Educational sociology has been concerned with the fact that education has proved to be a key factor in reproducing structures of social inequality. While until the 1970s this meant that working class children ‘inherited’ the working class jobs of their parents, nowadays low education implies risks of social exclusion. Education has become an indispensable prerequisite of social inclusion while it no longer leads predictably to specific careers. Labour markets are more flexible and as a consequence life courses become de-standardised. Neither access to, successfully coping with, nor the relevance of education can be taken for granted.

The GOETE project analyses access to and within education according to class, gender and ethnicity. In order to take the interaction between structure and agency in educational trajectories into account the analysis of unequal access includes the dimension of accessibility, i.e. the extent to which children, young people and their parents perceive education as open for them. This includes whether they expect to cope with education and that education will be relevant for their future lives.