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OFSTED and the issue of 'Cultural Capital'

Discussion in 'Education news' started by starship7, Dec 11, 2019.

  1. starship7

    starship7 New commenter

    I wanted to open up a debate around the notion of 'Cultural Capital' espoused by the resent OFSTED 2019 guidelines for schools. It is astounding OFSTED are using the terms 'Cultural Capital' to judge learning aspirations and ways of teaching young folk. Having been a teacher for a long time and read the recent OFSTED paperwork (and dipped in and out of postgraduate learning I am left reminiscing about the times before teaching when I studied Popular Culture and Philosophy of Education respectfully) and know a thing or two about Bourdieu's outlook on cultural capital.
    I would like to know why OFSTED have included 'cultural capital' without indeed respect to 'Social Capital'?

    Let us not fool ourselves, cultural capital implies aesthetic appreciation. If we are to be 'responsive teachers' then fundamentally we know that child development is powerfully shaped by social capital (families, and other social networks that children and young folk engage in outside of the educational institution).

    Today children live in a deficit of social capital. Lives and relationships are diverse and fragmented = we have pluralistic values. In return this lack of secure, predictable and determined social capital means more than ever as educators, we must foster connections with children's families -not only through the means of art, music and literacy, (cultural capital) but knowing we are educational vehicles for convening diverse groups of 'difference!'

    This short statement brings me back to the days when I studied 'cultural discourse'... You only have to remember or read the legendary likes of Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams, et al (and the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies), past and present day researchers on Cultural studies and education to know that 'cultural capital' is loaded with privileged dispositions and today OFSTED are re-fashioning this phrase for teachers to deliver it though educational means - through the curriculum because we have 'accumulated appreciation' to do so. We are informed by OSTED to teach cultural capital to children and young people. But these folk have a voice and various means to discriminate cultural capital and who can resist it. Why? Because their lives like our politics is different, fragmented and uncertain. Whose cultural capital are we to teach? How is that to be received? What are the implications of doing so from our children? This is even more complicated when you think of the impact on particular 'types' os schools. Here we have variegated schooling types, such as academies, faith schools, and so on. I work with the most precious and vulnerable young people in a wonderful Special Educational School and I think, how can I bridge their cultural capital with their social capital? When both are so fragile discourses made up of complicated dialogues? I would also like to have a discussion with those who included 'cultural capital' in the OFSTED 2019 literature. I look forward to the opportunity should in the near future, the people in the suits come a-knocking!
    Jonntyboy likes this.
  2. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    You raise some interesting questions for discussion but I personally think it is a good thing that Ofsted have recognised the value of 'cultural capital' or whatever they want to call it. To me, this underlines the view that education is more than just rote learning of grammar, punctuation and times tables. Receiving a first-class education includes engaging with the arts and developing an ability to form critical, yet subjective opinions about all forms of culture.

    Deciding whose cultural capital to teach is of course an important question to consider - and one which all teachers of arts subjects have always had to answer. Are The Beatles more important than Mozart? We can't possibly cover every influential figure or movement so choices have to be made. I would hope that so long as your curriculum includes a broad spread of cultures it will be deemed acceptable.
    Rott Weiler likes this.
  3. maggie m

    maggie m Lead commenter

    Where I work cultural capital has been interpreted as making sure all pupils go on at least one trip into London each year. Trips to museums, art galleries, concerts , the theatre, opera and ballet have all featured. As we are in London we can travel free on tfl . Many places are free or the school has tried to subsidise entry fees. We still get a surprising number of families who will make a great effort to avoid their child taking part. Even when we get them on trips many of the pupils will sulk and complain about how boring it is. I supported on a trip to see Romeo and Juliet at the Globe . It was wonderful I wish I could have seen a production like it when I was doing O level literature. Sadly year 10 were largely bored and complaining that standing was tiring. You can lead a horse to water.....
    drek likes this.
  4. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I suspect that there had never been a time when the acquisition of cultural capital has been considered a joy by a large proportion of our school population.
    Having said that it feels as if cultural capital is less valued now than it has been in the past.
    There are lots of reasons, I could probably write a book if I had the time (and thought anyone would buy it). I expect many of you could write other books (with similar provisos).
    The bottom line is that those with parents with social and cultural capital will know the value of it, while those with parents who have not acquired it will not know what they're missing (and will often resent attempts to introduce them to it).
    At the same time there is a backlash against culture being solely the preserve of Dead White Men.
    If we focus only on what can be measured, we lose a lot.
    I have just been shocked by an Apprentice candidate who had never seen a globe.
    This is probably a bit disconnected, but the mainstream schools where I've worked have had other priorities imposed on them
    agathamorse likes this.
  5. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    Yes, much more so to me.

    And McCarthy, Melville and Faulkner are miles more important to me than Dickens and Bronte. And aesthetically are much "better" writers too.
  6. swampyjo

    swampyjo New commenter

    I am increasing my own childrens' cultural capital by taking them out of school and visiting Krakow for a few days.

    ACOYEAR8 likes this.
  7. Jonntyboy

    Jonntyboy Lead commenter

    Now why doesn't that surprise me?
  8. starship7

    starship7 New commenter

    And they have their cultural and social capital to bring into the classroom
  9. Crommo

    Crommo New commenter

    The problem is that every generation's cultural capital is better than the next generation's. Hence The Beatles vs Mozart, for example. My Gran (born during WW1) couldn't see what is was my Dad (born pre WW2) liked about big band music and skiffle. My Dad couldn't see what I liked about Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. I can't see what my daughter likes about.. er, well actually, I can't name any of them.
    Do you suppose there were those who said things on the lines of "That John Donne? Not a patch on Chaucer."
  10. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    It is the role of the most creative minds in each generation to produce landmark works of culture that both reflect and drive the nature of modern society. (Often, as you say, to the disdain of the previous generation). However in the works of all great artists, musicians and novelists can be detected influences of others - just as Mozart took inspiration from his father and Haydn, The Beatles absorbed ideas from American rock and roll. Therefore, particularly for those children who are not exposed to 'cultural capital' in their home environment, introducing them to great works of art from a broad range of genres in school opens up possibilities for them to engage with, and perhaps become the creative minds of the next generation.
    crumbleskates and agathamorse like this.
  11. BTBAM85

    BTBAM85 New commenter

    Are you a teacher? Why are you saying Ofsted have done something good?
  12. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Not so much better as "crowds out".

    Main problem is time. Every generation adds to the amount of cultural capital.
    Some people aggressively do not want culture and see it as irrelevant.
  13. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    Yes, this is something puzzling to me as a music teacher, and someone who grew up loving books, theatre and music. It seems understood that at a job interview if you are asked something on the lines of 'Is music for everyone' then you need to answer yes - and I do genuinely believe that all children need to be given the chance to enjoy music - but in my experience you are right that some people are hostile to the idea of culture.
    ACOYEAR8 and agathamorse like this.
  14. drek

    drek Star commenter

    I don’t think the hostility is based on a simple hatred of ‘culture’. I believe it might be based on a dislike of having to toe someone else’s line yet again and bring about a change that may increase workload without any real depth of improvement or thought given to how to bring about changes.

    There won’t be any real funding behind such initiatives other than to a few schools possible those whose heads are also OFSTEd inspectors, who will then go around trotting out ‘best practice’ to other schools who don’t get the funding but will feel ‘Grade challenged’ if they don’t do something....anything...
    This will then be rolled out via some boring CPDs to beleaguered teachers in poverty stricken areas where along with lectures about how they ‘fail’ their drug addled, uncared for students on a daily basis, they will be preached at about how they should raise the cultural capital of such students and provide evidence to line managers that they are doing it every lesson.
    Extra workload yet again with no extra pay....
    Only to be preached at a year later and retrained in the certain knowledge that one person’s ‘culture’ may be another person’s nightmare.......and therefore we are failing some children, somewhere, somehow yet again.
    I feel a musical appreciation moment coming on......now which era should I turn to?
    Luckily I have a choice.....Will cultural capital manage to limit
    that by pretending to be what it’s not?........
    agathamorse and Jamvic like this.
  15. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    I remember the dreadful 'art appreciation' lessons, when i was in the 6th form. As good an aversion therapy as slamming a piano lid down on Paderewski's fingers.
  16. Grandsire

    Grandsire Star commenter

    I agree that it's important - but I do wonder whether many of today's teachers have either the knowledge themselves to share (most teachers in my school rely on a certain educational resource website to tell them what to teach and frankly don't seem to know much more than the children) or the freedom and time to teach it.

    Actually, 'teaching' it is the wrong word. In my experience, instilling an appreciation for what they call 'cultural capital' doesn't usually happen in planned, scheme-of-work lessons. It pops up when you suddenly remember a poem that fits, or when you think of a piece of music that links to what the pupils have just said... and away you go. It's not easy: you have to have both the cultural knowledge at your fingertips, and the right culture in the classroom - one which says "I know it's not what you're used to, but isn't it amazing...?" and that all takes effort. For most teachers, it's far easier to download a ready-made scheme, and put on some pop music that the children already know and like.

    I know the one-off momentary diversions I go on with my class really expand my children's horizons. To do it well, you have to be prepared to go off-piste. How many teachers feel confident enough and are trusted to do that these days? How much do SLT value the 'cultural capital' moments, if they're not being counted or graded?
  17. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    Relevant Tweet (from a teacher, by the way):

    "What if what @Ofstednews and @educationgovuk consider worthy of being called "cultural capital" is really just a set of tools to reinforce existing prejudices? Am I a lesser person because I've never read a Shakespeare play but have read every book written by Asimov or Grisham?"
    agathamorse likes this.
  18. starship7

    starship7 New commenter

    Hello, I fear the flotsam and jetsam of this present pandemic, how it will impact on teaching and young people's education when lockdown is over - and I repeat some issue as before '...If we are to be 'responsive teachers' then fundamentally we know that child development is powerfully shaped by social capital (families, and other social networks that children and young folk engage in outside of the educational institution). ' As educators - we should be expected to have a 'relaxed' curriculum to deal with the emotional impact lockdown is having on our children and their families. Who knows what has been happening in their lives? Relationships matter and once children get back into schools, it will be us teachers who will have to recognize the lack of cultural and social impact is and will have had on our children and I urge OFSTED and LA's to give us the time, to deal with what emerges - for it will not be easy on us and it most certainly will not be easy on our children!
    Summerhols6 likes this.
  19. bessiesmith2

    bessiesmith2 New commenter

    I think one of the biggest issues will be the widening of the gulf between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. Those fortunate children in the right homes who have done all the home-schooling and more, have been reading lots of great young people's literature, listening to a wide range of music etc.

    And then the children who have done none of the home-schooling either due to parents who didn't care or who were unable to support or resource it (I have been extremely grateful for my printer and our laptops in enabling our kids to complete their work - how do families manage who don't have these things?). Many of these children will also be the ones who have missed out on other social and cultural development opportunities. They will likely also have forgotten much of what they have already learned this academic year having not used it. So they could easily be an academic year behind their luckier peers.

    Depending on how long we may be off (June? September?) - it will be like the gap after the summer holidays but potentially many times worse. I don't know how schools can mitigate this issue but it needs to be recognised at all levels by the DfE / Ofsted and strategies put in place to support these children.
    ACOYEAR8 likes this.
  20. MsOnline

    MsOnline Occasional commenter

    Interesting post.

    Have the definitions and views about 'cultural capital' changed?

    Do they still include connotations of 'high and low art' to some?

    Are thoughts still based on decade-old theories about the value of art?

    'This definition is troubling when taken in a modern context... it is passive; it does not adequately cover all cultural forms or expressions (particularly music, dance or visual arts); and it has the potential to be used to entrench notions of class structure.

    Instead, the CLA believes that we should enable our children to stand on the shoulders of those that have gone before and create new and exciting forms of culture; things which may well help them fuel solutions to society’s problems... to celebrate and embrace the different backgrounds, heritage, language and traditions of all the children living in this country.'

    Eg. If pupils are studying the same, exact texts their grandparents did they might just find them boring and feel a disconnect. There is always a balance to be struck and hopefully more modern cultural expressions can be just as valued.

    If this isn't clear, how are schools to prepare? Have examples of good practice been provided?

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