Spiritual, moral, social and cultural development (SMSC)

SMSC is essential for children and young people’s individual development, as well as the development of society as a whole.

Ofsted highlights the importance of SMSC as central to the development and growth of pupils as people and at the heart of what teachers would say education is all about.

The significance of SMSC

SMSC has been part of education since the 1944 education act and was around in earlier forms before that. It can sum up what a good school is all about – preparing children and young people to live full, active lives as part of their community and into adulthood.

Many school mission statements have a strong emphasis on SMSC. Aspirations to be a safe, happy school where children and young people can fulfil their potential and appreciate others, for instance, express some of the core elements of SMSC.

Ofsted stresses the importance of SMSC. It’s part of the inspection framework. Clear guidelines were set out in the subsidiary guidance to inspectors for inspectors to investigate the impact of of the curriculum on pupils’ SMSC development.

This is a good source of information if you are looking for a basic understanding of how SMSC is defined and evaluated.

Some assume spiritual development is about religious exploration or faith, but this is not the case – this subject is covered in religious studies or equivalent subjects, the spiritual in SMSC is concerned with developing the non-material aspects of life, focusing on personal insight, values, meaning and purpose. Beliefs that help provide perspective on life may be rooted in a religion, but equally may not. Creativity and imagination is important, as is a sense of fascination, awe and wonder.

The moral element is largely about choices, behaviour and how you live your life. It’s also about personal and societal values, understanding the reasons for them and airing and understanding disagreements. Sessions in tutor time or assemblies, or in class, might explore the consequences of decisions, other people’s needs, and ways of learning from experience.

Social development shows pupils working together effectively, relating well to adults and participating in the local community. This element of SMSC includes a significant area of personal growth, ranging from engagement with society’s institutions to the skills for successful personal relationships.

Cultural development is about understanding and feeling comfortable in a variety of cultures. schools might create opportunities for pupils to experience art, theatre and travel. Valuing cultural diversity and challenging racism is important. [British red Cross 2017]

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