Batchwood School: Passion Belief Courage

Cultural Capital

Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to prepare them for their future success. ... It is about giving children the best possible start to their early education.

The importance of cultural capital

It is widely accepted that a person’s level of cultural capital is a huge indicator of how well they are able to succeed academically and engage in wider society.

This isn’t a new concept and Ofsted certainly didn’t coin it.

French sociologist Pierre Bourdeiu originally came up with the concept of a person possessing “capital”. Bourdieu (1973, 1986) explores the theory of cultural capital and highlights the link between an individual’s background and their access to knowledge.

Bourdieu (1986) breaks capital into three distinct types; embodied cultural capital, objectified capital and institutional cultural capital.

He emphasised that cultural capital is intrinsically linked to economic and social capital. Access to economic and social capital allows greater access to cultural capital and Bourdieu (1973) observed that, as a side effect, cultural capital is often linked to social class and as a result reinforces social divisions, hierarchies of power and inequality within society.

Eradicating inequalities

Within education, we obviously aim to reduce and, in time, eradicate inequalities. But improving an individual student's cultural capital isn’t a matter of giving them a book or sending them to see a play.

And, in turn, building on their social capital doesn’t just mean giving them a talking frame so they know how to interact. For schools to truly provide the required skills and experiences, social capital and economic capital must be considered and taken into account, as well as cultural capital.

In Cultural Literacy (1988), E. D. Hirsch succinctly summarises that “to be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world”. But alongside this, as educationalists, we must not overlook the importance of social capital and the opportunities and skills required for students to be successful in the delivery of themselves.

Exposure not only to culture but also to situations in which they might not have previous experiences is of paramount importance to their ongoing successes.

Moreover, having the understanding that economic capital is intrinsically linked to the level of a student's cultural and social capital keeps at the forefront of our minds the differences in experiences that our disadvantaged children may have had. Although it may not be glaringly obvious, across a class there can be significant variations.

Well-informed individuals

It follows, therefore, that, as educationalists, we need to ensure that along with teaching the content of the curriculum, we are enabling students to function as well-informed individuals well after they leave school.

It’s a huge job, but without the guidance of their teachers, some young people have very little cultural and social input from elsewhere and therefore may miss opportunities others are able to access and make decisions that are less informed than they could be.

The challenge for Batchwood School, now more than ever, is that the job of the classroom teacher has never been more important with regard to filling the gaps that students have.

Overview of Cultural Capital at Batchwood School

No matter the starting point, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion, all students at Batchwood School are provided with opportunities to develop as well-rounded successful adults ready for the next stage of their education and life and play an active role in society.

Cultural Capital at Batchwood School provides students with the chance to:

  • Experience awe and wonder throughout the curriculum
  • Access visiting professionals/coaches in theme days
  • Work with a wide range of local partners and businesses
  • Take part in a wide variety of Arts events
  • Learn about different leisure opportunities and skills

We ensure that all students at Batchwood School have a variety of opportunities that include:

  • Extended learning Days (ELD) exploring a number of themes and relevant topics
  • Forest school for all students
  • A range of charity events
  • Taking part in sports fixtures
  • Community visits
  • Broad curriculum opportunities for all
  • Therapeutic approach for emotional development

Ensuring cultural capital for all students has meant that:

  • Students experience a variety of high class opportunities throughout the curriculum
  • Students access a breadth of high class art, music, performing and sporting activities
  • Students access a variety of community opportunities
  • Students are able to learn and apply skills in a wide variety of contexts and situations
  • Students learn about their role in society and how they can contribute to society
  • Students are able to access appropriate therapeutic input to support emotional development
  • Students access a curriculum that is aligned to the aspirations of individuals, families and professionals