In September 2019, Ofsted published a revised version of its School and Early Years Inspection Handbook, officially launching its updated framework. The cause of much debate during the framework consultation process which began at the beginning of the year is the term “cultural capital”.
Ofsted describes cultural capital as, “the extent to which schools are equipping pupils with the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life. Our understanding of ‘knowledge and cultural capital’ is derived from the following wording in the national curriculum: ‘It is the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.’”
But what does this mean in practice? Is cultural capital really any different from the array of enriching experiences that teachers already provide the children in their charge?
What is the aim of introducing cultural capital?
Ofsted has now introduced cultural capital right through school, starting with early years. It doesn’t mean that teachers need to undertake extra training, rather that cultural capital is intrinsic within a classroom the whole way through preschool and primary.
Cultural capital is about valuing the different culture, experiences, beliefs, interests, and language of each child in the classroom, understanding how all these different things link together, and providing a rich, varied curriculum that builds on existing experiences.
It’s also about widening children’s experiences and enabling them to experience places and cultures they may otherwise not have the opportunity to be exposed to. This is especially true of disadvantaged pupils.
It’s important to try and take existing interests one step further while providing new and stimulating experiences. For example, if a child’s knowledge of art is graffiti, it’s important to explore the work of Banksy but also show them the wider art world to expand their knowledge. If children only listen to pop music, try playing classical music, jazz or reggae.
Practical ways to develop children’s cultural capital
Avoid making assumptions about the different cultural backgrounds, customs, and experiences the children in your class will have
Use families’ knowledge – this could mean creative skills, cooking, and activities that support different languages
Decorate your space with items that represent the different cultures and languages in your classroom
Ask for volunteers for class trips
Invite the cultural heritage officer in your community to speak to your class
Set up lunchtime or after school clubs that widen experiences in art, music, language, etc.
Use assembly time to get children engaged in and learn about different cultures – you could ask groups of children to put on plays or read stories from cultures around the world
How class trips can help develop cultural capital
Class trips provide the ideal way for children to experience something new and different and expand their cultural horizons. Out of the classroom, they can get hands-on and in-depth, exploring something that’s completely new to them or widening their experiences of something they already know about.
Trips also help you to nurture your relationship with your pupils, as well as their relationships with each other. They deepen the learning experience and help to build communication skills.
Class trips for primary that support cultural capital include: