Sociology Index

Ascription

Ascription is assigning some quality or character to a person or thing. Ascription in a sense is also the assigning to a cause or source. The principle of merit is consistent with liberal theory and assumes equality of opportunity and occupational advancement based on achievement rather than ascription. Meritocracy is rule by those chosen on the principle of merit. Open class ideology claims that society's status system is based on achievement and not on ascription.

What is ascription and third party ascription?
Ascription is the process whereby in the event of a parent failing to return the ethnic group collection form, the school can use its best judgement to determine the ethnic group of the pupil. This process is also known as "third party" ascription. If ascription is to be carried out, there are certain safeguards that need to be in place:

The information should be requested from the parent by post along with a letter that explains that the school will ascribe an ethnic group to their child if there is no response and parents do not formally refuse to provide this information.
If a formal refusal is made, schools must not ascribe an ethnic group.
Parents should be informed of the school's decision and given the opportunity to see, amend or remove the ethnic group record. After such ascription, the ethnic group record will be marked as "ascribed by the school."

When should schools decide if ascription is necessary?
To ensure that schools have a consistent policy on ascription for all pupils, we recommend that the decision to undertake ascription is taken before any correspondence to parents have been sent out. The letter to parents should then be amended to include a paragraph on ascription as shown on the model letter contained in the guidance document.

Why is ascription voluntary rather than compulsory for schools?
We want to give schools the option to carry out ascription if this is the only opportunity that schools will have to collect this data in order to make monitoring possible. Head teachers with the support of their staff are best placed to make the decision whether ascription is desirable or not in their schools. Therefore ascription is voluntary and schools should not be put under pressure to undertake ascription.

What if I am put under pressure to ascribe an ethnic group for those pupils whose parents have not returned the ethnic group data collection form?
Individual members of staff should not be put under pressure to ascribe. However, ascription, if properly conducted according to DfES guidelines, meets the requirements of data protection legislation and has the support the Commission for Racial Equality.