Raising achievement is a key area that has been the centre of the educational debate and one of the main goals of government educational strategies in England in the recent years. More precisely, the ambitious objective of these strategies has been to raise achievement of all learners, with particular attention to those pupils in a disadvantage condition, taking in account factors as social class, gender, ethnicity and special education needs. In this context a great stress has been given to the importance of meeting students’ need and, consequently “to move away from standardization towards a greater personalization” (Donnelly, 2012) and to put into practice particular initiatives that could help each student to achieve better.
Besides the national strategies, which by definition focus on general problems, each school has a range of key areas on which intervention are possible in order to face underachievement. Social class is without any doubt one of the most important factor that, still today, influences school achievement in England.
This paper aims to research from a theoretical and practical point of view how attention to the students’ social background impact on the raising of achievement in a school, and to analyse some of the strategies that aim to face social inequality in education. Taking into consideration the existing literature on the issue, this research will firstly consider the correlation between social class and education underachievement in England; I will then use data I gathered from School A and my own personal experience to explore and discuss possible strategies that could help a school to narrow this social gap and raise achievement.
As the “strongest predictor of educational achievement in the UK” (Perry and Francis, 2010:2), social class represents a central concern in education and a crucial element to be considered when looking at strategies to raise achievement. Many different studies show in fact how deeply poverty is related with academic underachievement and that parental income, qualification and occupation influence children’s attainment (National Inequality Panel, 2010). Although this is a common situation for many other countries it seems particularly relevant in the UK where, despite all the strategies put into practice by government and local authorities, the social class gap for educational achievement is one of the most significant in the developed world (Kerr and West, 2010). Furthermore, social class is a very complex concept in which many other factors are involved, the most important of which are gender and ethnicity, and therefore cannot be addressed in isolation. As Reay (2012:3) suggests:
In order to have a more socially just educational system the wider social context needs to look very different, and, in particular, the gap between the rich and the poor needs to be substantially reduced.
Although there have been some concerns regarding its reliability (Kounali et al. 2008:1),...