Cultural capital as curriculum entitlement

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The experience and knowledge gained by children during their formative years are important factors to ensuring their success in wider society. By integrating cultural capital into the curriculum, schools are able to provide opportunities to students - no matter their background - enabling them to effectively navigate professional and social relationships; as well as fostering a sense of belonging and well-being. In this blog, Dan Morrow, CEO of Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust explores cultural capital as an important curriculum entitlement for all children.
Cultural Capital as Curriculum Entitlement - Dan Morrow
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"Every single one of us feels a bit of an imposter in some way, for some reason but it shouldn't ever be based on the circumstances of your birth or how you're brought up"

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During his moving presentation at the Multi Academy Trust Partnership Network (MATPN) South event, Dan Morrow, CEO of Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust, explored the topic: "Cultural capital as curriculum entitlement".
Required in very broad terms to provide their pupils with "the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life", schools have struggled to paint a clear picture of what activities will be measured in support of developing cultural capital. When challenged for its unspecified measures, Ofsted has further clarified that cultural capital is reflected in the quality and variety of a school's curriculum.

From East London to Oxford

Students using Lyfta
Students using Lyfta
Often using his personal experience as a reference to the long term impact of having a cultural capital deficit as an adult, Dan challenged the notion that knowledge and cultural capital were interchangeable terms, asserting that it went beyond "social mobility" and was more closely aligned with social justice.
"It is 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." Ofsted Handbook
A straight A student from a young age, Dan, who grew up in East London, was the only child in a school of 60 to secure a place at a grammar school. Yet despite his incredible achievements - coming from a working class, single parent home, where his mother worked 70 hours a week - he still felt displaced among his peers at the grammar school.
While he acknowledged the school for its ability to meet his basic needs, there was a social capital gap that was unattended to. As a child from a relatively disadvantaged background in comparison to other students, Dan was unable to fully participate in culturally enriching activities like cultural visits or trips, as no allowances were made. Not being able to connect and socialise with other students during these experiences only served to strengthen the barriers he already faced.
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"Lyfta is an organisation that epitomises this notion of education as the building of who we can be. An education that nurtures empathy, that builds character and that broadens our horizons."

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Moving onto Oxford university, he continued to face challenges because of his cultural capital deficit. He recalls that during his first week at the institution he was taunted by pupils for not recognising a dish on the menu, gravlax (cured salmon). Today he says that even as a Chief Executive he often still feels as if he's violating unwritten rules or codes of behaviour.
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"If you don't know the rules of the game, you can't play and if you can't play, are you really included?"

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This is the importance of cultural capital and where it goes beyond just knowledge, as it equips children with more than just 'know how' but skills, values, language and a deeper understanding to move through an environment with confidence.

What does cultural capital mean for schools?

A rich and varied curriculum offer
Schools should look at how knowledge-rich approaches to curriculum-sequencing are enhanced and synergised through wider opportunities such as:
  • Providing plenty of opportunities to explore new activities, through lunchtime and after-school clubs
  • Prioritising school trips and international travel
A deeper exploration of curriculum
Dan encourages educators to use these questions as north stars when focusing on how cultural capital is woven into the curriculum purposefully.
  • What's it like to be a student in your school?
  • How does each student experience the curriculum?
A focus on the experience of learners
Reflecting on how students are able to engage with what is taught is key.
  • Is it age and needs appropriate?
  • Is it relevant and bespoke, while remaining aspirational and challenging?
Reimagining cultural capital with Lyfta
One of the challenges that many schools face when trying to provide their students with the rich curriculum necessary to develop cultural capital is budget constraints. As these activities may often be lumped into the 'non core' extra curricular activity pile, they are the first to face the chop when forced to scale back.
By having local artists in residence who work in their primary and secondary schools teaching art. As well as supplementing school trips with virtual ones via Lyfta's platform. Dartmoor's Multi Academy Trust's approach allowed them to prioritise cultural capital despite the costs. Costs which sometimes were not only financially taxing but time consuming too. Speaking to a P.E Lead planning a school trip, Dan discovered that roughly 50% of their non contact time was taken up with planning and risk assessments for a trip.
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"If you take one thing from this conference please let it be a partnership with Lyfta…, it is the best money I ever spent."

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A Lyfta partner for over five years, Dan shares how the platform allows his schools to not be limited by budget restraints which can hinder social and cultural capital opportunities. When calculating the true cost of educational visits (including entry fees, coach hire and parking) Dan found that a subscription to Lyfta's immersive, storytelling platform offered more value for money. Students are able to learn about cultures from around the world in over 60 storyworlds, giving them a vast range of experiences and exposure to different perspectives.
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"I like doing [LYFTA], it's like stepping into another world and you can see and hear what people do in their lives, it's interesting. It's like a computer game, except it's real. And the people are real and they live somewhere in the world."

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The Trust uses the platform in its Year 5 and Year 6 groups during table time but additionally students use it at home on average 3 - 5 hours a week. They have also seen excellent engagement in the secondary settings in the trust as well as in sixth form.
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"LYFTA is the business. It's given my pupils the chance to visit places they could never possibly have visited and to meet people they would never have met. It widens their experience of the world far beyond the confines of our little community."

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Elderly Home in storyworld series Awra Amba
Elderly Home in storyworld series Awra Amba
Lyfta is a great support tool for teachers tackling topics like social & emotional learning, as well as diversity, equity and inclusion, by providing students with the opportunity to engage with new people in an immersive virtual setting. In a series of 360° spaces, videos and rich media articles, children learn about, find commonalities and are able to empathise with people from backgrounds very different from their own. This in turn enables them to confront and dismiss harmful stereotypes. For example, when asked "what did they get from Lyfta", a Year 5 student in the Trust responded, "it's shown me sometimes what I heard about other people isn't true."
Cultural capital is essential to the personal development of students, its inclusion in the curriculum can be attributed to feelings of connection, compassion and most importantly, belonging. Post-pandemic, young people are feeling more disconnected than ever and are facing mental and wellbeing challenges at a rate that school leaders have not encountered before. And while the present system emphasises the prioritisation of academic achievement, Mr. Morrow believes that the converse is true and asks school leaders to focus on values even more than results because leading with values means the results will follow. You can read more about how Lyfta can be used to build cultural capital here.
Global Learning
Immersive Learning
Character & Values
Cultural Capital
Personal Development