middle-class parents monitored their children’s education and developed proactive intervention strategies with the school to challenge underachievement.
  • Power-holders became defensive when challenged over issues of racial discrimination, so black middle-class parents negotiated these positions through adopting similar strategies to white middle-class parents. Black middle-class parents were aware of stereotypes of black parents as aggressive and so managed the situation through altering their behaviour.

What does this explain?

Black middle-class parents have the social and cultural capital to challenge stereotypes of black children within the education system in order to achieve the best outcomes for their children.

Demonstrates that institutional racism is not solely located within the lower social classes.

How is this achieved?

Utilising social and cultural capital to adopt a middle-class response to the problems faced within the education system. Acting like the white middle class helped them to negotiate these issues.

What evidence is there to support this?

Research into institutional racism and low expectations of black pupils – Gillborn, Coard.

How might we evaluate this idea?

Comparisons with white middle-class experience of education: 72.7% achieving benchmark of 5 GCSES vs 61.6% of black Caribbean middle-class pupils.

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