Social 20 1 Essays About Education

The AS and A Level Exams 

There are two 90 minute papers at the end of the AS year, and three two hour papers at the end of the A Level Year. Remember that if you do the AS qualification, your grades don’t count towards the A level, you are reassessed in a slightly different format on all of the first year material, along with all of the second year material as part of the A level exams at the end of the two years of study. 

Exam Papers for AS and A Level Sociology – this link just takes you to the AQA web site’s assessment page – you should definitely check out the exam papers, and practice them!

AQA A Level Sociology – The Three Exam Papers

AQA Paper 1 – Education with Theory and Methods – hints and tips for answering the six questions on this 2 hour exam paper. 

AQA Paper 2 – Topics in Sociology – hints and tips for answering the 6 (optional) questions on this two hour exam paper 

How I would’ve answered the families and households section of A level sociology paper 2 (AQA, 2017)

AQA Paper 3 – Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods –

You might find my cheesy exam guide for the AS sociology exam useful….


Assessment Objectives in AS and A Level Sociology – It’s useful to know how the marks are distributed in the exam – there are complex question by question breakdowns on the specification, but to simplify it – Knowledge and Understanding (of concepts, theories, research) is worth about 50% of the marks in the exam, the other 50% are for Application, Analysis and Evaluation. 

Essays and Essay Plans

This will gradually be populated with more and more essays, please check back for more!

Assess the Marxist View of the Role of Education in Society (20)

Evaluate the view that differences in educational achievement between social groups are the result of factors and processes within schools (30)

Assess the extent to which it is home based factors, rather than in-school factors which explain social class differences in educational achievement (20)

Research Methods in Context – essay template (20)

Assess the Strengths of Using Participant Observation in Social Research (16)

Evaluate the view that the main aim of the family is to meet the needs of capitalism (20)

Assess the reasons for the long term increase in the divorce rate (20)

Evaluate the Contribution of Consensus Theory to Our Understanding of Crime and Deviance (30)

Assess sociological perspectives on prison as a form of punishment (30)

Extended Paragraphs 

An essay typically consists of a number of paragraphs, and the general paragraph structure in a sociology essay is to make a point, explain it, expand on it, and then analyse/ evaluate it. The points you make will obviously depend on the question you’re being asked, and you’re generally looking to make from 3-5 points in each essay. At least one of these, ideally two should go into some depth, and the paragraphs below have been written to show you how deep you could go into analysing and evaluating just one point within an essay. 

An Evaluation of Zero Tolerance Policing – This is an overkill paragraph demonstrating different aspects of ZTP with 6 evaluation points. You might discuss ZTP in response to a question about Realism in general, right realism specifically, policies of crime control, or the role of the police in reducing crime.

 10 Mark Questions 

Outline and explain two ways in which changes to gender roles have affected diversity of family structures (10)

Outline and analyse two reasons for the formation of subcultures (10)

Outline and analyse some of the ways crime has changed in postmodern society (10)

A Suggested Revision Strategy for A Level Sociology

As I see it – Revision Should be done in Three Stages

Stage One – Planning and Preparation – START FEB HALF TERM (or earlier)

Stage Two – Doing and Learning Summary Revision Notes – Start in Easter Vacation

Stage Three – Reviewing and Hench Exam Practice – Starts Mid-April

Of course there’s no reason why you can’t mix it up and/ or get ahead – these are just suggestions. The more the merrier when it comes to revision. NB don’t forget to eat and sleep. 

  1. Planning/ Preparation for revision
  • Know What you Need to know – Keep in mind the main topics and sub topics (know what you need to know) – Ideally stick an A3 copy of the course structure on your wall – keep referring back to it
  • Know how you are assessed – Stick an A3 copy of the two exam papers on the wall – keep referring back to them
  • Do an overview of a revision timetable – allow enough time to cover every topic at least three times (not including the last week of the exam when you should be constantly reviewing everything)
  1. Make your own detailed revision notes and memorise them

Construct Summary Revision Notesfor each Sub-Topic write 1-2 pages of revision notes covering the following:

  • Intro Blurb – roughly what is it about?
  • 3-5 Key points about the sub-topic
  • Overall evaluation points – NB these will overlap with other sub-topics!)
  • Key concepts/ evidence/ sociologists highlighted
  1. Exam practice
  • Test yourself on short answer questions
  • Plan essays using the ‘Intro – PEEC*4 – Overall Evaluations – Conclusion’ structure
  • Write essays under timed conditions
  • Also look at actual exam papers which will ask you questions which cover two or more topics.





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Assess the extent to which home based, rather than school – based factors account for social class based differences in educational achievement (20)

Focusing on home background initially, we can look at how material and cultural factors might affect a child’s education.

The lower classes are more likely to suffer from material deprivation at home which can hold children back in education because of a lack access to resources such as computers, or living in a smaller house means they would be less likely to have a quiet, personal study space. In extreme situations, children may have a worse diet and a colder house, which could mean illness and time off school. According to Gibson and Asthana, the effects of material deprivation are cumulative, creating a cycle of deprivation. This would suggest that home background influences a child’s education.

Also, the amount of money one has and the type of area one lives in affects the type of school a child can get to. Richer parents have more choice of school because they are more likely to have two cars or be able to afford public transport to get their children to a wider range of schools. Also, house prices in the catchment areas of the best schools can be up to 20% higher than similar houses in other areas – richer parents are more able to afford to move to these better schools. At the other end of the social class spectrum, those going to school in the most deprived areas may suffer disruptions in school due to gang related violence. All of this suggests that location, which is clearly part of your ‘home background’ in the broader sense of the word, is a major factor in educational achievement.

Cultural deprivation also has a negative effect on children at home. Bernstein pointed out that working class children are more likely to be socialised into the restricted speech code and so are less able to understand teachers at school compared to their middle class peers who speak in the elaborated speech code. The classes are also taught the value of immediate rather than deferred gratification, and so are less likely to see the value of higher education. In these theories, home background influences children all the way through school.

Although the concept of cultural deprivation is decasdes old, more recent research suggests it is still of relevance. Fenstein’s (2003) research found that lower income is strongly correlated with a lack of ability to communicate, while research by Conor et al (2001) found that being socialised into poverty means working class students are less likely to want to go to university than middle class students because they are more ‘debt conscious’.

Cultural Capital Theory also suggests that home background matters to an extent – this theory argues that middle class parents have the skills to research the best schools and the ability to help children with homework – and to intervene in schools if a child falls behind (as Diana’s research into the role of mothers in primary school education suggested). However, cultural capital only advantages a child because it gets them into a good school –suggesting that it is the school that matters at least as much as home background. There wouldn’t be such a fuss over, and such competition between parents over schools if the school a child went to didn’t have a major impact on a child’s education!

In fact, one could argue that probably the most significant advantage a parent can give to their child is getting them into a private school. To take an extreme case, Sunningdale preparatory school in Berkshire costs £16000/ year – a boarding school which confers enormous advantage on these children and provides personalised access via private trips to elite secondary schools Eton and Harrow. In such examples, it is not really home background that is advantaging such children – it is simply access to wealth that allows some parents to get their children into these elite boarding schools and the schools that then ‘hothouse’ their children through a ‘high ethos of expectation’ smaller class sizes and superb resources.

Similarly, the case of Mossborn Academy and Tony Sewell’s Generating Genius programme show that schools can overcome disadvantage at home – if they provide strict discipline and high expectation.

Although all of the above are just case studies and thus of limited use in generating a universal theory of what the ‘major cause’ of differences in educational achievement by social class might be, many similar studies have suggested that schools in poorer areas have a lower ethos of expectation (from Willis’ classic 1977 research on the lads to Swain’s research in 2006). It is thus reasonable to hypothesis that the type of school and in school factors such as teacher labelling and peer groups might work to disadvantage the lower classes as Becker’s theory of the ideal pupil being middle class and Willis’ work on working class counter school cultures would suggest, although in this later case, Willis argues that the lads brought with them an anti-educational working class masculinity, so home factors still matter here.

Finally – Social Capital theory also suggests that home background is not the only factor influencing a child’s education – rather it is the contacts parents have with schools – and later on schools with universities and business – that are crucial to getting children a good education, and making that education translate into a good job.

So is it home background or school factors that matter? The research above suggests home background does have a role to play, however, you certainly cannot disregard in school factors in explaining class differences in educational achievement either – in my final analysis, I would have to say that the two work together – middle class advantage at home translating into better schooling, and vice versa for the working classes.

If you like this sort of thing – then you might like my series of five mind maps summarising the topic of differential educational achievement by social class. They are real perty.

Related Posts

The Effects of Material Deprivation on Education

The Effects of Cultural Deprivation on Education

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