Tips for Leaders: 14. Cultural Capital

Apr 16, 2024 | Blogs

Tips for Leaders: 14. Cultural Capital

Apr 16, 2024 | Blogs

Cultural Capital is defined in the Education Inspection Framework as: 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. 

In the 1970s Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist, developed the idea of cultural capital. He defined cultural capital as: ‘familiarity with the legitimate culture within a society’; what we might call ‘high culture. 

Bourdieu identified three sources of cultural capital:  

  • Objective: cultural goods, books, works of art 
  • Embodied: language, mannerisms, preferences 
  • Institutionalised: qualifications, education credentials 

Everyone has different levels of cultural capital and those who have high levels of cultural capital are better equipped to achieve in education and navigate social situations. Cultural capital must be woven through the whole curriculum if we are to ensure our pupils are successful in society and the world of work, it provides them with knowledge and the power to achieve goals.  

The Cultural Learning Alliance outline on their website, how they ‘want definitions of cultural capital to celebrate and embrace the different backgrounds, heritage, language and traditions of all the children living in this country.’ 

Consider the following: 

  • Do you understand the differences in cultural knowledge our pupils hold? 
  • How far do we consider cultural capital when designing our curriculum? 
  • Do we develop pupils’ skills and abilities in making informed choices about the culture they consume? 
  • Does cultural capital have a high profile across school? 
  • Is it woven through the whole curriculum and wider-school offer for all pupils? 
  • Have we considered how differences in cultural knowledge impact access to the curriculum? 
  • How do we support disadvantaged pupils and families? 
  • Do we develop our pupils’ cultural literacy in order that they can access and participate in ‘prevalent’ culture (Hirsch)?  
  • How do we ensure groups of pupils are not excluded or marginalised? 
  • Do we take a broad approach to cultural capital rather than concentrating on traditional ‘high’ culture? 
  • How far do we acknowledge, understand, and celebrate all cultures represented in our school community? 
  • Are our pupils confident in their own cultural identity? 
  • How far do we help pupils in accessing a range of cultural experiences within school and out of school? 
  • How often do we consider, review, and revise the resources we use? 

    ‘Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.’ The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 31.  

    This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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