ArticlePDF Available

Doing the Dirty Work of Social Class? Mothers' Work in Support of Their Children's Schooling

Doing the dirty work of social class? Mothers' work in support of their children's
Diane Reay
Professor of Sociology of Education
A major achievement of feminist research has been the broadening of the concept of
work to include 'the invisible labour' of the home and neighbourhood ( Glucksmann
1995; Ungerson 1997). A growing, but still relatively neglected, aspect of domestic
labour is the educative work increasingly expected of parents. Over the past twenty years
there has been an increased emphasis on the accountability of parents for their children's
learning, but more recently expectations that parents become 'home educators' have
grown exponentially. Since the early 1990s, parental involvement has been officially
recognised as a key factor in school improvement and effectiveness (Reynolds and
Cuttance 1992), and in 1994 became a requisite part of a school's development plan
(OFSTED 1994). OFSTED guidelines issued the following year (1995: 98) encouraged
inspectors to explore how well schools help parents to understand the curriculum, the
teaching it provides, and how this can lead to parents and teachers working together to
provide educational support at home.
Miriam Glucksmann (2000) argues that the boundaries between household and market
economies, and what is produced in each, varies over time and between places.
Educational activities have always gone on in middle class households and a significant
numbers of working class ones. However, what has changed is the intensification of this
work within the home. The educational workload of families has grown apace and school
work is now seen to be the responsibility of the family as well as the teacher.
Glucksmann has developed the notion of the 'total social organisation of labour' which
refers to "the social division of all of the labour in a given society of whatever kind
between institutional spheres" (Glucksmann 2000: 19), and we need to deploy such an
understanding of work in order to grasp both the shifting balance in relation to
educational work between family and state schooling, and the current high expectations
and delegated responsibilities imposed on families.
We have reached a point at the beginning of the twenty-first century when parental
involvement is no longer optional. Under the Labour Government, elected in 1997, there
has been an intensification of the move from parental rights to increased parental
responsibilities initiated under the previous Conservative administration (Whitty et al
1998). Edwards and Warin (1999) go as far as to argue that collaboration between home
and school seems to have been superseded by the colonisation of the home by the school.
Certainly, schemes like PACT and IMPACT, devised to ensure parents support their
children's reading and numeracy development, are widespread (Merttens and Vass 1993),
while in 1999 home-school agreements became a statutory requirement, despite
considerable disquiet from both educationalists and parent groups. According to the
Government White Paper 'Excellence in Cities' (DfEE 1998a):
all schools should, in discussion with parents develop a home-school contract.
These agreements will reflect the respective responsibilities of home and school
in raising standards, stating clearly what is expected of the school, of the parent
and the pupil.
With the home-school agreement policy, the expectation that all parents will engage in
'home-school work' with their children has become normative and part of common sense
understanding about what being a parent involves (Crozier 2000). Parents are expected
to carry out a range of tasks, for example, supervising homework, attending school
meetings and providing the correct equipment, as well as offering unconditional support
to the school (Vincent 2000). As Stephen Ball (2003) argues, the range of recent
educational policies which emphasize parenting roles and empower parents in relation to
schools have made the boundary between the private domestic sphere and the public
sphere of schooling increasingly porous. Currently, we have a paradoxical situation in
which the public sphere, including education, is increasingly being privatised, while the
private sphere of the home is increasingly being publicly regulated and activities within it
held up for scrutiny and judgement. According to Brannen (2002) family time is today's
symbol of proper family life. Yet, family time is increasingly transformed into work time.
As Kay Standing asserts, parental involvement in schooling has become:
A form of unpaid household labour that breaks down the public/private divide by
taking the work of the home into the school and that of the school into the home.
(Standing 1995:2)
Now that the prevailing dominant discourse is one which sees education neither as an
entitlement nor an end in its own right, but as a means to enhancing economic growth and
proficiency, a case could be made that parents' work in support of their children's
schooling should increasingly be viewed as an economic as well as an educational
activity. What is uncontestable is that supporting schooling has a substantial economic
impact on families. In 2003 for the first time in the history of state schooling parents were
spending more per annum than their children's schools on textbooks (Townsend 2003).
This simultaneous redrawing and blurring of the boundaries between household
economies and the new developing market economy in state schooling potentially
increases the workload and the spending of all families. It also compounds existing
educational inequalities between families. The current political preoccupation with
parental involvement in education is underpinned by an assumption that all parents share
an identical experience of involvement in their children's schooling. We have a discourse
of parenting in which gendered, racialised and classed notions of parent are not
acknowledged, rendering inequalities existing between parents invisible. The actual
processes of parental involvement are very different. I want to examine these processes of
supporting children's schooling more closely and develop a gendered and classed analysis
of parental educational work in the home by drawing on two qualitative research studies,
one of mothers' involvement in their children's schooling in two urban primary schools
conducted from 1992 until 1995 (Reay 1998), and the second, an ESRC project on the
transition to secondary schooling carried out from 1997 until 2000 (Reay and Lucey
A gendered division of labour: Close up engagement or helping at a distance
In both research studies, within a majority of families there was a clear division of labour in
which children's schooling was seen as primarily the mother's responsibility. There was little
evidence in any of the women's accounts of men being closely involved in monitoring or
supporting their children's educational performance. Intense daily work with children was very
much the province of the mother. They were the ones with 'the finger on the pulse'. Men
occasionally helped out with school work, particularly in middle-class homes and would find
time to attend parents' evenings in school, but what came across very clearly was that parental
involvement meant very different things to mothers and fathers. So the vast majority of fathers
'helped out', while the main responsibility lay with their female partners. 'Helping out'
comprised a wide spectrum of different types of support from Janice's husband "who'll maybe
sit with them and read once in a while if I haven't got time to" to Christine's husband "who
helps a lot. He'll pick the kids up one or two nights a week, hear them read and always goes to
Parents' evening".
Fathers, and in particular the middle class ones, were better at public prominence than private
home-based support with school work, and hardly any of them got involved in the practical
maintenance work that involved physical rather than mental labour, ironing school blouses or
preparing packed lunches. As Evans asserts in his research into primary schooling in Australia:
In equating parenthood with these forms of school activity, fathers are able to shift their
parental responsibility from the home, to the more masculine territory of maintenance
work at school or attending meetings. Within their families such fathers are able to
absent themselves from what little parenting they do at weekends or during evenings, in
order to perform what are recognised as important tasks (Evans 1988: 87).
As one father explained when turning down my request to interview him "Well I suppose I'm
typical of most dads in that I'm only involved at a distance". However, mothers rarely had the
option of being involved 'at a distance'.
Mothers as Educators: 'Doing what comes naturally'
There was very little difference among women, regardless of their social class1 or ethnicity, in
either the importance they attached to education or the mental energy they devoted to their
children's schooling. Where they did differ was in the types of involvement they engaged in
and the level of difficulty they had to negotiate in order to be involved. Particularly in relation
to involvement in academic work, mothers' own educational histories continued to exert a
powerful impact on their involvement in the present. Many of the working class women had had
1 The social class attribution of mothers was based on a composite of socio-economic categorisation, both
their own, their partners and their parents, their own level of educational qualifications and that of their
parents, housing tenure, and how they self-defined in class terms. The intention was to work with three
groupings, the unambiguously middle class, the unambiguously working class and a third grouping that I
have called elsewhere (Reay 1998) women on the boundaries of class. However, in both samples this latter
grouping was small , being less than 10% of the total.
negative experiences of schooling which undermined any sense of expertise in relation to
academic work and left them feeling disempowered in relation to education. Cultural capital
weaves itself through women's accounts of their own schooling just as much as it does in their
tales of involvement in their children's schooling. The working class women invariably talked
about having mothers who were too busy working a double shift in the home and the labour
market to devote any time to their educational progress. In contrast, the middle class mothers
were far more likely to refer to positive educational experiences and parental interest in their
schooling. Schools may not have been making educational demands of mothers in the 1950s,
60s and 70s when these women were growing up, but that did not mean that many middle class
mothers were not independently undertaking educational work with their children in the home.
This class difference was facilitated by home circumstances and the much greater availability of
mothers in middle class homes. While three-quarters of the women from working class
backgrounds had mothers who were working full-time in the labour market while they were
school children, more than half of the women from middle class backgrounds had mothers who
were full-time housewives while they were at school.
Inequalities resulting from the past were compounded by those in the present. Working class
mothers, particularly if they were bringing up children without the financial and emotional
support of a partner, were very hard pressed, and talked of how little free time they had after
finishing paid work. Cathy's comment below was typical:
When I get in in the evening the first thing I do is cook them something, get them to eat,
a little bit of schoolwork or whatever. You see by the time I pick them up at half five or
six o clock it hardly leaves you any time to do the schoolwork. You are kind of thinking
about getting them ready for school the next day, you know, making sure they've got
clean underwear, something ironed, sorting out something they may need to take into
school the next day. Straight away I need to start thinking about what needs to be done,
meals, washing up, cleaning, ironing and on top of that the spellings and the reading -
it's hectic.
Other working class mothers were also likely to stress the physical and practical care aspects of
supporting schooling - the emphasis was on sorting out clothing, making packed lunches, the
trials and tribulations of getting children out of bed and into school on time - the practical
maintenance work of involvement in schooling (Smith and Griffiths 1990):
I'm trying to get him to be more independent, but I suppose behind that I've organised
everything. It all has to be organised for him so for instance his clothes are always laid
out in the same place for him ready to put on. I've got a list in the kitchen of the things
he needs for school and what day he needs to take what in.
(Carol, working class mother)
It was mainly working class mothers who spelt out the details of the practical maintenance work
involved in supporting schooling. Middle class mothers stressed other aspects of support in their
interviews which nearly always stopped short of 'doing the dishes'. Here the emphasis was
more on the academic: helping with curriculum assignments, doing maths cards with children,
helping with vocabulary, giving support with essay writing etc. Laura is an extreme example
because whenever I asked her about practical activities she invariably responded by describing a
learning activity:
You asked me about breakfast that's when I'll go over his spellings but it's hard to
squeeze in. You see all three of my children learn the violin by the Suzuki method in the
morning. They have to listen to the tape so at breakfast the cello tape goes on so that's
when they have their practice time. (Laura, middle class mother)
Here the practical maintenance work disappears behind a middle class emphasis on educational
and cultural support work in the home. What was striking was that for a significant number of
these middle class mothers in both research projects there were no boundaries between home
and paid work. A significant number of the middle class women worked in the education sector
of the labour market as university lecturers, teachers, educational psychologists, advisors and
educational administrators. Consequently, educational work in the home with their children was
an extension of their paid work in the labour market.
There was a similar extension of paid work for many of the working class women, However, it
operated in a very different way and without the returns of educational and cultural capital that
the middle class mothers input generated. Many worked in the service sector or in servicing
jobs. They were employed as cleaners, care workers, shop assistants, child minders, dinner
ladies and waitresses. Here too a close correlation could be seen between the types of activities
women engaged in the labour market and the activities they emphasised as important in relation
to their involvement in their children's schooling. This is not to say that working class women
did not engage in academic work, they did. Similarly, middle class mothers undertook practical
maintenance work. Rather, there was a difference of emphasis with mothers seeming to stress
what they were familiar and comfortable with. This differential emphasis was supported and
reinforced by a further gendered paid labour carried out in the homes of a majority of the
middle class mothers (Gregson and Lowe 1995; Anderson 2000). Over 60% of the middle class
mothers had cleaners, au pairs, nannies or a combination of the three. Coincidentally, one of the
working class mothers in the second research project turned out to be the cleaner of one of the
middle class mothers that I interviewed. While she complained that she never had time to hear
her daughter read, her employer timetabled a half hour reading slot with her son every evening.
So middle class mothers' focus on academic work was facilitated by the paid domestic labour of
working class women in middle class homes. Maybe part of the reason why middle class
mothers did not stress the practical maintenance work of supporting children's schooling was
because for a considerable number of them it was other women's work not their own.
Conversely, many of the working class mothers resisted a construction of themselves as their
children’s teachers. Their ambivalence about assuming a teaching role was rooted in mothers'
differential access to dominant cultural capital and what women saw as appropriate educational
work for 'people like them' As I have argued earlier, this was linked to their paid work in the
labour market, and the skills and competencies they saw themselves as possessing. As a
consequence, despite all the time and energy mothers like Carla, Lisa and Cathy devoted to their
children's schooling, they could not compete with their middle class counterparts. I am not
trying to create a binary between working and middle class women but to describe a strong
tendency across the data for women to concentrate on utilising the skills and competencies they
have developed in the labour market when engaging in involvement in schooling in the home.
The working class women's transcripts were saturated with references to 'supporting' and
'helping out'. Carol articulated this most clearly but many of the working class women used the
terminology of support and servicing to describe their involvement in children's schooling:
I see my job as 'backing the teacher up'. I don’t see it as being my job to teach her. I
leave that to the teacher.
In contrast, the middle class mothers used a far more directive language in which they could be
seen to be 'taking control', exercising initiative, and 'laying down the rules':
I had to really push to get things done. Richard was having problems and I wanted him
assessed but school couldn't really see the problems so I had to keep on going in, talk to
the teacher, go and see the Headteacher. If I hadn't kept on going in nothing would have
happened. I had to make them see there was a problem and do something about it.
(Jane, middle class mother)
I spent hours talking to the Headteacher and she wasn't doing anything so I went to the
Borough authority and asked for support. The Head didn't like it but they sent someone
and she assessed him. That's why he has a special support teacher because I got him
assessed. It was recognised as a school assessment because even though I initiated it, it
was done through the school. (Lilian, middle class mother)
In all of this we can see the importance of temporality and spatiality that Glucksmann (2000)
emphasises in her concept of 'the total social organisation of labour'. Work in very different
times and places impacts on contemporary mothers' work in support of schooling in the
domestic sphere. But there is a further issue about the work this work does. There is a
sedimentation of levels of privilege; an accumulation of advantage/disadvantage from work in
other times and places - the contemporary labour market as well as the homes these mothers
grew up in.
Complementing, compensating or modifying: differing roles in relation to schooling
Similar class differences to the ones that I have described in relation to the work of
parental involvement were also evident in the roles mothers adopted towards schooling.
While the largest group of mothers, predominantly the working class women,
conceptualised their relationship to schooling as one of complementing the education
their children received, a further group, in particular middle-class mothers, saw their
role as a compensatory one. Other mothers, also predominantly middle-class, spoke
about their efforts to modify the school provision. These three roles were by no means
mutually exclusive. Middle-class mothers moved in and out of different positions with
regard to schooling. They could do 'the supportive work' but also, at times, saw a need
for being directive and 'taking charge'. For these women 'supporting the teacher' could
rapidly transmute into 'being the teacher'. Manju employed a tutor for her daughter but
also took on a teaching role in the home:
Education starts at home, starts from her time after school actually. She is in year
five now and I feel she has to do some serious work at home because she hasn't
covered a lot of the stuff at school. I find I'm having to compensate despite the
fact that according to the school she's doing quite well.
Similarly, Claire sent Sophie to Kumon Maths classes and oversaw her practice every
evening, as well as setting Sophie additional educational work:
We go over the Kumon maths techniques every evening, that takes about half an
hour. But then I've been worrying about her writing standards so I've been setting
her essay writing so we can concentrate on writing techniques, grammar, spelling,
punctuation, all that sort of stuff
Parental involvement is gendered, it is also powerfully classed. Mothers were investing time
and energy in the types of school support that 'came naturally'. And for working class mothers
neither taking control when there are educational problems nor intense academic drilling and
emphasis on high status cultural activities came naturally. I am not arguing that it came
naturally to all the middle class mothers, there is an issue of degree here. But academic work
was far more likely to be 'what people like us did' for the middle class mothers than it was for
working class mothers. Economic capital also had a contributory and compounding impact, and
not just in relation to the ability to pay for domestic help. A few of the middle class families I
interviewed were spending over £100 a week on private tuition and cultural activities such as
music and drama for their child - more than some of the working class lone mothers on benefit
were getting in total to live on. However, the norm among the middle class families was to pay
for at least one out of school activity, while a sizeable minority paid for their child to attend two
or three.
Being able to afford culturally and educationally enriching activities added to middle
class educational advantage. Many of the middle class parents had themselves done very
well at school and this educational success translated into self confidence and a sense of
entitlement in relation to parental involvement. So cultural capital is powerfully
implicated in mothers’ ability to successfully support their children’s schooling.
Financial resources, the requisite skills and competencies, confidence in relation to the
educational system, a previously history of being supported educationally in the home,
educational knowledge and information about schooling all had a bearing on the extent to
which mothers felt empowered to intervene in their child’s educational trajectory and the
confidence with which they embarked on such action. For Angie, a white, working class
lone mother, whose account stresses over and over again the importance of education, her
personal feelings of incompetence and lack of confidence mitigated against her
embarking on any action with a sense of efficacy:
I have tried, I really have. I knew I should be playing a role in getting Darren
to read but I wasn’t qualified. Therefore it put extra pressure on me because I
was no good at reading myself, it was too important for me to handle and I’d
get very upset and angry at Darren.
Attempting to modify the school’s offer also had unpredictable and upsetting
I always found if I went to the classteacher, she’d take it very personal and think I
was attacking her. I wasn’t. I was just bringing it to her attention in case she
didn’t know, you know, that in my opinion he’s not progressing. The way I see
him and from what I expect of him I don’t see the progress. But I’d say ‘I’m not
saying that it’s because you’re not teaching my son. I do realise you have a class
of thirty and you’re only one person and you do so much and you’re expected to
do a lot of other things because the National Curriculum expects so much of you.
I do understand about that. But what can I do about his reading?” But when I did
go to the classteachers I think they took it too personal and felt I was attacking
them when really it was that it is so important I couldn’t let it go.
It is important to reiterate that there exists a significant minority of parents whose own negative
experiences of schooling makes involvement in their children's schooling difficult, even painful
(McNamara et al 2000). Working class mothers invariably cited the pitfalls, dangers and
misunderstandings they encountered in their own education. Working-class mothers who feel ill-
equipped to engage in repair work in the home and lack financial resources are reliant on the school
to get the job done. For Josie, in particular, the school had come to be perceived as ‘the last and only
resort’. Her personal history of immigration, working-class background and academic failure
resulted in a sense that there were no other options:
When I went to see his teacher I was pretty upset about Leigh not reading and it may have
come across like ‘how come Leigh’s not reading. If you aren’t hearing him read what are you
doing then?’I was maybe coming across like that but what I meant was can he possibly have
some extra time. Can someone hear (sic), for God’s sake, give him some extra reading and
let him get on because it’s making my life harder. I was getting so anxious about him not
reading cos I couldn’t really help him. I’d get upset and frustrated and it wasn’t doing Leigh
any good because if he can’t read what was happening. (Josie).
Within the sphere of parental involvement, a potent cocktail of personal educational history,
labour market position, paid domestic labour support or its absence, and the skills and
competencies developed both inside and outside of the labour market generate powerful
reproductive tendencies that shape the relationship between class groupings and education.
Women were mostly reproducing their classed position in the labour market in their educational
work in the home and this work contributed to and intensified educational inequalities. The
ways in which inequalities are exacerbated by the intensification of parental involvement in
schooling are made clear in Maria's words:
You need parental involvement, You need parents to be able to complement what you
are doing but that's all it should be. It shouldn't be any more. You see not all parents can
do it. Not all parents speak English, not all parents read and write so how can they help
their children at home. They're at a disadvantage anyway so when they come to school
they've got to have the help there. You should be able to say to the teacher "Look I can't
do it. You're qualified, can you do something about it?' without the teacher getting all
upset. There's a lot of parents who can't, just can't do it.
Supporting children's schooling was an easier process if mothers had access to material
and cultural resources and the opportunity to develop educational skills and
competencies. Women need to feel confident about tackling educational work in the
home and to have access to material resources to support such work. Without these other
essential ingredients of cultural capital, the time of mothers like Angie, Maria and Josie
did not count to anything like the same extent as that of the more privileged women. Yet,
it is mothers like Maria, Josie and Angie who are being targeted under current
educational initiatives despite the fact that they are the mothers with the fewest resources
with which to meet government demands for parental involvement.
The work of social reproduction is located in the interlinking of the domestic sphere with
public institutions. The self production of class collectivities (Wacquant 1991: 52) goes
on in the home and is predominantly the work of mothers. Mothers, not fathers, are the
target of policy moves to improve home-school relationships, while the redistribution of
responsibility for education away from schools and towards parents (Mayall 2002) has
disproportionately increased the work load of women in relation to that of male partners.
The last twenty years has seen the transformation of women's domestic labour to include
extensive educational work in the home. As I have tried to demonstrate through data from
two research studies on home school relationships, in the sphere of parental involvement,
the division between the public and the private has started to collapse in on itself. For a
majority of mothers in both studies there is a continuation rather than a separation of their
paid work with work in support of their children's schooling. This is not to posit any
causal link. Rather, women's waged work generated particular tendencies in relation to
the nature of their involvement in children's schooling. The type of paid work they
undertook did not determine the sort of involvement they had but it did help to explain
what were largely class patterns of involvement.
However, what is key is the work that this mainly maternal work does. The research
studies, discussed above, of mothers’ work in support of children’s education within the
state system suggests a very different relationship between women and social class from
orthodox perspectives which view their activities as largely peripheral. Over twenty
years ago Basil Bernstein suggested that changes in the composition of the middle classes
were transforming the mother "into a crucial preparing agent of cultural reproduction
who provides access to symbolic forms and shapes the dispositions of her children so
they are better able to exploit the possibilities of public education" (Bernstein 1975: 131).
The mothers in both these studies, in particular middle-class mothers, are at the front line
of social reproduction, heavily investing in terms of time and mental and emotional
labour. Mothers have a different relationship to the generation of cultural capital and,
concomitantly, social class than fathers. It is mothers who are making cultural capital
work for their children. And it is they, more than men, who appear to be the agents of
social class reproduction. In particular, mothering work bridges the gap between family
social class and children's performance in the classroom. Maternal practices demonstrate
that class is much more than materiality (Reay 1997). It is played out, not only in
mothers' activities in support of children's schooling, but also in women's attitudes,
assumptions and levels of entitlement in relation to their children's education. It is
mothers who are the arbiters of taste (Bourdieu 1986) and the home based educators of
their children. And the work they do as mothers is often more important than the work
they do in the labour market in maintaining social hierarchy and the class inequalities that
underpin it.
Class practices are historically specific. At the beginning of the twenty first century class
processes within families are integrally linked to the operations of the wider
marketplace. An analysis which conceptualises mothering work as strategically located in
relation to schooling systems allows for an understanding of mothering work as social
reproduction in action. Within a capitalist society in which market forces are ascendent
(Hutton 1995; Jordan, Redley and James 1994), ‘acting in their child’s best interests’
inevitably means middle class mothers are simultaneously acting against the interests of
the children of other, less privileged, mothers. As I have pointed out earlier, this is not to
blame middle class mothers but rather to see all mothers as caught up in educational
markets which operate on the (il)logic of ‘to her who has yet more shall be given’.
Educational success becomes a function of social, cultural and material advantages in
which mothers' caring within the family is transmuted by the operations of the wider
marketplace to serve its competitive, self interested individualistic ethos. Mothers'
practical maintenance, educational and emotional work underpins the workings of
educational markets contributing to a culture of winners and losers within which one
child's academic success is at the expense of other children's failure.
Theorising such social inequalities has become increasingly problematic within a
contemporary educational marketplace underpinned by a rhetoric of classlessness.
Current discourses of classlessness perpetrate the fantasy that ungendered parents only
have to make the right choices for their children for educational success to automatically
follow. As the words of the women in both research studies illustrate, the reality is far
more complex. It is one in which gender, 'race' and class continue to make significant
differences. In Britain class infuses everyday practices and social interactions. As Beck
It is evident in the sharp class divisions between residential types of education, in clothing and in everything that can be
included under the concept of 'lifestyle' (Beck 1992: 102)
Implicit within the concept of 'a classless society' are more equitable social relations and enhanced
mobility. However, despite all the talk of classlessness and increased social mobility, in 2003
British class differentials in educational attainment remain the same as they were fifty years ago
(Blanden and Gregg 2004; Stewart 2005). Parental, and in particular, mothers' involvement in
children's schooling contributes to the maintenance of this inequitable status quo. This is not the
same as asserting that reducing parental involvement will result in the reduction of educational
inequalities. Rather, I would argue, that within the contemporary individualistic, competitive,
educational marketplace with its rhetoric of 'doing the best for your own child', the middle classes
will always utilise their economic and cultural resources to ensure the continued reproduction of
their children's educational advantage and it is mothers who are at the front line, ensuring the hard
work of reproduction gets done.
Anderson, B (2000) Doing the Dirty Work: the Global Politics of Domestic Labour
London: Verso.
Ball, S (2003) Class Strategies and the Education Market: The middle classes and social
advantage London: Routledgefalmer.
Beck, U (1992) The Risk Society London: Sage.
Bernstein, B. (1975) Class, Codes and Control, Vol. 3 London: Routledge and Kegan
Blanden, J and Gregg, P (2004) Family Income and Educational Attainment: A
Review of Approaches and Evidence Centre for the Economics of Education:
London School of Economics.
Bourdieu, P (1986) Distinction London, Routledge and Kegan Paul
Brannen, J (2002) The Work Family Lives of Women: Autonomy or illusion? Paper
presented at Gender institute Seminar LSE.
Crozier, G (2000) Parents and Schools: partners or protagonists Stoke on Trent:
Trentham Books.
Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1998a) Excellence in Cities.
London: HMSO.
Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) (1998b) Draft Guidance on Home-
School Agreements. London: DfEE.
Edwards, A. and Warin, J. (1999) Parental involvement in raising the achievement of
primary school pupils: why bother?, Oxford Review of Education, 25(3) : 325-341.
Evans, T (1988) A Gender Agenda Sydney: Allen and Unwin.
Glucksmann, M (1995) Why Work? Gender and the Total Social Organisation of Work
Gender, Work and Organisation 2(2), 63-75.
Glucksmann, M (2000) Cottons and Casuals: The gendered organisation of labour in
time and space Durham: Sociology Press.
Gregson, N and Lowe, M (1995) Servicing the Middle Classes: class, gender and waged
domestic labour in contemporary Britain London: Routledge.
Hutton, W (1995) The State We're In London: Verso
Hughes, M., Wikely, F. and Nash, T. (1994) Parents and Their Children's Schools.
Oxford: Blackwell.
Jordan, B., Redley, M. and James, S. (1994) Putting the Family First: Identities,
Decisions, Citizenship. London: UCL Press.
Lareau, A. (1989) Home Advantage. London: The Falmer Press.
Lucey, H and Reay, D (2000) Social Class and the Psyche Soundings issue 15, 139-154.
McGrath, D.J. and Kuriloff, P.J. (1999) 'They're going to tear the doors off this place':
upper-middle class parent school involvement and the educational opportunities of other
people's children, Educational Policy, 13(5): 603-629.
McNamara, O., Hustler, D., Stronach, I., Rodrigo, M., Beresford, E. and Botcherby, S.
(2000) Room to manoeuvre: mobilising the 'active partner' in home-school relations,
British Educational Research Journal, 26(4) : 473-490.
Mayall, B (2002) Towards a Sociology for Childhood: thinking from children's lives
Buckingham: Open University Press
Merttens, R. and Vass, J. (1993) Partnership in Maths: Parents and Schools. London:
The Falmer Press.
Office For Standards In Education (OFSTED) (1994) Reporting Pupils' Achievements.
London: HMSO.
Office For Standards In Education (OFSTED) (1995) Guidance on the Inspection of
Nursery and Primary Schools. London: HMSO.
Reay, D (1997) “Feminist theory, habitus and social class: Disrupting notions of
classlessness” Women’s Studies International Forum. vol 20 no 2, pp 225-233
Reay, D. (1998) Class Work: Mothers' Involvement in their Children's Primary
Schooling London: University College Press.
Reay, D and Lucey, H (2003) The Limits of Choice; Children and inner city schooling
Sociology. 37 (1) , 121-142
Reynolds, D. and Cuttance, P. (1992) School Effectiveness: Research, Policy and
Practice. London: Cassell.
Sallis, J. (1991) Home-school contracts: a personal view Royal Society of Arts News
Standing, K (1995) Lone mothers’ unpaid schoolwork as household issues’. Paper
presented to Gender Perspectives on Household Issues Conference, University of
Reading, 7-9th April 1995
Stewart, H (2005) Class Divisions now worse than the 1950s The Observer January 16th
Townsend, M (2003) Parents outspend schools on books The Observer 3rd August 2003,
pg 8.
Ungerson, C (1997) Social Politics and the Commodification of Care Journal of Social
Politics 4(3), 362-381.
Vincent, C. (1996) Parents and Teachers: Power and Participation. London: Falmer
Vincent, C. (2000) Including Parents?: Education, Citizenship and Parental Agency.
Buckingham: Open University Press.
Vincent, C and Warren, S. (2000) Class, race and collective action in J. Salisbury and S.
Riddell (eds) Gender, Policy and Educational Change: Shifting Agendas in the UK and
Europe. London: Routledge.
Whitty, G., Power, S,. and Halpin, D. (1998) Devolution and Choice in Education: The
School, the State and the Market. Buckingham: Open University Press.
Wacquant, L (1991) Towards a Reflexive Sociology: A workshop with Pierre Bourdieu
Sociological Theory 7, 26-63.
... There were more pupils with a middle-class background in the group of general track pupils than in the group of vocational track pupils. In part, the strategies for gaining strategic knowledge and a sense of entitlement are transferred from middle-class parents to their children (Reay, 2005;Lawson, 2014 Next to social background, migration history appeared to be an important factor in the study choice of NAMS. Some youngsters fled their country to apply for asylum, some received a residence permit in the context of family reunion, and others moved for economic or personal reasons. ...
... The study explores this phenomenon and generates information about specific social groups, namely, to identify attitudes and beliefs that could be said to lead to the choice of an ECIL programme and to contrast these with similar or dissimilar beliefs among Non-Enkku parents. The domination of female responses correlates with many previous research findings indicating the prevalence of mothers as a dynamic force in organising the educational activities of their children (Rajander 2010, p. 57, 116;Reay 2004Reay , 2005aReay and 2005b. ...
Full-text available This monograph investigates English-medium education as a type of school choice and a distinctive form of sociolinguistic practice in the specific local context of Finnish basic education. It examines English and Content Integrated Learning (ECIL) as a specific form of school choice, or social practice that promotes a specific register of English, and investigates who the choosers of this particular form of schooling are in terms of their socioeconomic background, and what motivates their choice in terms of discourse and ideology, since parents are an underexplored group of stakeholders who, at least in the Finnish context, have been active in desiring and lobbying for the creation of bilingual programmes. One specific local context is presented as a small-scale ethnography study to elucidate the activities of parents as a community of practice. School choice in Finland is an interesting phenomenon because basic education is publicly funded and there are very few private schools. Moreover, most Finnish parents still appear to favour the traditional ‘civic duty’ approach of their child attending the local neighbourhood school over a ‘parentocracy’ or ‘consumer’ school choice discourse approach. This study used a cross-sectional survey design for which a 40-item survey instrument was devised with both quantitative and qualitative components. This facilitated the generation of both a holistic understanding of the phenomenon and a causal explanation for the parental choice of medium of education. The survey was exploratory, and the target population was identified non-randomly through parents’ connections with the ECIL schools. Parents from 24 schools from across Finland participated, and total population sampling was used. The primary inclusion criteria were Finnish nationality and Finnish as a mother tongue. The survey questionnaire was electronically administered between April and August 2013, and generated 914 responses. Organisation of the data set resulted in a target group of 812 respondents, of whom 535 were parents of children in English-medium programmes (the Enkku Group), and 277 were parents of children in the regular mainstream programme or other programmes at the same schools (the Non-Enkku Group). The results of the study show that a parent who is more highly educated, has a higher-level occupation and a higher income is more likely to choose ECIL as a form of schooling for his or her child. Generally, the Enkku Group parents tended to be from more advantageous socioeconomic backgrounds. Enkku Group parents believe that ECIL affords children the possibility to develop even better English skills than through regular mainstream education alone, and that English will broaden the worldview of the child and afford him or her greater access to the wider world, tolerance and acceptance of difference. Future potential opportunities are seen as enhanced and increased, since proficiency in English provides the children with the opportunity to become broad-minded, confident, cosmopolitan communicators in the contact zone, with all the advantages this may ultimately bring. Learning English at school and improved English skills, nevertheless, do not appear to be held as synonymous with bilingualism. The Non-Enkku Group appear to be more traditional and less internationally-minded, since they place greater emphasis on the local school and education in Finnish. Moreover, they may take the stance that good levels of English can be acquired almost as a matter of course in Finland, thus, they want to invest in something else for their child. Keywords: school choice, Finnish primary education, bilingual education, English
... (2012) have suggested that homework tasks that actively require parental engagement have a more positive effect. One such way to support parental engagement is the use of digital technologies (Head, 2020), which, as identified by Reay (2005), have the opportunity to bring the demands of the school more directly into the home, especially for younger children where parental support to access these might be required. The use of digital technology has increased, especially during the school closure period, and this was particularly the case at the time of the study where there had been a rapid development of different online resources to support Gaelic language skills in young people, as well as general resources in the language for supporting other aspects of the curriculum. ...
Gaelic is a minoritised indigenous language of Scotland, with its traditional heartland in the rural north-west of the country. The education system, and in particular Gaelic Medium Education (GME), has been recognised as an important strand of the language maintenance and support initiatives. The provision of GME has grown significantly since its inception in the early 1980s, it remains on the ‘periphery’ of the education system, with around 0.9% of all primary school pupils enrolled in GME settings. The ongoing language shift from Gaelic to English, a process that has been particularly pronounced in the traditional heartlands of the language, and the resulted decline in the use of Gaelic as the language of the home, the family, and the community, raises the question of how GME can contribute to a sustainable future for Gaelic. This article will discuss the findings of a small-scale mixed method practitioner enquiry study, which incorporated parental questionnaires, classroom observations, class-based language assessments and focus groups, to explore the use of blended learning approaches to enhance the development of language skills. The results of this study, conducted initially to evaluate the impact of the Covid-19 school closures on the linguistic proficiency of children in Primary 1 to Primary 3 enrolled in GME, show that pupils who were actively engaged in online learning activities showed a greater confidence and proficiency in their use of Gaelic compared to their peers who had not used these materials to support their learning, as well as increased involvement of caregivers in these Gaelic homework tasks. These findings allow for a re-imaging of approaches to homework in minority language immersion contexts to support the acquisition and use of the minority language beyond the classroom.
... None of the interviewees talked much or at all about how their mothers affected their academic careers and ambitions. This contrasts with other studies which have shown mothers tend to be the parents who provide the emotional care around their children's education (Reay, 1998;Reay, 2005;O'Brien, 2008;Plageman and Sabina, 2010;Cooper, 2017), although it is possible the interviewees did not notice any support their mothers provided, or perhaps considered it so usual as to be unremarkable. Considering her first experiences of moving into HE, Esme described how her father (who had not had the opportunity to go to university himself) wanted her to take an Economics degree as a way of moving into a highly paid field offering security, even though it was not what she had in mind for herself: Her perception of herself as a learner therefore shifted uneasily: was she a slow learner who found some things difficult, or one for whom 'good enough' was unacceptably low? ...
Full-text available
A significant proportion of students in higher education are mature women returning to study after a break from formal education. They often have family and work commitments, and their learning experiences and support needs can be very different to those of students entering higher education straight from school. However, there is a lack of visibility about how such students engage with learning as part of their complex lives. This research sought to shine a light on this under-researched group of students. This research formed a study of one cohort of mature women students on a vocational foundation degree course offered by NCT (formerly National Childbirth Trust) with University of Worcester. Using a sequential multiphase design as part of a qualitative approach to mixed-methods, data were collected using online surveys and semi-structured interviews over two years. Quantitative data was analysed using Excel and provided descriptive statistics to offer context and snapshots of the participants’ attitudes and approaches to learning. Interview transcripts were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to develop understanding of how participants made sense of their lived experiences on their journeys as learners studying and then moving into practice. The qualitative data and analysis constitute the main focus of the study. A critical engagement with the literature was carried out, exploring studies that had relevance because they focussed on participants with similar characteristics to those in the present study, or participants with similar roles, or participants on courses that were similar. Theories of adult learning were explored and heutagogy was highlighted as having relevance for learners in the 21st century digital age; it formed part of the conceptual framework for the study. This theory of adult learning combines various elements including collaboration with communities of practice, self-efficacy and self-determination, motivation, nonlinear learning, use of the internet and reflective practice. As most participants were student mothers, and their mothering roles shaped their learning, the research used a matricentric feminist phenomenology to tell their stories and explore their experiences. The findings paint a picture of how students built on their previous learning experiences, how they approached learning as critically reflective learners taking responsibility for their independent study, and how their life situations and their studies interrelated in ways that were different for other groups of students, particularly school leavers and mature men. The unpredictability of their lives as student mothers could make studying particularly difficult; support from like-minded peers who understood the challenges they faced in combining their roles and responsibilities was crucial. Taking steps to increase awareness of these challenges for other people involved – families and partners in the domestic sphere, and course providers and tutors in the academic sphere, for instance - could help facilitate better experiences of learning for similar students. Key words: Self-determined learning, Heutagogy, Mature women students, Student mothers, Adult learners, Higher education, Lifeload, Matricentric feminism, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)
Full-text available
In this thesis I focus on the lived experience of young people with severe dyslexic difficulties in state, mainstream education in England. In considering school as a space where difference is constructed and stigma can be experienced, I draw on sociological theory to explore the kinds of emotional labour (Hochschild, 1979) that school demands from young people, when they have to explain their needs, as well as hide, downplay and negotiate their difficulties. Working with conceptual resources drawn from symbolic interactionism and the work of Foucault and Bourdieu, I explore how discursive and cultural practices form part of the institutional and relational contexts created by policy-makers, parents, teachers and peers and the implications of these for young people's emotional wellbeing and identity. The study contributes to a very small body of existing literature about those whose dyslexic difficulties are most severe and broadens the conversation about young people's experiences at school to consider the wider influences that shape their identities. The empirical basis of the research includes a mixed methods online survey with 474 parents and qualitative research with 15 young people aged 10-19 and their mothers. The findings of the study echo those within the existing literature, suggesting that access to early, evidence-based intervention in primary school makes it possible for young people to move on from a dyslexic identity and progress alongside their peers. However, my research presents a landscape of inconsistency in terms of the distribution and quality of provision, with parents holding government accountable for a lack of investment and varying levels of awareness and understanding of dyslexia among educators. Parents' ability to negotiate access to support was also uneven, reflecting an unequal distribution of economic, cultural and social capital. Mothers emerge as central actors in the management of their children's emotional states, playing a key role in scaffolding them away from notions of deficit towards ideas of difference. Drawing on Reay's interpretation of emotional capital, I also consider classed cultures of parenting as having relevance to an understanding of young people's emotional wellbeing. The role of teachers and trusted adults within the school is also examined, including the vital part they play in mediating institutional discourses through micro interactions with learners. On the basis of these findings, I argue that educators would benefit from opportunities to learn about the emotional impacts of living with severe dyslexic/literacy difficulties, challenging them about normative assumptions regarding difference and deficit. By amplifying positive stories about school, it becomes possible to understand the importance to young people of having their challenges recognised and their abilities and achievements acknowledged, as well as the importance of being able to express their agency, feeling cared for by staff, and a whole-school ethos supporting inclusivity and neurodiversity.
Private car dependence is widely recognised as problematic. While we have the tools, technologies and trends to promote more sustainable ways of travelling, our cities and routines remain defined by the car. To challenge this status quo, we must understand the complexities of car use. This positioning piece provides a research agenda to challenge one particularly complex expression of private car use in cities: the way we travel as families. Targeting two simple interventions in practice, the paper prescribes an evidence base for effective policy change to lessen the negative impacts of private car use.
Full-text available
Grein í vorhefti Skírnis 2022: Fáum dylst að Ísland er ekki stéttlaust þjóðfélag þótt deilt sé um dýpt og birtingarmyndir stéttaskiptingarinnar. Fólk er almennt vant að heyra talað um stétt út frá efnahagslegum forsendum — kaupum, kjörum og atvinnustöðu. Bæði í fortíð og nútíð hefur Ísland átt verkalýðsbaráttufólk sem hefur beitt sér ötullega í þeirri umræðu og sú barátta er mikilvæg. Samt sem áður eru fleiri þættir stéttamyndunar og stéttaátaka sem vert er að gefa gaum, ekki síst frá femínísku sjónarhorni. Stéttbundin valdatengsl hverfast ekki eingöngu um fjármagn og atvinnustöðu heldur einnig formlega og óformlega þekkingu, lífsstíl, virðingu, smekk og viðfangsefni þessarar greinar: uppeldi og mæðrun. Með hvaða hætti sjá foreldrar af milli- og efri stéttum til þess að börnin þeirra erfi stéttarstöðu foreldranna? Almennt virðist stéttarstaða ekki erfast áreynslulaust til næstu kynslóða heldur þurfa foreldrar að sýna nokkra kænsku og útsjónarsemi til að tryggja það — til að mynda með vali á skóla, tómstundum, hverfi og vinum. Það þarf að aga barnið og kúltívera það svo það öðlist góðan smekk og hafi rétta þekkingu á mönnum og málefnum. Þetta krefst ómældrar vinnu og í ríkjandi þjóðfélagsskipan hérlendis þá inna mæður umfram feður þessa vinnu af hendi. Doktorsverkefni mitt frá Háskóla Íslands samanstóð af nokkrum smærri rannsóknum sem allar fjalla um þetta efni. Í þessari grein fjalla ég um þann lærdóm sem ég dreg af doktorsverkefni mínu og set í samhengi við íslenskt samfélag.
Full-text available
This paper attempts to retheorize school `choice'; to begin to unpack dominant contemporary misconceptions through an examination of the `choices' available to 454 inner city 10 and 11 year-olds engaging in the process of primary-secondary school transfer in England. The prevalent focus within educational theorizing on `choice' as a form of agency often masks the fact that `choice' is a marker of economic privilege. The more distant subjects are from economic necessity the more `choice' becomes a possibility. In contrast, the majority of children in our research study had no `choice' but to make a virtue out of necessity. They were forced to accept the least bad option. Particularly disadvantaged were the large numbers of refugees in the sample and those children, cutting across class and ethnicity, who chose `against the grain'. We conclude that school `choice' is an issue of power and constraint, of class and racial processes, although the possibilities of `choice' cannot in any straightforward way be seen as conterminous with class positioning, implicating, as it does, both ethnicity and fractions and differences within classes as well as between them.
The IMPACT Project involves individuals concerned with formal maths education and aims to bring parents and children together to share in maths activities. Each part of this book focuses on a particular aspect of parental involvement. Written by authors well known in their fields, Merttens and Vass bring together diverse and different views on IMPACT of wide reading appeal. In the current economy, should teachers be regarded as producers and parents as consumers? There is no issue in education more urgent than that concerning the relationships between parents, teachers and children. The IMPACT project involves individuals concerned with formal maths education including students, teachers, parents, governors, researchers, inspectors and education offcers. Its primary aim is to bring together parents and children so they share regular maths activities together, the results of which are brought back into class to inform the following week's work. IMPACT is also an initiative in maths INSET training and a form of monitoring.; The book is aimed at therapists, educational psychologists, education students, teachers, academics, parents, governors, inspectors and education officers.
Part 1 Identities: making something of oneself selves in interaction - heretics, fundamentalists and improvisers double jeopardy and the moral regulation of the self. Part 2 Decisions: Co-ordination, co-operation and bargaining rationality and partnership investments, power and autonomy. Part 3 Citizenship: a property-owning democracy? social policy implications.
* 1. Introduction: political fictions and real oppressions. * 2. Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde: defining domestic work. * 3. A foot in the door: the social organisation of paid domestic work in Europe. * 4. Invisible women I: migrant domestic workers in Southern Europe. * 5. Invisible women II: migrant domestic workers in Northen Europe. * 6. Changing the rules: the case of the UK. * 7. Selling the self: commodification, migration and domestic work. * 8. The legacy of slavery: the American South and contemporary domestic workers. * 9. "Just like one of the family": status and contract. * 10. "Your passport is your life": domestic workers and the state. * 11. Conclusion.
Reasons for investing in parental involvement activities aimed at improving the performance of primary school children in either numeracy or literacy are analysed. Data are then discussed in relation firstly to sociocultural understandings of how teachers support children's learning and secondly to conceptions of identity and self-esteem apparently held by participating teachers. We suggest that primary schools are currently being obliged to use parents as assistants in the delivery of an over-loaded curriculum in ways which do not draw on understandings of what parents do have to offer.