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Students’ Social Networks and Attitudes: An Exploration of the Influence of Ethnicity and Social Class

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This paper uses qualitative methods of collecting and analysing data to explore the way ethnicity and class related identities inform teenagers’ relationships and perceptions in ethnically diverse schools. The analysis offered here is based on data collected from Year 12 students, in four co-educational, state-secondary schools in London. In depth semi-structured interviews and focus groups were carried out with about 60 students.

Preliminary analysis of data suggests that ethnicity and class issues are important for teenagers’ formation of social networks. In particular, racialisation offers useful insights regarding the way teenage students perceive ethnic ‘others’ and ultimately form their friendships. Teenagers’ social class background is another key factor that influences the way students’ relationships were developed within school. For instance, the majority of students’ friendships did not cut across social classes; on the contrary they were consistently comprised of same social class people.

On the whole, it seems that the way students experience schooling as well as the way they form their social networks, attitudes and values is influenced by contextual issues related to social class and ethnicity – racialisation and less often racism. This illustrates that the relationships and attitudes of students are highly sensitive to contextual issues and do not act independently of those. On the contrary, they are shaped and/or constrained by factors such as social class and ethnicity.

This talk is part of the FERSA Lunchtime Sessions series.

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