Teachers stereotype pupils from poor homes

A study published in the Journal of Social Policy has found that teachers stereotype pupils according to their level of poverty, gender, and ethnicity.

The study used data from the Millennium Cohort Study, which followed almost 12,000 children born in the year 2000 in England. At age 7, for almost 5,000 children, teacher judgements on whether a child was “well above average/above average/average/below average/well below average” at maths and reading were collected. The children also completed tests in Word Reading and Progress in Mathematics. Results from the two assessments were then compared.

Children from low-income families, boys, pupils with any recognised diagnosis of special educational needs (SEN), and children who speak other languages in addition to English were less likely to be judged ‘above average’ at reading by their teacher – despite performing equivalently to their counterparts on the reading test. In maths there were fewer differences, although boys were more likely than girls to be judged relatively highly at maths. Black Caribbean pupils were significantly less likely than their equivalently performing White counterparts to be judged ‘above average’ – along with children from low-income families, and those with any recognised SEN.

The report suggests that efforts should be made to develop relevant interventions and strategies within teacher training and professional development; and avoid the reinforcement of stereotypes during policy intervention and associated publicity.

Source: Stereotyped at Seven? Biases in Teacher Judgement of Pupils’ Ability and Attainment (2015), Journal of Social Policy, 44(3).

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