St Hilda’s CE Primary School

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Cultural Capital

The term 'cultural capital' was originally used in the field of sociology, and was coined by a French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, in the 1970s. Bourdieu expanded on Carl Marx's definition of 'capital' (as in, commodities and material goods), in order to highlight the importance of 'cultural capital' to bolster ones' social standing and position. Both Marx and Bourdieu believed that the more capital (cultural or material) one has at one's disposal, the more successful and powerful their position can be within society.

Bordeieu's cultural capital definition embodies three types, and within an educational context they would look like:

  • Embodied capital: Mannerisms, accents, language, preferences, tastes, etc.
  • Objective capital: Works of art, books, goods, cultural artefacts, etc.
  • Institutional capital: Qualifications, educational credentials, etc.

Essentially, cultural capital is the term used to describe an 'educated citizen'. In other words, an active participant in society who has knowledge and experience of the ways that the world works, how to operate within that world, and how to use that knowledge and experience to their advantage. This could be something as simple as knowing how to post a letter, or how to lodge a formal complaint, to shared cultural norms and expectations such as using cutlery and being polite. In a sociological context, it's proposed that cultural capital would need financial advantages - like the means to learn an instrument - and that these advantages would allow more opportunities for social mobility and 'success'. It should also be said that, although cultural awareness is an important aspect of cultural capital, it by no means excludes the importance and value of having a knowledge and respect for different cultures, beliefs and customs.

Ofsted's cultural capital definition is more inclusive and moves towards the concept that all children should have opportunities to expand their cultural capital, regardless of their background, through education. 

“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.”

Our Cultural Capital Offer

At St Hilda's CE VC Primary School, our aim is for our children to join us on a learning journey, which will equip them for their future. We want our children to leave us at Year 6 knowing how to be good citizens, have high aspirations, to be a resilient learner and have high levels of enquiry skills. 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.

It is important to recognise that everyone has cultural capital – knowledge, skills and behaviours – and that these accumulate over time through many different experiences and opportunities. Cultural capital is understood to contribute to success in life, for example, being able to perform well in school, knowing how to talk in different social groups or societies, accessing higher education and being successful in work or a career. Cultural Capital is not something that is ‘given’ or ‘taught’. It is about culture, language, traditions and experiences.

At St Hilda's CE VC Primary School, all children take part in the Cultural Capital Programme. Our programme includes the themes of; 

  • Arts and Culture

  • Appreciation of Nature

  • Local Community Links

  • Physical and Practical Skills

  • Educational Visits

As the children travel through school, they will embark on their learning journey, receiving stamps in their cultural capital passports for each experience they take part in. We aim for them to be ready to be world citizens by the time they leave year 6!