Learning Your Way Out? A Sociology of Working Class Educational Experience

  • William Roberts

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This study examines the intersections of class, social exclusion and education policy during New Labour’s time in office, with the bulk of its focus falling upon secondary schooling. Working against wider political, academic and popular effacements and recodifications of class, and with a particular focus upon its marginalisation within both political and academic discourses of social exclusion, both concepts are mapped out in ways which allow them to be understood in tandem and as rooted within the structures, processes and relations of societyand its constitutive institutions. Qualitative in approach, and set within the ebb and flow of long running educational struggles heavily imbued with issues of class, the study uses semistructured interviews with 21 education professionals to explore the impact of the current market-based education policy regime upon the institutional structures, processes and professional practices which confront working class pupils on a daily basis. In turn, it examines the ways in which working class pupils and the shaping of their educational experiences are understood by those trained and charged to teach in an education systemintimately bound to the re/production of class inequalities and social exclusion. Parallel to this, the project uses biographically orientated interviews with 17 working class young people in order to explore the variegated ways in which class and social exclusion intersect within their schooling careers as they are shaped along shifting axes through, within, and against the kindsof contexts and conditions mapped out by education professionals. The study provides key insights into the contemporary circulation of class within schools: invoked through crosscutting narratives of ‘ability’, ‘deficiency’ and ‘social constructivism’ by education professionals caught within systemic pressures to perform, and a ubiquitous facet of working class educational experience which is continually stirring, settling, straining to be re/made, and wrought through shifting layers and dimensions of in/exclusion.
Date of Award19 Sept 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTess Ridge (Supervisor) & Peter Cressey (Supervisor)


  • class
  • social exclusion
  • education

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