Cultural capital: what it is and how to monitor it

Get a handle on what ‘cultural capital’ means and how Ofsted will consider it as part of your school’s quality of education. Find out what questions you can ask your school leaders so you feel confident pupils are prepared for life in modern Britain.

Last reviewed on 24 April 2023
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 40777
  1. What is cultural capital?
  2. How will Ofsted inspect it? 
  3. How do I monitor it?
  4. Questions to ask school leaders

What is cultural capital?

How Ofsted defines it

Ofsted added the term 'cultural capital' to the inspection handbook in 2019. In paragraph 226, it defines it as:

...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.

In her speech in 2019, chief inspector Amanda Spielman explained what the term means in practice:

By [cultural capital], we simply mean the essential knowledge, those standard reference points, that we want all children to have.

... So for example, it’s about being able to learn about and name things that are, for many, outside their daily experience.

Cultural capital doesn’t just come from British 'high' culture (e.g. trips to the ballet or opera, or an understanding of Dickens