1 Definition: A pupil subculture is a group of
pupils who share similar values & behaviour
1.1 Often emerge as a response to the way pupils have been labelled
& normally as a reaction to streaming.
2 A number of studies have shown how pupil subcultures may pay a
part in creating different class differences in achievement.
2.1 Colin Lacey's (1970) concepts of differentiation &
polarisation to explain how pupil subcultures develop.
2.1.1 Differentiation: is the process of
teachers categorising pupils
according to how they perceive their
ability, attitude & behaviour.
streaming is a form of differentiation,
since it categorises pupils into
2.1.2 Polarisation: on the other hand, is
the process in which pupils
respond to streaming by moving
towards one of the opposite 'poles'
2.1.3 in his study of Hightown boys grammar school, Lacey found
that streaming polarised boys into pro-school & anti-school
3 The pro-school subculture:
3.1 Pupils placed in high streams (largely middle class) tend to stay committed to the values of
3.2 They gain their status in the approved
manner, through academic success.
3.3 Their values are those of the school.
4 The anti-school subculture:
4.1 Those placed in low streams (working class) suffer a loss of self esteem: the
school has undermined their self-worth by placing them in a position of inferior
4.2 This label of failing pushes them to search for alternative ways of gaining
status. Usually this involves turning the schools values of hard work,
obedience & punctuality upside down.
4.3 Lacey says 'a boy who does badly
academically is predisposed to criticise,
reject or even sabotage the system where
he can, since it places him in an inferior
4.4 Such pupils form a anti-school subculture as a
means of gaining status among their peers.
5 Abolishing streaming: Stephen Ball's (1981) study of Beachside comprehensive school.
5.1 Was in the process of abolishing banding, a form of streaming in favour of teaching mixed-ability groups.
5.2 He found that once the school abolished banding, the
basis for pupils to polarise into subcultures was largely
removed & the influence of the anti-school subculture
5.3 Although pupil polarisation all but disappeared,
differentiation continued. teachers continued to
categorise pupils differently & were more likely to
middle class pupils as cooperative & able.
5.3.1 This positive labelling was reflected in their better exam results, suggesting that the
self-fulfilling prophecy had occurred. Ball's study showed that class inequalities can continue
as a result of teachers labelling, even without the effect of subcultures or streaming.
6 Peter Wood (1979) points out that there are other types of subcultures dues to
labelling and streaming besides pro-school & anti-school subcultures:
6.1 Ingratiation: being the 'teachers pet'
6.2 Ritualism: going through
the motions & staying out
6.3 Retreatism: daydreaming & mucking about.
6.4 Rebellion: outright
rejection of anything
the school stands for.