Cultural Capital as part of subject specific learning

The latest news from OFSTED continues to deepen our own understanding of what schools and colleges should have in place in relation to curriculum design and delivery.  It is with this knowledge that the Learning Cultures’ Curriculum team can support senior leaders and their teams to determine with clarity and purpose their curriculum intent and design. We can also advise on the quality assurance processes that will give senior teams and subject leaders the confidence  that their curriculum vision, rationale and ambition for pupils is translated into high quality learning outcomes.

Amanda Spielman spoke at the Headteachers’ Symposium on Creativity and Education about arts subjects in schools, cultural capital and initial teacher education this January 2020. Naturally, she focused on music and the arts for some of her speech and made it abundantly clear that these elements are essential to a broad and balanced curriculum and OFSTED will tease out what schools are contributing to music and the other arts subjects. She goes on to say, however, that:

“Creativity and creative thinking in any subject requires deep subject knowledge and understanding as well as the development of skills that enable the application of this knowledge and understanding.”

There is no doubt about her message here, which is, that all subject specific learning should have creativity and deep learning at its core.  All learners need to be able to make connections, build on prior learning and weave skills and knowledge in order that they deepen their understanding, grow in confidence and have the ability to apply and make sense of their learning across many different contexts.

Subject leaders, school leaders and teachers all need to look closely at the pedagogy that facilitates learning and at the outcomes they want to see as a result of their pedagogical endeavours.  There needs to be evidence that learning is re-enforced and re-visited, that literacy and numeracy skills are the bedrock of all subject learning and that pupils are challenged beyond just recall.  There needs to be a tacit understanding of how teachers encourage pupils to demonstrate that they can use higher levels of response and highly challenging questioning in order to have the evidence that pupils are progressing and growing in the pursuit of mastery over time.

The final message that I want to highlight from this speech is the use of the term ‘cultural capital’.  Her definition of this recent OFSTED phrase is this,

“It really matters that children learn and enjoy things they won’t necessarily experience at home or with their peers.”

She suggests that the Quality of Education judgement in the OFSTED handbook is trying to capture this element and she says that it is to cultural capital that we should focus when considering the extent to which the school provides a broad and rich curriculum and how that curriculum is taught.

“our quality of education judgement is trying to capture this [cultural capital] dimension of your work.”

There is clearly an imperative to ensure that the curriculum intent points to the need for all subject teaching and cross-curriculum thematic learning to take pupils beyond the narrow and into new realms of deeper understanding and broader experience. Defining this in terms of planning the curriculum content and ensuring that subject specialists have the expertise and confidence to be creative and innovate is essential. Hold onto your sanity and join us at one of our curriculum courses and we can provide a wealth of resources and materials to create the right culture for this to happen. The link will take you to the course details on our website. Or visit the Curriculum Courses section.