Exam Board: AQA
Sociology is offered as a two year course of study at Sixth Form.
“The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden”. Pierre Bourdieu
Studying sociology allows students to develop a unique insight into society and how it works. You will challenge common-sense assumptions about poverty, inequality and discrimination. In addressing these, and other themes, you will become acutely aware of current affairs and the links this has to the stratification of contemporary society; this will often link with policy changes that affect everyday life for many. Through your studies, you will question common sense assumptions about the world around them, learn to cut through the spin of advertisers, the media and politician. As part of your studies, you will conduct independent research, develop the ability to analyse, process and present complex information in concise ways and debate ideas and theories in an informed and critical way.
At MGSG, we follow the reformed AQA A Level specification for Sociology. This is a linear course, which has three formal exams at the end of Year 13. Each exam is worth 33% of the overall A Level grade. There is no coursework at A Level.
The A Level Sociology specification ensures that students gain essential knowledge and understanding of central aspects of sociological thought and methods, together with a range of transferrable skills. Sociology fits with any A Level subject offered at MGSG.
The Sociology Department places great emphasis on developing the Sociological Imagination of our students. We work closely with other departments, notably, Economics/Business Studies, History & Politics and Law & Criminology, to develop a multi-perspective approach to understanding issues around culture, identity, religion, crime, childhood and social power. In addition, we have an extensive Sociology Library, which students are encouraged to consult to develop their understanding further. We also run an annual Sociology Competition, whereby students are encouraged to apply their learning at A Level in response to a topical issue.
In Year 12, we study 2 topics:
1) The Sociology of Education (with applied Sociological Methods)
Education applied to Sociological methods involves the study of the education system. You will gain a deep understanding of government policies for schools since the 1940s, from the introduction of grammar schools to league tables and academies. We will look critically at the impact this has had and who it has benefited. We also examine theories of underachievement which seek to explain the huge gaps between rich and poor in terms of academic achievement at all levels of our education system. We consider whether the education system is a 'positive force' in society or whether schools are run to entrench inequality. We will consider whether the education system is reflective of modern Britain – or offers a curriculum that is indicative of a bygone era as ‘male, pale and stale’. We also look at the impact of COVID-19 on the Education System – you will consider how the pandemic has affected schools, whether lockdown has made it impossible for some socio-economic groups to ever catch-up and whether the changes that were made in response to the pandemic were beneficial to all.
As part of your studies of education, you will also examine the research methods used by Sociologists in conducting their research. You will consider the practical, ethical and theoretical factors that affect a range of different research methods. To support this, you will look at a range of Sociological studies and identify the factors that these Sociologists encountered during their research.
2) Families and Households
In this unit, we considered what a ‘family’ is. Does it have to be two people from the opposite sex living together, or can it be something else? We consider why the family is important in contemporary societies and the different functions that families play. We also look at the individuals that make up families and how their positions have changed over time. For example, whilst women have made huge progress in terms of legal rights and equality the home remains a site of much injustice for many women. Whether it be domestic violence or the imbalance in the time women spend doing housework, the family is the front line for women looking to fight inequality today. Similarly, we also examine childhood and the moral panics surrounding their abuse. This topic allows us to critique the protectionist approach of many parents who see their child as overly vulnerable and in danger. We discuss the ways in which parenting has changed over time. We will also consider whether the COVID-19 pandemic has, inadvertently, undermined much of the equality in families – we examine how lockdown and working from home affected families and whether any impact of the pandemic was evenly distributed. If you are interested in gender and inequality this unit will be of huge value.
In Year 13, we study 2 further topics
Beliefs in Society
In this Unit, you will examine the role of Religion and Beliefs. In particular, you will consider what is mean by the term ‘Religion’ and whether a religion has to have a ‘God’. You will consider why people join ‘religious’ groups and, if religion is losing its importance, how can we explain religiously inspired terrorism and the growing number of sects and cults in the USA. This will be developed through examining key questions that Sociologists are interested in, including:
The extent to which science has replaced religion and whether science itself has replaced religion as a belief system in society.
What classifies as a religion? Is a religion only something that has a ‘God’ or ‘Deity’ or can religions be far wider – e.g. is supporting a football team or attending a pop concert a form of religious worship?
Does religion prevent social change? Is Marx correct when he describes religion as ‘the opium of the people’ and suggests that religious beliefs encourage the working classes to accept their exploitation by capitalism?
Alternatively, can religion engineer social change? Why are large numbers of people willing to join terrorist causes?
What are religious organisations? What is the difference between Churches, Denominations, Sects and Cults?
Is there growing disenchantment and secularisation in the world or is this just a western phenomenon?
Crime and Deviance applied to Sociological theories and methods
In this unit you will discuss what is meant by 'crime' and whether an act can be truly 'criminal'. You will investigate sociological explanations that suggest crime is socially constructed to benefit certain groups in society and how crime plays an ideological function for governments. In developing this approach, you will examine why has there been a sharp rise in the number of Girl Gangs in the last 4 years and why 57% of crimes reported to police do not make it into official statistics? You will consider different perspectives on the causes of crime through the use of case studies, notably: the 1980 Brixton Riots, the 2011 London Riots and the 7/7 London Bombings.
You will examine various theories of crime and deviance which seek to look beyond our instincts that all criminals are ‘evil’. Indeed, some theories urge us to forget street crime, robbery and knife crime, the existence of widespread poverty, starvation and hunger sitting beside extremes of wealth and prosperity should be more criminal than many acts that would put you in jail. Whilst I am sure not many would agree with these sentiments, it is the ability to challenge your assumptions that makes A Level Sociology such an exciting and interesting course to study.
The Sociology A Level course helps students develop a number of new skills:
How to use evidence to support arguments
How to investigate facts and use deduction
How to put over a point of view fluently
How to work as a team to achieve results
How to take responsibility for one's own learning
How to identify bias and partiality in arguments.
Sociology is a great choice of subject for those who want a career in social work, nursing or medicine. The subject is also useful in a number of other careers, such as marketing, advertising, PR, journalism, law or teaching.