chapter  4
40 Pages

Inequalities at School Level

In Chapter 1 we noted how explanations for inequalities in educational achievement have shifted away from a focus on ‘external’ factors, such as the individual characteristics of students or the cultural environment provided by their homes, towards an almost total emphasis on processes occurring within schools and classrooms; albeit with these themselves sometimes treated as the product of wider social forces. Lacey, an early advocate of this move, saw it as opening up the ‘black box’ of the school in order to explore the microsocial mechanisms which mediate between educational inputs and outputs (Lacey, 1976, p. 68).1 Indeed, school processes have increasingly been treated as themselves generating outcome inequalities (for example, Wright, 1986, 1992a; Mac an Ghaill, 1988; Troyna, 1991a; Measor and Sikes, 1992; Riddell, 1992). This research has operated at two levels. Some has focused on the organization of schools, being concerned with forms of selection such as streaming, banding, setting, option choice, etc. Other work has investigated differential treatment of students in the classroom. This chapter deals with the first of these areas; Chapter 5 will consider the second.