Pupils turn their backs on own social groups

16th March 2001 at 00:00
Inner-city pupils in a recent survey criticised their own kind for making their schools worse, reports Ceri Williams

CHILDREN from working-class and ethnically-diverse backgrounds "demonise" inner-city schools because they contain pupils like themselves, says a new survey.

Dr Diane Reay and Helen Lucey, of King's College, London, have just released the preliminary results of their secondary school transfer survey, which they launched in 1999 and are due to complete in August.

Some 450 primary schoolchildren, from a mix of racial groups and mainly working-class backgrounds, came from two unnamed London boroughs. They were asked to rank 12 to 15 secondary schools in each of their boroughs or nearby boroughs. They were also asked to explain their comments.

Dr Reay said: "We found they demonised two to three schools in particular in each of the two boroughs on racial and ethnic grounds, even though these children were predominantly working classor from ethnically-diverse backgrounds. They also described the children as rough, unruly or stupid, a euphemism for (lower) class, and said they couldn't get on with learning. One Somalian refugee child said she would not go to a particular school because there were a lot of refugees there while an Asian child said he did not want to go to a school for a similar reason."

Dr Reay said it was difficult to explain why. "In my view they have bought into a white, middle-class perspective of inner-city schooling. We live in a society with classist and racist attitudes and perhaps they cannot insulate themselves from this and are taking on negative projections of themselves."

Meanwhile, the pupils described private schools as good. They admired schools that were free of racism and bullying and also schools with good teachers who were "firm but fair" and maintained discipline.

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

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