GCSE and A Level Sociology: Key concepts in education 3: Key concepts in Sociology continued

Here is the 3rd blog in our series looking at education in GCSE and A Level Sociology which examines some more key concepts.

Key Concepts in Sociology continued

Social Class

This is a group of people who share similar occupations, wealth and income in terms of their economic position.


A hierarchy is like a pyramid. Each layer has an increasing amount of power. So in a school, the head teacher has the most power, then the deputy, then the teachers, and then usually the students or pupils at the bottom.

Social Inequality

This is the uneven distribution of resources, opportunities or outcomes in certain areas of society, for example, education and health. So some groups in society may not have access to good schools or health services.

Social Mobility

Social mobility is where people are able to move up or down between the different layers, or strata, of society. Using the hierarchy example above, if a pupil was at Acorn School, he may then train to be a teacher and go back to work at Acorn School. Then one day he becomes Headteacher, so he has moved up the social strata.


You will often be asked to discuss the “function” of something: e.g. the function of education, the function of the family, and so on. The function means the role a social structure fulfils on behalf of society or individuals. So a social structure would be the family or the education system. The function is the role the family or education system fulfills within that society. An example of this is the hidden curriculum –this is part of the role of education in society.

Social Cohesion

This is the idea that individuals and groups in society are united together into a body of citizens, rather than divided by their conflicting interests. So if everyone in a country worked together to achieve something, this would be an example of social cohesion.

Two more important concepts in education are the Marxist and Functionalist Approaches to Education. We will look at those in more detail next.

Tracey Jones


If your interested in studying  GCSE or A Level Sociology visit the Oxford Open Learning home page or contact a Student Adviser.

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