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Further information about the schools and research methods used in Jon’s PhD research

I chose three schools for my PhD research, differentiated by their social class. I changed their names and called them Highwoods Independent, Petersfield Junior and Westmoor Abbey Junior (see Table 1).

Table 1 The three schools

Name of school

Type of school

Approximate number on roll

Social class

Highwoods Independent

Private, fee-paying


Upper-middle class




Local Authority or state


Middle class


Westmoor Abbey


Local Authority or state


Working class


The schools

The three schools were very different:

  • Highwoods marketed itself on high levels of academic achievement, first-class resources and excellent sporting facilities. There was a highly competitive atmosphere and the pupils were tightly regulated and controlled.
  • Petersfield also promoted high academic achievement (as measured by exam results) and also had firm managerial control and regulation, although there was a deliberate policy of non-competitiveness.
  • Westmoor Abbey was very different. Although all schools would like to be able to state that their primary objective is the promotion of academic excellence, Westmoor Abbey’s main concern seemed to consist of being able to cope with, and contain, pupil (mis)behaviour as best they could.

The epistemological position, theories, methodology and methods used

  • Epistemology: Constructionism and interpretivism
  • Theories: masculinities, symbolic interactionism
  • Methodology: Ethnography
  • Methods: Semi-participant observation, in-depth interviews


  • The schools were located around the London area, within a relatively short distance from my home.
  • It was an empirical comparative study, identifying similarities and differences, and so the research was based in three junior schools, differentiated on the basis of the social class of their intake.


The research was conducted in Year 6 classes (10–11-year-olds) in their last year of junior school (one class at Petersfield and Westmoor Abbey, two Year 6 classes at Highwoods). I used two classes in this school because the numbers of pupils in each class were much smaller than in their state school counterparts.


I followed a rolling programme of fieldwork, spending two or three days a week for a period of a month in each school, in each of the three terms, between September 1998 and July 1999.