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Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development in Schools

What is SMSC Development?


Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development is the over-arching umbrella that encompasses personal development across the whole curriculum. All schools in England must show how well their pupils develop in SMSC development. SMSC development is now particularly important to Ofsted. It provides an opportunity to serve or connect with schools, as schools often value input from churches/Christians.


Below are some definitions of each aspect of SMSC development that might be helpful. Ofsted definitions are taken from the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook from September 2019Visit the SMSC Quality Mark website for more information.


The spiritual development of pupils is shown by their:

  • ability to be reflective about their own beliefs (religious or otherwise) and perspective on life

  • knowledge of, 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.



The moral development of pupils 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.



The social development of pupils 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, cooperating 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.



The cultural development of pupils is shown by their:

  • understanding and appreciation of the wide range of cultural influences that have shaped their own heritage and that of others

  • understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures in the school and further afield as an essential element of their preparation for life in modern Britain

  • ability to recognise, and value, the things we share in common across
    cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic communities

  • knowledge of Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its central role in shaping our history and values, and in continuing to develop Britain

  • willingness to participate in and respond positively to artistic, musical, sporting and cultural opportunities

  • interest in exploring, improving understanding of and showing respect for different faiths and cultural diversity and the extent to which they understand, accept and respect diversity. This is shown by their respect and attitudes towards different religious, ethnic and socio-economic groups in the local, national and global communities.



School Transition

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

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 SMSC development 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 from HerViewFromHome has 50 Questions to get kids talking which 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.

50 questions sheet
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