Some job adverts talk to you. They offer a world of possibility and excitement, not only for our students, but to us as professionals too. From September I’ll have a new job title. ‘Head of Careers and Cultural Capital’. I have a million ideas and bags of enthusiasm but the reaction of some has left me questioning exactly what I’m hoping to achieve in my new ‘made-up’ and ‘elitist’ job.
It stings to hear comments like that. Many I’ve spoken to have been wonderfully supportive and keen to embrace the notion of cultural capital whereas others have no idea what it means and regard it as a meaningless TLR. Ouch.
CC isn’t a new concept. For those of us with a background in Sociology, Bordieu’s theory is something we’re keenly familiar with. Developing a collective identity within one’s social class through the transmission of embodied, objectified and institutionalised features. If any readers aren’t familiar with the theory then have a read by following this link, it will help you to make sense of the rest and not turn my blog into a Sociology lesson!
Since CC was mentioned in the Ofsted framework it’s something we’re talking about much more. It perhaps doesn’t help that there doesn’t appear to be much guidance on how they’re applying the concept which has led me to develop my own rationale.
CC itself becomes problematic to society when we attribute ‘value’ to certain characteristics. Who are we to judge which culture holds more value than another? In recent times – especially considering the BLM and Me Too movements – I've been questioning this a huge amount myself. My conclusion? That we should be embracing and celebrating diversity at every possible opportunity. Our students must be encouraged to explore a multitude of culturally rich experiences to ensure that the concept of CC evolves to move away from the traditional approach that is no longer palatable to society. The beauty of my new role is that it hasn’t been done formally at my school before. I have been given the scope to create my own vision, which is exactly what I intend to do.
My main role in school is teaching English. I adore my job, but the syllabus frustrates me. The emphasis on the classics and the lack of diversity is a real issue. I’ve noticed a groundswell of feeling amongst curriculum leaders to address this by overhauling the KS3 curriculum to introduce more culturally diverse content. Hurrah for this! Not only do we need to make discussions around ethnicity the norm, the same needs to be true for (among others) gender, sexuality, religion and those from different socio-economic backgrounds too. People fear what they don’t understand. Children learn from adults. Therefore, it is our job within education to open their eyes to the beauty of a multitude of cultures the world over.
I’ll be starting the year with an audit of each department to identify where CC is already in action. I’m proud to say that as a school we are fantastic at promoting diversity and opening opportunities for our students. This is not to say that we are perfect, there is always room to improve. My plans are having to adapt in light of the current restrictions but I hope that as the year moves on we’ll be able to invite guests into school for workshops and talks as well as getting back out into the wider world and visiting exciting venues. The intention is to work closely with departments to ensure that they offer students the biggest range of experiences which will open their eyes to the world around them. For example, I hope that the Catering department will be keen to welcome chefs in from a variety of different backgrounds to introduce students to a wealth of international cuisine. It’s something small but meaningful. In future I want to develop deeper links with the local community too. In a way the possibilities are so vast it can be difficult to know exactly where to start!
A key undertaking is to embed the school values of caring, respect, determination and aspiration into my CC approach. I want students to leave us in Y11 as the best individuals they can possibly be. Students who will make a difference in the world just by being themselves. It doesn’t have to be on a global scale, even if they can make a difference to just one other person then the message of acceptance will grow.
Society is complex. I’m under no illusions that this will be an easy journey. Some students will embrace it wholeheartedly. Others will openly reject it. That doesn’t mean that we should give up. CC should empower the next generation and not restrict them.
This is how I intend to interpret CC. It might not be the traditional approach, but society has evolved.
Our students are living in a time like no other and we should do all in our power to make the world a more diverse and inclusive place for everyone.
Thanks for reading!