Nearly a third of young people in the UK grow up in poverty and the academic achievement gap between rich and poor is detectable from as early as 22 months. What’s more, the gap continues to widen as children travel through the education system. Children from the lowest income homes are half as likely to get five good GCSEs and go on to higher education as the national average and white working class pupils (particularly boys) are amongst our lowest performers. What’s more, the link between poverty and attainment is multi-racial – whatever their ethnic background, pupils eligible for free school meals underperform compared to those who are not.

In short, if you’re a high ability pupil from a low income home (and, therefore, a low social class), you’re not going to do as well in school and in later life as a low ability pupil from a higher income home and higher social class. In other words, it is social class and wealth – not ability – that defines a pupil’s educational outcomes and their future life chances.

This course explores the reasons for this disadvantage and proffers some solutions for schools. Children born into families who read books, newspapers and magazines, visit museums, art galleries, zoos, and stately homes and gardens, take regular holidays, watch the nightly news and documentaries, and talk – around the dinner table, on dog-walks, in the car – about current affairs and about what they’re reading or doing or watching – develop cultural capital. These children acquire, unknowingly perhaps, an awareness of the world around them, an understanding of how life works, and – crucially – a language with which to explain it all. And this cultural capital provides a solid foundation on which they can build further knowledge, skills and understanding.

The unlucky ones – those children not born and brought up in such knowledge-rich environments, and who therefore do not develop this foundation of cultural capital – don’t do as well in school because new knowledge and skills have nothing to ‘stick’ to or build upon. Put simply, the more you know, the easier it is to know more and so the culturally rich will always stay ahead of the impoverished, and the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow as children travel through our education system.

The best strategy for diminishing the the difference, therefore, is to help disadvantaged pupils to build cultural capital – and cultural capital takes one tangible form: a pupil’s vocabulary…The size of a pupil’s vocabulary in their early years of schooling (the number and variety of words that the young person knows) is a significant predictor of academic attainment in later schooling and of success in life. Most children are experienced speakers of the language when they begin school but reading the language requires more complex, abstract vocabulary than that used in everyday conversation. Young people who develop reading skills early in their lives by reading frequently add to their vocabularies exponentially over time. Department for Education research suggests that, by the age of seven, the gap in the vocabulary known by children in the top and bottom quartiles is something like 4,000 words (children in the top quartile know around 7,000 words).

This course will explain how to build cultural capital by developing pupils’ vocabulary and by embedding literacy across the curriculum – effectively and meaningfully, not simply as another box for teachers to tick. This course will also explore the tenets of good curriculum design, identifying the foundational concepts on which success in any given subject depends and ensuring they are taught throughout a pupils’ schooling and are repeated and reinforced to support retrieval in terminal exams at the end of a linear course. And this course will examine how to support pupils in their development of independent study and research skills.

  • Teachers, teaching assistants, and middle and senior leaders.

  • Secondary and further education.

  • A specially prepared folder of 50+ pages full of detailed notes, practical advice and guidance
  • Notes prepared by the educational experts leading the course
  • Expert produced PowerPoint presentations
  • CPD Certificate of attendance
  • Two course restaurant lunch
  • Refreshments throughout the day
  • Guaranteed high quality venues


What are the gaps and why do they exist?

09:30 – 10:15am
Session One A 3-point plan for diminishing the difference

– Identify the barriers
– Choose the strategies
– Set the success criteria

10:15 – 11:00am
Session Two Cultural capital

– What is it and why does it matter?
– How can we develop it?
– The vocabulary gap

11:00 – 11:15am
Morning Break

11:15 – 12:00am
Session Three Embedding literacy across the curriculum

– Why does literacy matter?
– How can we embed literacy across the curriculum?
– What is literacy in practice?

12:00 – 12:45am
Session Four Teaching to the top

– The jadedness principle – the danger of differentiation
– Using teaching assistants effectively
– Effective intervention strategies
– Modelling high expectations

12:45 – 13:30pm

13:30 – 14:15pm
Session Five Curriculum design and delivery

– Improving transition – curriculum continuity
– Identifying foundational concepts
– Mapping skills… progressively
– Developing pupils’ independence – teaching study skills

14:15 – 14:30pm
Afternoon Break

14:30 – 15:00pm
Plenary Action planning
Next steps

Matt Bromley

Matt Bromley is an education journalist and author with over twenty years’ experience in teaching and
leadership including as headteacher. He works as a consultant, speaker, and trainer, and is a school governor.

Quality of Education