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What does Ofsted mean by cultural capital?

At Ofsted, you will know that we are developing a new education inspection framework (EIF) ready for September 2019. We launched the formal consultation on our proposals in January and this closed on 4 April 2019[1]. We are now busy reviewing and considering every response.

One thing we are being asked about is the term cultural capital, which we introduced in the draft early years inspection handbook. The introduction of this term has generated a lot of discussion and there are a number of EY blogs that explore it. We want to be clear about what we mean by cultural capital. We have said that cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to be educated citizens.

But….

What does cultural capital mean for the early years?

We all know just how important the early years are – building strong foundations that will make a real difference to a child’s future should happen between birth and five. We believe that cultural capital is about giving children the best possible start to their early education and future success. As part of making a judgement about the quality of education, we propose that inspectors will consider how well leaders use the EYFS[2] curriculum (educational programmes) to enhance the experience and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged.

We know that children arrive at their early years settings having had different experiences than others, in their learning and play. As an example, research tells us that there is correlation between the number of words a child knows and their future success - so is it fair that some children do not hear the same number of words than others?  What a setting does, through the EYFS curriculum and interactions with adults, can make all the difference for children. So we believe there is an important discussion to be had about what early years settings do to help children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning. Cultural capital is about preparing children with the knowledge and skills for what comes next. This is so important in early years because what children learn in those vital first years of life will stay with them forever.

What does this mean for inspection? Do I need to attend training on cultural capital?

No. In looking at cultural capital, we want to find out how childminders and nurseries use the EYFS curriculum and what they know about their children (the experiences children arrive with) to decide they need to learn and develop to prepare them for their future success. We inspect in line with the principles and requirements of the EYFS to find out what it is like for a child at your setting and that won’t change.

When will the final inspection handbook be ready?

Very soon we will be publishing the outcome of our EIF consultation and the final early years inspection handbook. We will do this this in plenty of time, ready for inspections from September 2019. In the meantime, we will continue to inspect using the current arrangements[3].

Twitter: @WRatcliffOfsted


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/education-inspection-framework-2019-inspecting-the-substance-of-education

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/early-years-foundation-stage-framework--2

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/inspecting-registered-early-years-providers-guidance-for-inspectors

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