Journal Article

Shaping educational expectations: the perspectives of 13-year-olds and their parents

May 22, 2020

Educational Review, Vol. 72 No. 2, pp. 173-195

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Educational expectations and the way in which they shape actual outcomes act as an important vehicle for the intergenerational reproduction of social inequality. This article draws on rich information from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study to explore the factors influencing the educational expectations of 13-year-old young people and their parents. The findings point to high levels of expectations among parents but one-third of young people are found to hold lower expectations than their parents. Both sets of expectations are shaped by parental education, social class and household income, though parental expectations are more strongly structured by social background than those of young people. The article seeks to contribute to the literature on educational expectations in three interrelated ways. Firstly, it focuses on a phase of schooling, the transition to secondary education, which represents a time of significant change in young people’s learning experiences, and transition difficulties are found to dampen their expectations. Secondly, the analyses unpack the extent to which signals from the school influence parental perspectives, with academic achievement, child attitudes to maths, ability group assignment and teacher reprimands emerging as significant drivers of parental views of their children’s potential. Thirdly, the analyses take account of both the primary and secondary school attended and indicate significant between-school differences in young people’s intentions to go on to higher education.