Two indicators that are often used to measure class differences in achievement are whether children have free school meals and the proportion of working class pupils in higher education.

Free School Meals

Whether children have free school meals is often used as a measure of child poverty.

In pairs, study the figures below. Discuss the differences you can see and suggest reasons for those differences:

% Achieving at GCSE 2006
Status: 5 A*
to C
5 A* to C
including English
and Maths
Any passes
Children receiving free school meals 33.0 19.6 93.8
Children not receiving free school meals 61.0 47.7 97.9
All pupils 57.3 44.0 97.3

Source: DfES GCSE attainment tables 2006

Working class students at university

Furlong and Forsyth (2003) found four main factors contributed to the difficulties faced by working class students in applying to university and in their experiences once there. These factors were:

  • lack of familiarity with the higher education system
  • lack of funds
  • fear of debt
  • feelings of cultural isolation

Explain how each of these factors may contribute to the difficulties faced by working class pupils when applying to or attending university.