Assess the strengths and limitations of using official statistics for investigating the effects of material deprivation on educational achievement. Material deprivation is a complex issue when linked to educational achievement. Although it is widely accepted that greater material deprivation is inextricably linked to poorer educational achievement, the finer points and relationships within the subject are highly debatable.
Additional problems are posed when investigating the issue; although official statistics have numerous benefits, there are draw backs with secondary sources which are usually associated with validity, reliability, accuracy and representativeness. Official statistics, in sociological research, are secondary sources originally produced and published by official sources such as the government, and they provide large-scale statistical data. Low income is directly with underachievement.
A poor home environment is detrimental to educational success: lack of resources to cover hidden costs, lack of educational toys/extra curricular activities and a poor diet all contribute to a reduced academic performance. However, these areas are personal, intricate issues. ‘Soft’ statistics are unclear and interpretivists claim that they are social constructs reflecting the ideologies of those conducting the research, rather than valid studies of poverty and its complex, interrelated issues. On the other hand, official statistics can be useful in providing relevant statistics in areas such as household income.
They cover large populations and are therefore representative, which is useful when conducting a large, quantitative study. This information can be linked to educational achievement by studying income alongside pass rates in schools in poor/wealthy areas. However, marketisaition increased the importance of money in determining success. Smith and Noble (1995) suggest it produced an increased polarisation between poor/underfunded, underachieving schools in low income areas and successful, well resourced schools in affluent areas.
When studying this, sociologists must combine official statistics with more qualitative data; so, although (from a positivist perspective) this offers a complete structural picture (as location and quality of schools can be discerned through OFSTED reports, which draw on the advantages of being well funded, objective and reliable), the information provided by official statistics must be correctly analysed and collated in order to form a credible argument.