SMSC – Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Education


I have been spending time looking at the SMSC guidelines and how they impact upon our school.  I wanted to clarify my thoughts about SMSC so I went about putting together a document for my own benefit.  I shared this with SLT before providing a reduced version for our Middle Leaders.  I finally put together a list of suggestions that teachers could easily implement into their own lessons.  We also added a SMSC section on our lesson observation form.


The Importance of SMSC

Schools that ignore SMSC do so at their peril. A school can be judged as ‘requires improvement’ because there are “weaknesses in the overall provision for pupils’ SMSC”.  If Ofsted observe “important weaknesses in the overall provision for pupils’ SMSC” then the school will be judged to be ‘inadequate’.

SMSC is outlined in each of the four key judgements and the overall judgement.

Ofsted provide the following examples of where SMSC can be found within the school: “where pupils:

  • are reflective about beliefs, values and more profound aspects of human experience, using their imagination and creativity, and developing curiosity in their learning
  • develop and apply an understanding of right and wrong in their school life and life outside school
  • take part in a range of activities requiring social skills
  • develop awareness of and respect for diversity in relation to, for example, gender, race, religion and belief, culture, sexual orientation and disability
  • gain a well-informed understanding of the options and challenges facing them as they move through the school and on to the next stage of their education and training
  • develop an appreciation of theatre, music, art and literature
  • develop the skills and attitudes to enable them to participate fully and positively in democratic modern Britain
  • respond positively to a range of artistic, sporting and other cultural opportunities
  • understand and appreciate the range of different cultures within school and further afield as an essential element of their preparation for life.”

School inspection handbook from September 2012


What is SMSC?

Important to provide some basic definitions of the components of SMSC:


Spiritual development – the development of the non-material element of a human being which animates and sustains us and, depending on our point of view, either ends or continues in some form when we die. It is about the development of a sense of identity, self-worth, personal insight, meaning and purpose. It is about the development of a pupil’s ‘spirit’. Some people may call it the development of a pupil’s ‘soul’; others as the development of ‘personality’ or ‘character’.


Moral development – enabling pupils to build a framework of moral values, aligned with the law of the land, which regulates their personal behaviour. It is also about the development of pupils’ understanding of society’s shared and agreed values. It is about understanding that there are issues where there is disagreement and it is also about understanding that society’s values change. Moral development is about gaining an understanding of the range of views and the reasons for the range. It is also about developing an opinion about the different views.


Social development – young people working effectively with each other and participating successfully in the community as a whole. It is about the development of the skills and personal qualities necessary for living and working together in harmony and making a positive contribution to the school community and wider society. It is about functioning effectively in a multi-racial, multi-cultural society and developing into a tolerant and helpful human being. It involves growth in knowledge and understanding of society in all its aspects. This includes understanding people as well as understanding society’s institutions, structures and characteristics, economic and political principles and organisations, roles and responsibilities, and life as a citizen, parent or worker in a community. It also involves the development of the inter-personal skills necessary for successful relationships.


Cultural development – helping pupils to develop an understanding of their own culture and other cultures in their town, region and in the country as a whole. It is about understanding cultures represented in Europe and elsewhere in the world. It is about understanding and feeling comfortable in a variety of cultures and being able to operate in the emerging world culture of shared experiences provided by television, art, theatre, travel and the internet. It is about understanding that cultures are always changing and coping with change. Promoting pupils’ cultural development is intimately linked with schools’ attempts to value cultural diversity and prevent racism.


There are five parts to the SMSC regulations, which are shown below:

  • Enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self- confidence
  • Enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the law
  • Encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute to community life
  • Provide pupils with a broad general knowledge of public institutions and services in England
  • Assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions


It is possible demonstrate that these are met in a variety of ways, for example through the school ethos, religious and cultural activities, and also through formal teaching.


Desirable Outcomes and Possible Actions

It is possible to identify a number of desirable outcomes and possible actions for each of the five parts of SMSC.  The ideas listed below provide examples of behaviour/abilities/understanding that can be expected in pupils as a result of schools meeting their SMSC obligations.


Enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self- confidence

Desired outcomes

  • Respect for themselves and for others;
  • Awareness of their own and others’ beliefs, feelings, and values;
  • Develop a set of values, principles and beliefs, which may or may not be religious, which inform their perspective on life and their patterns of behaviour;
  • Ability to articulate their feelings and justify them through discussion, debate, and presentations to others;
  • Readiness to question things that could limit their self-knowledge, self-esteem, and self confidence – for example, lack of aspiration, discrimination (such as sexism, racism, etc), injustice, bullying, and so on;
  • Acquire the skills to be self-reliant and work independently or in a team;
  • A readiness to take on responsibility for their own actions;
  • Value a non-material dimension to life and consider the questions at the heart of existence (such as who am I, where am I going?);
  • An appreciation of the intangible – for example, beauty, truth, love, goodness, order – as well as for mystery, paradox, and ambiguity;
  • An increasing ability to reflect, and to learn from this reflection.


Possible actions

  • Promote teaching styles which value pupils’ questions and give them space for their own thoughts, ideas, and concerns;
  • Teachers should be acting as role models of the values desired in pupils
  • Ensure an environment is created where every child may reach their potential regardless of gender, race, disability, or other equalities issues;
  • Help pupils to be aware of their potential and support them to achieve it;
  • Where pupils already have religious or non religious beliefs, support and encourage these beliefs in ways which are personal and relevant to the pupils;
  • Provide opportunities for spiritual development through learning outside the classroom, for example drama, music, art, visits to museums, historic buildings;
  • Encourage pupils to explore and critically analyse what interests and inspires themselves and others;
  • Encourage pupils to reflect and learn from reflection;
  • Encourage individual endeavour and celebrate achievement and success, both within and outside the classroom, such as through drama, sports, music and outdoor pursuits;
  • Encourage pupils to work and cooperate as part of a team;
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to develop leadership skills and challenge so they can take care of themselves and others, and develop self-reliance. celeberty rogane propecia


Enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the law

Desired outcomes

  • Understanding of and respect for the laws of the land;
  • Ability to distinguish right from wrong, based on a knowledge of their own values, those widely held by society, and the laws of the land;
  • An understanding that ‘society’ is held together by a communal understanding of right and wrong, which may change over time;
  • Ability to think through the consequences of their own and others’ actions, and the confidence to act consistently in accordance with agreed principles, and especially to understand the impact that their own actions can have on others;
  • Respect for others’ needs, interests and feelings, as well as their own, and a desire to explore these;
  • Ability to make responsible and reasoned judgements on dilemmas of right and wrong;
  • Willingness and confidence to express their views on ethical issues and personal values;
  • An ability to respond appropriately to the immoral and the illegal;
  • An understanding of the need to review and reassess their values, codes and principles in the light of experience.


Possible actions

  • Teach pupils how today’s legal system has evolved and why it is important, and help them understand the law and the importance of abiding by it;
  • Provide a clear framework of values and behaviours which is promoted consistently through all aspects of the school, with teachers as role models;
  • Inform parents of school ethos and procedures so that what is learnt at school can be supported at home, and ensure this ethos aligns with the law of the land;
  • Give pupils opportunities across the curriculum to explore and develop moral concepts and values, such as right and wrong, justice, personal rights and responsibilities;
  • Reward good insight and behaviour;
  • Teach pupils about citizenship, and the importance of being a good citizen;
  • Discuss in an informed and balanced way breaches of agreed moral codes where they arise, and their impact on society and themselves;
  • Provide models of virtue through literature, humanities, sciences, arts, assemblies, relevant role models, and acts of worship;
  • Reinforce the importance of a cohesive, harmonious, law abiding society though images, posters, classroom displays, exhibitions, etc;
  • Address discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age and other criteria, and promote racial and other forms of equality.


Encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute to community life

Desired outcomes

  • Show respect for people, living things, property and the environment
  • Work effectively and respectfully with other pupils;
  • Share their own views and opinions with others, and work towards understanding and cohesion;
  • Participate in activities relevant to the communities they belong to;
  • Take part in democratic processes available to them, for example, voting or running for a student council;
  • Adjust to a range of social contexts by appropriate and sensitive behaviour;
  • Develop the ability to live alongside those from different cultures and beliefs;
  • Appreciate the rights and responsibilities of individuals within the wider social setting;
  • Reflect on their own contribution to society;
  • Understand how societies function and are organised in structures such as the family, the school and local and wider communities;
  • Understand the notion of interdependence in an increasingly complex society, and also understand that communities and societies function at a variety of levels;
  • Know about sections of society and other people less fortunate than themselves, and what they can do to help.


Possible actions

  • Foster a sense of community, with common and inclusive values which ensure that everyone, irrespective of ethnic origin, nationality, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religious or non-religious beliefs, can flourish;
  • Encourage pupils to work co-operatively;
  • Provide positive group activities, for example, through assemblies, team activities, residential experiences, school theatre and music productions;
  • Encourage pupils to take responsibility for their actions, for example, respect for property, care of the environment, and developing codes of behaviour;
  • School linking or partnership work to give pupils the chance to mix with pupils from different areas/cultures/faith;
  • Help pupils to develop personal qualities which are valued in society, for example, thoughtfulness, honesty, respect for difference and sound moral principles;
  • Provide opportunities for participating in different communities – for example, religious, cultural, local and global;
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to exercise leadership and responsibility;
  • Ensure that through lessons and other formal and informal settings opportunities are provided for pupils to demonstrate initiative, develop their interests and organise activities for themselves and others.


Provide pupils with a broad general knowledge of public institutions and services in England

Desired outcomes

  • A thorough understanding of British public institutions and services along with knowledge of how to use them and willingness to do so;
  • Understand what the public institutions and services do for people throughout the country;
  • Take part in democratic processes, for example, voting for or joining a student council;
  • Understand how citizens can express their views through the democratic process so they can influence decision makers;
  • Appreciate the rights and responsibilities of individuals within the wider social setting
  • Understand the strengths and advantages of democracy and how democracy works in the context of Britain and Europe in contrast to other forms of government


Possible actions

  • Teach pupils about democracy and citizenship, and the importance of being a good citizen;
  • Ensure that all pupils within the school have a voice that is listened to;
  • Ensure that pupils are aware of their rights and the rights of others as human beings;
  • Teach pupils about what public institutions and services are available, what they are for, and how they are funded;
  • Provide positive and effective links with the world of work (for example, shadowing, work experience, and visits from professionals) and the wider community (for example school visits, including to public institutions, taking part in community events);
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to learn about and engage in local and national democratic processes, including having democratic processes within the school such as a school council whose members are voted for by the pupils.


Assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions

Desired outcomes

  • An ability to recognise and understand their own cultural principles and values, and the dynamic and developmental nature of these;
  • An understanding of the influences which have shaped their own cultural heritage;
  • An ability to appreciate cultural diversity and accord dignity and respect to other people’s values and beliefs, to challenge racism, and to value race equality;
  • Tolerance of people with different cultural, religious, and non-religious beliefs;
  • Ability to interact positively with people of different cultural, religious, and non-religious beliefs.


Possible actions

  • Provide opportunities for pupils to explore their own cultural assumptions and values;
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to participate in literature, drama, music, art, crafts and other cultural events and encourage pupils to reflect on their significance;
  • Provide opportunities for pupils to mix with children from other cultures, for example through school linking programmes;
  • Give pupils the opportunity to explore different values, beliefs, and cultures through a variety of approaches, including discussion and debate, in order to gain understanding;
  • Present authentic accounts of the attitudes, values and traditions of diverse cultures;
  • Develop partnerships with outside agencies and individuals to extend pupils’ cultural awareness, for example, theatre, museum, concert and gallery visits, resident artists and foreign exchanges;
  • Audit the quality and nature of opportunities for pupils to extend their cultural development across the curriculum, particularly developing an understanding of the cultures of the UK.



Improving the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) Development of Pupils.  Non-Statutory Guidance for Independent Schools



  • DCSF.  Improving the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) Development of Pupils.  Non-Statutory Guidance for Independent Schools
  • Ofsted.  School inspection handbook from September 2012

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