An ethnographic study of school leavers in a southern comprehensive school
This thesis is an ethnographic study of white and West Indian-origin girls and boys attending a comprehensive school in the south of England during their final year of compulsory schooling. The study concentrates on gender, race and class effects on school experiences; attitudes towards school; career choices and early employment or training destinations. Ethnographic data comprise both classroom observations and discussions with 20 informants. These are supplemented by questionnaire data from the entire 5th form year. Chapter 1 outlines the nature of existing research in this field and argues for the need to look at gender, race and class simultaneously to understand the impact of such factors on the lives of pupils. It also addresses methodological considerations and the problem of gaining access. Chapter 2 describes the process of starting research whilst Chapter 3 describes the school, its local context and its internal organisation. Chapter 4 provides an introduction to the 5th year and their teachers drawing largely on classroom observations. Gender, race and class receive individual attention in Chapters 5, 6 and 7 respectively. Chapter 5 indicates that gender was a powerful discriminator in classroom and breaktime interactions whilst Chapter 6 shows that racist humour and beliefs were a regular feature of school life despite a lack of racial discord at the school. Chapter 7 demonstrates that class consciousness existed amongst pupils and informed their attitudes towards school and work. Chapter 8 concentrates on career choices and the quality of careers advice concluding that career choices were both gender and class-specific. Chapter 9 focuses on pupils' early destinations after the 5th form finding that both black and white girls were more likely than boys to utilise 6th form to gain entry into middle-class occupations. For those seeking employment, black girls fared least well being more reliant on YTS and suffering greater unemployment. Overall, gender and class had greatest impact on school experiences and career choices whilst race in conjunction with gender, affected actual destinations.