Understanding working class orientations towards higher education - a qualitative study of education decision making practice

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates the experiences of a group of working-class pupils as they experience educational-decision making in post-compulsory education. It focuses on a cohort of 28 pupils, identified as being the highest-attaining within a school with historically low-progression rates to Higher Education. The study presents the findings of an in-depth sociological study which investigates the ways in which these young people orientate and navigate towards post-school destinations. Based on emerging ideas from social practice theory, this study adopts a methodological approach which considers the multi-sited nature of post-16 choices.;The study explores how senior management responded to both policy to increase academic performance, and to localised and contextualised practice at the site in which temporal and historic community understandings of schooling and employment persist. Within these arrangements, the study focuses on the experiences of a close friendship group of ten pupils as they explore possibilities to study at university.;Using methods of interviews, group discussions, participant observation and forms of actionable research (St John, 2013), the study identifies senior management strategies to support academic progress and considers pupil alignment towards academic engagement. It shows the extent to which activities need to be brokered at the site in order for pupils to access a more privileged existence in Higher Education. It also shows the extent to which this involves a collective negotiation of practice by pupils and their close networks as they participate in activities to support successful applications.;The thesis suggests that in the neglect of adequate explorations of working-class pupil experiences, current policy and interventions to address this issue maintain a focus on the individual, and fail to grasp effectively the more complex reproductive and transformative processes within peer groups, schools and community cultures. The thesis concludes by outlining several suggestions for future research and policy in this area.
Date of Award9 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorAlastair Wilson (Supervisor) & Daniela Sime (Supervisor)

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