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Freedom is not merely the opportunity to do as one pleases; neither is it merely the opportunity to choose between set alternatives. Freedom is, first of all, the chance to formulate the available choices, to argue over them — and then, the opportunity to choose.
Charles Wright Mills (1959), The Sociological Imagination
The above quote from a classic sociological text summarises what makes sociology perhaps a subject unlike any other. In sociology, the study of society, we study seemingly familiar arenas of everyday life, but with a critical detachment, and with a range of different theoretical perspectives and methodological tools. The acquisition and production of sociological knowledge are processes of continuous questioning of that which seems natural, taken-for-granted; as society evolves, so does the subject. Sociology examines the structural factors that impact individuals’ lives, including social class, gender, ethnicity and age and then situates the individual, and their capacities to exert free will and to create meaning, in relation to these.
Students often find that their sociological education is not confined to the classroom. The sociological imagination can be used to analyse everything from Netflix shows to social media interactions or a commute through several very different London neighbourhoods. However, in class, the study of sociology first and foremost involves a good deal of reading and writing. Students produce weekly homework essays, and are guided towards developing an appropriately formal writing style, as well as a confident command of sociological terminology. Evaluation and analysis are crucial elements of sociology, and students are encouraged to think critically and independently, and to substantiate their arguments with empirical evidence, both in classroom debates and in their written work. Further aptitudes developed in A-level sociology, which will stand students in good stead at university and in the workplace, include presentation, research and group work skills.
Sociology can be studied as an A1, one-year intensive, course or as a two-year A-level. We follow the AQA linear A-level syllabus, with three two-hour exams at the end of the second year.
In the first year, we cover Research Methods, the Sociology of Education, and the Sociology of Families and Households; in the second year, Sociological Theory, Beliefs in Society and Crime and Deviance.
We are keen for students to benefit from speakers with relevant expertise, and for them to apply and broaden their theoretical knowledge on educational trips. In recent years, sociology students have visited the Old Bailey, a Comedy Studies event at Brunel University, several Sociology in Action conferences, a Tutor2U exam booster workshop, and the Clink Museum. Speakers have included an activist against knife crime, a high profile human rights lawyer and Dr Yaron Brook, an American entrepreneur and writer.
The Sociological Discussion Club is a fortnightly lunchtime event that is essentially ‘a sociology lesson without teacher nagging’ – lively discussions about the topics of the day, including, in the last year, postmodern culture, the impact of feminism, the second amendment, the Kavanaugh inquiry and unconscious bias.
Sociology students often achieve excellent results. In 2017, all six second year students achieved A* or A grades, as did, in 2021, all seven A1 students.
Nicole Kypker studied sociology at Cambridge University and has taught the subject at A-level for over a decade. An award-winning teacher, she is an AQA A2 sociology senior examiner and has authored a guidebook to British and Irish universities as well as several academic articles. In 2021, her PhD thesis was awarded the Brunel University Vice Chancellor’s Prize for Doctoral Research.
Taking A-Level Sociology has strengthened my analytical skills as well as allowing me to apply taught content to current affairs, building greater awareness and understanding. This highly interesting subject incorporates aspects of politics, philosophy and quantitative data to explain many different perspectives, allowing one to appreciate the theories that shape and change society. As I will be studying PPE at university (hopefully!), sociology has provided me a great foundation of politics, and basic philosophy to ease myself into the first year.
Tips for prospective students:
V.S., A level Sociology student
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