142 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. As part of making a judgement about the quality of education, inspectors will consider how well leaders use the curriculum to enhance the experience and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged.
143.Some children arrive at an early years settings with different experiences from others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through its EYFS curriculum and interactions with practitioners, potentially makes all the difference for children. It is the role of the setting to help children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning.
The grade descriptor for ‘quality of education’ – good grade – states:
‘Leaders adopt or construct a curriculum that is ambitious and designed to give children, particularly the most disadvantaged, the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life.’
**The Early Years Inspection handbook is here - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/801375/Early_years_inspection_handbook.pdf.
A lot of childminders are asking me questions about cultural capital – what it means and how they can comply with the new inspection requirement.
The term ‘cultural capital’ was introduced in 1960s and 70s by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who describes it as: ‘A person's education (knowledge and intellectual skills) that provides advantage in achieving a higher social-status in society.’
However, Ofsted have given it a slightly different definition, changed (presumably) to suit their own purposes. Ofsted have talked about cultural capital in a number of presentations, including one I attended for the Ofsted Big Conversation in the North West. Ofsted state that:
‘Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens.’
This is confirmed in footnote 17 of the inspection handbook (page 32).
Ofsted recognise the importance of the early years and the work we do to make a difference. They want to see providers giving every child the best start in life and will ask questions during inspection about how we use the curriculum (the EYFS ‘educational programmes – the 7 areas of learning) to support their learning, development and progress. There will be a focus during inspection on children who are ‘disadvantaged’ for various reasons including, for example, children with special educational needs and disabilities or children who receive extra funding.
Ofsted are also thinking about the learning children have had before they arrive in the setting – some children have a rich early learning experience at home and other children have not learned how to play yet or might not have read any books at home. Ofsted use the example of vocabulary** – children who do not have a wide vocabulary will struggle to make friends, communicate with other children and staff and engage with learning. Inspectors will be looking at how staff support children’s cultural capital through their curriculum, key person relationships, quality environments and resources and make a difference for each child.
**There will be a focus on early vocabulary during inspection which I will discuss in a future webinar.
Ofsted talk about children experiencing ‘awe and wonder’ through the 7 areas of learning – about preparing children for what comes next – about learning that stays with children forever.
The inspection handbook states that, when deciding how well you deliver cultural capital, Ofsted will look at:
- Children’s starting points – what you know about the children when they first start in your care as required in the inspection handbook (page 7, point 21).
- Your individual planning – the activities and experiences you introduce to support the children’s learning – and ‘future success’ – as required by the EYFS: ‘The EYFS seeks to provide: a secure foundation through learning and development opportunities which are planned around the needs and interests of each individual child and are assessed and reviewed regularly’ (EYFS, underpinning statement 3).
- What it is like for a child in your setting – as stated in the inspection handbook (page 44, point 12).
To support a child's cultural capital you might, for example:
- Take children on outings so they engage with the local community
- Prepare and cook food together
- Watch butterflies hatching
- Role play and dress up
- Read books and tell stories together
- Watching a spider on its web
- Sing songs and rhymes
- Dance to music from around the world
- Listen to an orchestra...
Parents should be involved throughout the curriculum - and the EYFS requires us to share ideas for home learning - and we should regularly ask parents for updated information about children's home learning which we can use in the setting to support planning. It is important that parents feel part of their child's learning and development journey in the setting and recognise the importance of the cultural capital they share with their child at home.
I note that the Dept for Education recently published an 'Activity Passport' for school-aged children which links closely to cultural capital. You can find the booklet here - https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/my-activity-passport.
There are a number of changes in the Early Years Inspection handbook including the introduction of cultural capital. I will continue to share information for providers through this blog and I will be presenting a series of new webinars for Childcare.co.uk over the summer months.
Chat soon, Sarah