Sociology is only an option for Sixth Formers as an A Level subject. From 2015 it was part of the new A Level qualifications. As a new subject, it can appear to be exciting as it is very different from the previous GCSE options. However, it demands the ability to learn a lot of specific factual information which provides the evidence for the perspectives; it also requires the higher intellectual ability of analysis and critical comment. The subject is taught using the AQA specification. Sociology is a part of the humanities curriculum and therefore there is a huge focus on essay writing and technique. Students will learn new terminology and concepts that they will be expected to use confidently in their written work. The best foundation for success is to have a good general level and performance at GCSE. In particular, students should have GCSE 4s or above in English and a Humanities subject. Students will need to have an inquisitive and questioning mind and be prepared to apply their understanding of the topics learnt to the contemporary society.
Teaching Aims and Objectives
The specification aims to provide engaging lessons and a fundamental understanding of key Sociological perspectives, concepts and research methodology. The course creates opportunities for critical analysis, independent thinking and research to provide students with a multi-perspective insight into social and cultural issues. Students will also be involved in Sociological research to cement their understanding and apply their knowledge of the research process within the field of Sociology as well as providing opportunities to analyse data and form well-reasoned conclusions.
- Paper 1 - Students will study two key themes in this paper, socialisation, culture and identity; and social differentiation, power and stratification. Paper 1 consists of two sections, Education and Methods in Context. For the Education topic students will begin to reflect on the education system and role it has in contemporary society. They will go on to look at the influence of different social groups on educational achievement; class, gender and ethnicity. They will explore the impact of different relationships within an education setting and different subcultures. Finally, they will consider the impact of policies, privatisation and globalisation on the education system drawing upon modern examples and experiences. For the Methods in Context section students will apply their understanding of Research methods from Paper 2 to the research of a number of issues within Education. For example, how Sociologists may research the impact of labelling on educational achievement. Finally, for the Research Methods topic students will be required to carry out small-scale research. In order to be able to do this, students will learn about Research Methods within Sociology, such as forms of data collection, types of research and will analyse the advantages and disadvantages of all of these methods, including experiments, observations, questionnaires and interviews and secondary research. Students will also have to reflect on the practical and ethical and theoretical considerations that must be taken into account when choosing a topic to research and within carrying out research. They will need to understand how much these three aspects can impact choice of research. Students will need to develop a detailed understanding of research within Sociology and the influence of social policy and whether Sociology can be regarded as a science.
- Paper 2 – This paper also consists of two topics, Families and Households and Beliefs in Society. The Families and Households topic is also related to the two key themes highlighted above. In this topic students will study the changing role of the family. They will look at sociological perspectives on the family, the position of childhood over time, the equality of couples in division of labour and decision making. They will also look at demography and how changes in birth rate, death rate, immigration and globalisation have impacted families. Students will also look at changing family patterns, including divorce, marriage, same-sex couples and cohabitation and will look at how diverse families are today and the impact of this on society. They will also investigate how social policies have changed family dynamics. In the Beliefs in Society topic, students will learn about the Sociological theories of why we have religion and the role it has in contemporary society. They will study the relationship between social change and social stability, religious beliefs and religious organisations, including christian and non-christian religions as well as cults, sects and new-age movements. They will also assess the significance of religions in the contemporary world, including globalisation and the spread of religions and secularisation.
- Paper 3 – There are two topics within this paper; Crime and Deviance and Theory and Methods. For Crime and Deviance students will assess patterns in crime and changes in society. Students will need to understand the difference between crime and deviance and why both are considered a social construct. Students will have to understand sociological perspectives of crime and deviance and will then need to apply sociological theories to understand the social distribution of crime including recent patterns and trends analysing ethnicity, gender and social class. Students will also study globalisation and crime in contemporary society and will look at the media’s relationship with crime, the concept of green crime, human rights and state crime. Lastly students will focus on crime control, including the use of surveillance, punishment and the role of the criminal justice system. Within this section, students will also study theory regarding being a victim of crime. For Theory and Methods students will build on what they learnt for Paper 1.
It is essential that each student should buy their own textbooks for this course. This is supplemented by books which are kept in the Library or in the Sociology classroom. Extra reading is necessary for the development of critical thinking and for extension of knowledge and understanding. It is essential that students are also reading newspaper articles, watching news broadcasts and listening the radio programmes such as Radio 4 in order to support them with their understanding of modern society and contemporary issues that are relevant to the topics that they are studying. Students can also access lesson resources, such as worksheets and PowerPoints via the school intranet. Finally, students are recommended to subscribe to The Sociology Review for further exam-related tips and help.
Taking it further
Sociology can be studied as a single subject in higher education, or can be combined with a range of other subjects such as criminology. Ideal combinations therefore are Politics, Business Studies and Media Studies. There are a number of applied options that interest students within the Sociology field; these include Social Work, Human Resources, Advertising, Marketing, Journalism and Teaching.
- Subject Leader: Alannah Cullen
- Teachers: Tamsin McKenzie, Michael Watkins