Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development in Schools

What is SMSCD?


SMSCD stands for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. All schools in England must show how well their pupils develop in SMSCD. SMSCD is now particularly important to Ofsted. SMSCD provides an opportunity to serve or connect with schools, as schools often value input from churches/Christians to their SMSCD.


Below are some definitions of each aspect of SMSCD that might be helpful. Ofsted definitions are taken from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook from September 2015.



Explore beliefs and experience; respect faiths, feelings and values; enjoy learning about oneself, others and the surrounding world; use imagination and creativity; reflect.

Ofsted definition of 'spiritual development':


Pupils’ spiritual development is shown by their:

  • ability to be reflective about their own beliefs, religious or otherwise, that inform their perspective on life and their interest in and respect for different people’s faiths, feelings and values

  • sense of enjoyment and fascination in learning about themselves, others and the world around them

  • use of imagination and creativity in their learning willingness to reflect on their experiences.



Recognise right and wrong; respect the law; understand consequences; investigate moral and ethical issues; offer reasoned views.

Ofsted definition of 'moral development':

Pupils’ moral development is shown by their:

  • ability to recognise the difference between right and wrong and to readily apply this understanding in their own lives, recognise legal boundaries and, in so doing, respect the civil and criminal law of England

  • understanding of the consequences of their behaviour and actions

  • interest in investigating and offering reasoned views about moral and ethical issues and ability to understand and appreciate the viewpoints of others on these issues.



Use a range of social skills; participate in the local community; appreciate diverse viewpoints; participate, volunteer and cooperate; resolve conflict; engage with the 'British values' of democracy, the rule of law, liberty, respect and tolerance.

Ofsted definition of 'social development':

Pupils’ social development is shown by their:

  • use of a range of social skills in different contexts, for example working and socialising with other pupils, including those from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds

  • willingness to participate in a variety of communities and social settings, including by volunteering, co-operating well with others and being able to resolve conflicts effectively

  • acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; they develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.



Appreciate cultural influences; appreciate the role of Britain's parliamentary system; participate in culture opportunities; understand, accept, respect and celebrate diversity.



Assembly idea

There is an excellent assembly idea from Schoolswork called 'Do you have a spiritual side?' exploring the different layers of your personality, related to Russian dolls. Sets of blank Russian dolls can be bought from this website.


Visit the Transition page on our website for ideas around the transition from primary to secondary school in relation to SMSCD.

Activity ideas

Our 'Live Life Better' ideas sheet with 25 suggestions of things to do, is a great activity to do to get thinking about and getting involved in the SMSCD ideas above. It was written with children and young people in mind, but most of the ideas are suitable for all ages.

This great resource 50 Questions to get kids talking can be a great conversation starter to use with children to get them talking about their day and school life, whether you're a teacher, chaplain or parent.