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Economic and Social Research Council
June 1st 2009 - May 31st 2011
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The educational strategies of the Black middle classes
In debates about education, a common assumption about Black Caribbean families is that they are disadvantaged and their children underachieve at school. In adddition, while there is now a growing body of research exploring the educational strategies of White middle class families, Black British families have traditionally been undifferentiated by social class and uncritically assumed to only come from working class backgrounds.
This study explores the interaction of social class and ethnicity as potential factors influencing how parents experience the education system, navigate its demands and, their aspirations for their children's education. It will also draw on the findings of previous studies that have focused on White middle class parents in order to explore the kinds of resource on which Black middle class parents are able to draw to support their children and in particular to help identify ways in which parents seek to overcome racism.
Summary of activities
A series of qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 62 parents who self-defined as Black Caribbean. Participants were selected following completion of a brief filter questionnaire that asked about their ethnic group identification; the age of their children and for information about their occupation.
We spoke with parents who had at least one child between 8 and 18 years, age groups which encompass key transition points in their school careers and which would therefore yield potentially useful information about the process of school selection, choice and decision-making.
With regard to class categorisation, we identified parents, in professional or managerial occupations (i.e. NS-SEC 1 and 2) using government Standard Occupational Classification manuals. Sensitive to debates that centre on the absence of Black men as fathers, 13 of the interviews were with Black Caribbean fathers.