Empowering the marginalized: Addressing the sociocultural inequalities perpetuated in compulsory schooling in England

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Utilizing the conceptual tools of the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, this chapter explores the impact of class differences on educational opportunities for young people in compulsory schooling in England. It draws on the first author’s previous research in the area of disaffection with learning and school disengagement to illustrate how the class-based system in England continues to impact on life chances by privileging middle-class individuals and reproducing the inequalities of opportunities for those who have already been disadvantaged by society. It is argued that social and educational inequalities are reinforced through a potentially divisive approach to schooling that engenders a disconnection between students of low socioeconomic status and the school environment. Such disconnection can result in rising levels of disaffection and, subsequently, students’ active disengagement and eventual withdrawal from learning.

Bourdieu’s understanding of capital – a concept that is perceived to be an asset by many, with metaphorical value that can be exchanged in society and can thus benefit individuals through the education system – provides a theoretical framework for understanding the complex ecosystem of knowledge exchange in a typical school. As such, the adherence to culturally validated forms of knowledge is presented as exclusionary, and the reinforcement of these values by the English education system denotes an inequitable approach to education. Some hope is offered through the use of alternative provision; however, it is argued that the deep-rooted inequalities that are currently in existence in compulsory education require a much-needed overhaul to the education system as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Global Social Problems
EditorsRajendra Baikady, S.M. Sajid, Varoshini Nadesan , M. Rezaul Islam , Jianguo Gao
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-68127-2
Publication statusPublished - 17 Dec 2023


  • Bourdieu
  • Class
  • Compulsory schooling
  • Disaffection
  • Inequality
  • Student disengagement

Research Groups

  • Pedagogy and Curriculum Research Network


Dive into the research topics of 'Empowering the marginalized: Addressing the sociocultural inequalities perpetuated in compulsory schooling in England'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this