A level Sociology

The great thing about studying Sociology at Ashbourne is that the class investigates challenging topical matters such as ‘moral panics in the media,’ ‘knife crime,’ and ‘domestic violence’, or issues such as ‘why does the UK have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe?’

Multi-media resources are used to reinforce learning, such as BBC video clips, websites and newspaper articles. Stephen Burton who teaches Sociology (as well as Geography) aims to encourage independent thinking by using Socratic questioning, drawing out answers from students themselves.

Why study Sociology?

Sociology is the ‘subversive’ science that challenges preconceptions! It gives students a set of critical tools to developing understanding of social structures and institutions and of how sociologists study and explain people’s lives. Studying sociology will enable students to discuss social issues in a more informed and systematic way and it will help them to make sense of their own and other people’s experiences. It involves a critical appraisal of the nature of the distribution of wealth, power and opportunity, the role of the media, the barriers to development in other parts of the world and the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to solving society’s most fundamental problems, including poverty, crime and the environment. An attempt is also made to employ a variety of methods to analyse society’s institutions, such as the family, the education system, politics and political culture and policing.

Which syllabus do we follow?

We follow AQA specification for Sociology. There is a new specification for first teaching from September 2015, following the current A level reforms. The current specification is still effective for all students who have started their A Levels in September 2014. We will therefore deal with the current specification before turning our attention to the form, content and detail of the new AS and A Level Specifications.

How many units are there?

There are four units in total: two at AS and two at A2

What is each unit about?

Unit 1Unit 2Unit 3Unit 4
Culture and Identity: Families and Households; Wealth, Poverty and Welfare.

Students mainly explore at the topic ‘Families and Households’ but the other options have in the past been preferred by other groups. They consider the relationship of the family to the social structure and social changes and the state. They begin to think about changing patterns of cohabitation, marriage and child-bearing and changes in terms of roles within the family and the nature of childhood. They start to draw some conclusions about the reasons for and impact of these demographic trends.

Education; Health: Sociological Methods

Students study the topic education, but have sometimes elected to study health instead. They consider the role and purpose of education in society, investigate the disparities in educational achievement between certain groups and consider the impact of relationships in schools and educational policies on the achievement of pupils. They begin to explore how sociological research methods have been used in the study of education.

Beliefs in Society; Global Development; Mass media; Power and Politics

Students may elect to focus deeply on one topic or study two. However they only focus on one topic in the examination.

Crime and Deviance; Stratification and Differentiation; Theory and Methods

Students study either Crime and Deviance with Research Methods or Social Stratification with Research Methods.

How is each unit examined?

Unit 1Unit 2Unit 3Unit 4
Candidates answer one question on their chosen topic. The question consists of five parts.
Candidates answer one question on the topic, one question on sociological research methods in context and one question on research methods.
Candidates answer one compulsory question on their chosen topic and one question from a choice of two.
Candidates answer one question on their chosen topic, one question on sociological research methods and one on theory and methods.

How is the course structured?

Students study AS unit 1 from September to December and unit 2 from January to March. A2 unit 1 will be studied from September to December of the A2 year and Unit 4 from January to March.

When do the exams take place?

AS students sit their examinations in late May or early June. There will be opportunities to resit AS units in January of the A2 year. Students sit their A2 units in June of the A2 year.

The new AS and A Level Specifications

The New AS Specification

The new AS specification is designed to run concurrently with the overall A Level. In other words students will sit the AS at the end of the first year and receive a stand alone qualification which does not count towards the A level marks. However the specification is designed in such a way that the content of the AS will also be examined as part of the A Level.

The As specification identifies what it calls Integral elements and core themes

Integral elements: Sociological theories, perspectives and methods
and the design of the research used to obtain the data under consideration, including its strengths and limitations.

Core themes: Students must study the following two core themes:

  • socialisation, culture and identity
  • social differentiation, power and stratification

In addition, students must understand the significance of conflict and consensus, social structure and social action, and the role of values.

Specification Content: Education with Methods in Context

  • the role and functions of the education system, including its relationship to the economy and to class structure
  • differential educational achievement of social groups by social class, gender and ethnicity in contemporary society
  • relationships and processes within schools, with particular reference to teacher/pupil relationships, pupil identities and subcultures, the hidden curriculum, and the organisation of teaching and learning
  • the significance of educational policies, including policies of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy.

 

Methods in Context: Students must be able to apply sociological research methods to the study of education.

  • quantitative and qualitative methods of research; research design
  • sources of data, including questionnaires, interviews, participant and non-participant observation, experiments, documents and official statistics
  • the distinction between primary and secondary data, and between quantitative and qualitative data
  • the relationship between positivism, interpretivism and sociological methods; the nature of ‘social facts’
  • the theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research

 

Topics

Culture and IdentityFamilies and HouseholdsHealthWork, Poverty and Welfare
Students are expected to be familiar with sociological explanations of the following content:

  • different conceptions of culture, including subculture, mass culture, folk culture, high and low culture, popular culture and global culture
  • the socialisation process and the role of the agencies of socialisation
  • the self, identity and difference as both socially caused and socially constructed
  • the relationship of identity to age, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality and social class in contemporary society
  • the relationship of identity to production, consumption and globalisation
  • the relationship of the family to the social structure and social change, with particular reference to the economy and to state policies
  • changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce, childbearing and the life course, including the sociology of personal life, and the diversity of contemporary family and household structures
  • gender roles, domestic labour and power relationships within the family in contemporary society
  • the nature of childhood, and changes in the status of children in the family and society
  • demographic trends in the United Kingdom since 1900: birth rates, death rates, family size, life expectancy, ageing population, and migration and globalisation
  • the social construction of health, illness, disability and the body, and models of health and illness
  • the unequal social distribution of health chances in the United Kingdom by social class, gender, ethnicity and region
  • inequalities in the provision of, and access to, health care in contemporary society
  • the nature and social distribution of mental illness
  • the role of medicine, the health professions and the globalised health industry
  • the nature, existence and persistence of poverty in contemporary society
  • the distribution of poverty, wealth and income between different social groups
  • responses and solutions to poverty by the state and by private, voluntary and informal welfare providers in contemporary society
  • organisation and control of the labour process, including the division of labour, the role of technology, skill and de-skilling
  • the significance of work and worklessness for people’s lives and life chances, including the effects of globalization

The New A Level

NB This incorporates and then builds upon the content of the AS and also introduces additional topics. However the AS assessment and the A level assessment are now entirely separate.

EducationTheory and Methods
  • the role and functions of the education system, including its relationship to the economy and to class structure
  • differential educational achievement of social groups by social class, gender and ethnicity in contemporary society
  • relationships and processes within schools, with particular reference to teacher/pupil relationships, pupil identities and subcultures, the hidden curriculum, and the organisation of teaching and learning
  • the significance of educational policies, including policies of selection, marketisation and privatisation, and policies to achieve greater equality of opportunity or outcome, for an understanding of the structure, role, impact and experience of and access to education; the impact of globalisation on educational policy.

Methods in Context Students must be able to apply sociological research methods to the study of education.

Students must examine the following areas:

  • quantitative and qualitative methods of research; research design
  • sources of data, including questionnaires, interviews, participant and non-participant observation, experiments, documents and official statistics
  • the distinction between primary and secondary data, and between quantitative and qualitative data
  • the relationship between positivism, interpretivism and sociological methods; the nature of ‘social facts’
  • the theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research
  • consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories
  • the concepts of modernity and post-modernity in relation to sociological theory
  • the nature of science and the extent to which Sociology can be regarded as scientific
  • the relationship between theory and methods
  • debates about subjectivity, objectivity and value freedom
  • the relationship between Sociology and social policy

 Topics

Culture and IdentityFamilies and HouseholdsHealthWork, Poverty and WelfareBeliefs in SocietyGlobal DevelopmentThe MediaStratification and DifferentiationCrime and Deviance with Theory and MethodsTheory and Methods
  • different conceptions of culture, including subculture, mass culture, folk culture, high and low culture, popular culture and global culture
  • the socialisation process and the role of the agencies of socialisation
  • the self, identity and difference as both socially caused and socially constructed
  • the relationship of identity to age, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexuality and social class in contemporary society
  • the relationship of identity to production, consumption and globalisation
  • the relationship of the family to the social structure and social change, with particular reference to the economy and to state policies
  • changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, separation, divorce, childbearing and the life course, including the sociology of personal life, and the diversity of contemporary family and household structures
  • gender roles, domestic labour and power relationships within the family in contemporary society
  • the nature of childhood, and changes in the status of children in the family and society
  • demographic trends in the United Kingdom since 1900: birth rates, death rates, family size, life expectancy, ageing population, and migration and globalisation
  • the social construction of health, illness, disability and the body, and models of health and illness
  • the unequal social distribution of health chances in the United Kingdom by social class, gender, ethnicity and region
  • inequalities in the provision of, and access to, health care in contemporary society
  • the nature and social distribution of mental illness
  • the role of medicine, the health professions and the globalised health industry
  • the nature, existence and persistence of poverty in contemporary society
  • the distribution of poverty, wealth and income between different social groups
  • responses and solutions to poverty by the state and by private, voluntary and informal welfare providers in contemporary society
  • responses and solutions to poverty by the state and by private, voluntary and informal welfare providers in contemporary society
  • the significance of work and worklessness for people’s lives and life chances, including the effects of globalisation
  • ideology, science and religion, including both Christian and non-Christian religious traditions
  • the relationship between social change and social stability, and religious beliefs, practices and organisations
  • religious organisations, including cults, sects, denominations, churches and New Age movements, and their relationship to religious and spiritual belief and practice
  • the relationship between different social groups and religious/spiritual organisations and movements, beliefs and practices
  • the significance of religion and religiosity in the contemporary world, including the nature and extent of secularisation in a global context, and globalisation and the spread of religions
  • development, underdevelopment and global inequality
  • globalisation and its influence on the cultural, political and economic relationships between societies
  • the role of transnational corporations, non-governmental organisations and international agencies in local and global strategies for development
  • development in relation to aid and trade, industrialisation, urbanisation, the environment, and war and conflict
  • employment, education, health, demographic change and gender as aspects of development
  • the new media and their significance for an understanding of the role of the media in contemporary society
  • the relationship between ownership and control of the media
  • the media, globalisation and popular culture
  • the processes of selection and presentation of the content of the news
  • media representations of age, social class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality and disability
  • the relationship between the media, their content and presentation, and audiences
  • stratification and differentiation by social class, gender, ethnicity and age
  • dimensions of inequality: class, status and power; differences in life-chances by social class, gender, ethnicity, age and disability
  • the problems of defining and measuring social class; occupation, gender and social class
  • changes in structures of inequality, including globalisation and the transnational capitalist class, and the implications of these changes
  • the nature, extent and significance of patterns of social mobility
  • crime, deviance, social order and social control
  • the social distribution of crime and deviance by ethnicity, gender and social class, including recent patterns and trends in crime
  • globalisation and crime in contemporary society; the media and crime; green crime; human rights and state crimes
  • crime control, surveillance, prevention and punishment, victims, and the role of the criminal justice system and other agencies

Students must examine the following areas:

  • quantitative and qualitative methods of research; research design
  • sources of data, including questionnaires, interviews, participant and non-participant observation, experiments, documents and official statistics
  • the distinction between primary and secondary data, and between quantitative and qualitative data
  • the relationship between positivism, interpretivism and sociological methods; the nature of ‘social facts’
  • the theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research
  • consensus, conflict, structural and social action theories
  • the concepts of modernity and post-modernity in relation to sociological theory
  • the nature of science and the extent to which Sociology can be regarded as scientific
  • the relationship between theory and methods
  • debates about subjectivity, objectivity and value freedom
  • the relationship between Sociology and social policy

The overall structure for the new A level is therefore:

Paper 1: Education with Theory and Methods 80 marks

Paper 2: Topics in Sociology 80 marks

Paper 3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods 80 marks

Which Ashbourne teachers teach this course?

Stephen Burton

BA Hons Geography (University of Leicester), PGCE (University of Leicester), PHD Philosophy (University of Leicester)

Stephen is a hugely experienced tutor and semi-retired head of a large comprehensive on the outskirts of London. He has been teaching at Ashbourne since 2013. He has a hugely impressive list of qualifications including BA Hons Geography (University of Leicester), PGCE (University of Leicester) and a PHD in Philosophy (University of Leicester). Students find Stephen’s wealth of experience, knowledge and professionalism combined with his warmth and wit a very appealing combination

Beyond A Level for Sociology Students

Sociology is a well-respected academic subject that is valued by employers and universities alike. It is a useful subject that can lead on to a number of degree courses or careers after successful completion of the A level. These include; Anthropology, Social Cultural Studies, Economics, Business Administration, Humanities, Government and Politics and History degrees and a career in law, the police, media, journalism, nursing, social work, probation services, research and the civil service amongst others.

Textbooks

AS Level SociologyA2 Level Sociology
Title – AS Level Sociology: The Complete Course for the AQA Specification,’
Author – Rob Webb, et al
Web link – http://www.amazon.co.uk/AS-Level-Sociology-Complete-Specification/dp/0954007956/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1276270527&sr=8-15
Title – A2 Sociology: The Complete Course for the AQA Specification
Author – Rob Webb et al
Web link – http://www.amazon.co.uk/A2-Sociology-Complete-Course-Specification/dp/0954007964/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b