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23 Mar 2023

SMSC in Education: Everything you need to know

Part of our Teacher Toolkit Series

Whether you're new to teaching, or just want to brush up on your knowledge of SMSC, this post will provide you with everything you need to know, covering the following areas, and including a free SMSC Policy template:



SMSC stands for Spiritual, Moral, Social, and Cultural development, which refers to the broader personal development of children and young people. It encompasses a wide range of values, beliefs, and experiences that shape an individual's identity and understanding of the world around them. SMSC is a crucial aspect of education, as it helps children and young people develop a strong sense of self and an awareness of their place in society.

SMSC is a vital part of education, as it helps children and young people to develop into well-rounded, thoughtful, and respectful individuals. By promoting spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development, schools can help students develop a sense of identity and purpose, as well as an awareness of their place in society. This, in turn, can help to promote social cohesion and understanding, as well as contributing to the overall well-being and happiness of students.

Moreover, SMSC is also an essential part of the Ofsted framework for schools in the UK. Schools are required to promote the spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of their students, and evidence of this development is assessed as part of the Ofsted inspection process. As such, SMSC is not only important for the personal development of students but also for the overall performance and success of schools.

The four components of SMSC: Spiritual, Moral, Social, and Cultural


Spiritual development refers to the development of a sense of identity and belonging, as well as an understanding of life's purpose and meaning. It includes exploring and developing an individual's own beliefs, values, and experiences, as well as respecting the beliefs and experiences of others.


Moral development relates to the development of a sense of right and wrong, as well as an understanding of how to behave in a way that is consistent with one's own values and beliefs. It also involves developing empathy and respect for others and their beliefs.


Social development is about developing relationships with others and understanding how to interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures. It involves learning about social norms, customs, and traditions, as well as developing social skills and the ability to communicate effectively.


Cultural development involves understanding and appreciating the richness and diversity of different cultures, and the ability to interact respectfully with people from different backgrounds. It involves learning about different customs, traditions, and beliefs, as well as understanding the historical and social contexts that shape them.

SMSC & The National Curriculum

As we’ve mentioned earlier, SMSC is a crucial part of the education system. But you may be wondering how it fits into the National Curriculum? Well, let's delve into that!

The National Curriculum outlines the skills and knowledge that students should acquire in different key stages. It’s divided into different subjects and themes, and each one has SMSC woven into it.

In primary schools, SMSC is an essential part of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. Students learn about different cultures and religions, how to be a responsible citizen, and how to respect and appreciate others.

In secondary schools, SMSC is integrated into many subjects, such as English, history, and geography. For instance, in history classes, students learn about different societies and cultures and how they’ve evolved over time. In geography, they learn about different countries, climates, and how people adapt to different environments.


What does SMSC look like in different Key Stages?


Key Stage 1 (KS1)
Children sat smiling and listening at school

In Key Stage 1 SMSC looks like:

  • Spiritual: Understanding and valuing feelings and emotions; exploring and understanding different religions and beliefs.

  • Moral: Recognizing right from wrong; developing a sense of fairness; understanding the consequences of actions.

  • Social: Developing positive relationships with others; recognizing and respecting differences in others.
  • Cultural: Learning about different cultures, traditions and celebrations; understanding the importance of diversity.

Key Stage 2 (KS2)
key stage 2 pupil learning with teacher

In Key Stage 2 SMSC looks like:

  • Spiritual: Reflecting on the world around us; exploring beliefs, values and meaning; understanding the concept of spirituality.

  • Moral: Understanding the importance of rules and laws; making ethical judgements; developing a sense of responsibility and empathy.

  • Social: Developing effective communication and teamwork skills; learning to manage conflicts and disagreements; developing an understanding of different cultures and beliefs.
  • Cultural: Understanding and celebrating the diversity of our society; developing a sense of identity and belonging; exploring how culture impacts our daily lives.

Key Stage 3 (KS3)

secondary aged pupils sat learning in school


In Key Stage 3 SMSC looks like:

  • Spiritual: Exploring personal values and beliefs; reflecting on the big questions of life; understanding the importance of spirituality in our lives.

  • Moral: Developing a strong sense of personal morality; learning to make ethical and moral decisions; understanding how our actions impact others.

  • Social: Developing healthy relationships and social skills; learning about social justice and human rights; exploring the impact of social, economic and political factors on our society.
  • Cultural: Understanding cultural diversity and the impact of culture on our lives; learning to appreciate cultural heritage and traditions; exploring how cultural identity shapes who we are.

Key Stage 4 (KS4)

college aged students learning

In Key Stage 4 SMSC looks like:

  • Spiritual: Developing a personal sense of meaning and purpose; exploring the concept of spirituality in different cultures and religions; learning to express personal beliefs and values.

  • Moral: Developing a strong ethical framework for decision-making; understanding the role of law and justice in society; exploring complex moral dilemmas.

  • Social: Developing strong communication and teamwork skills; understanding the importance of social responsibility; exploring the impact of social, economic and political factors on our world.
  • Cultural: Understanding the importance of cultural heritage and tradition; exploring the impact of globalisation on culture; developing a global perspective on cultural diversity.


OFSTED considers SMSC to be a crucial aspect of a school's provision and looks for evidence of SMSC development during school inspections. OFSTED inspects schools' effectiveness in promoting SMSC under the Personal Development, Behaviour and Welfare (PDBW) judgement. Inspectors evaluate how well the school provides a wide range of experiences and opportunities that promote pupils' personal development, behaviour, and welfare.

Schools can demonstrate their promotion of SMSC by ensuring that SMSC development is embedded in the curriculum, policies, and practices of the school. This includes providing a range of opportunities and experiences that promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development, such as assemblies, visits, guest speakers, and extracurricular activities. Schools should also develop a comprehensive framework for assessing and monitoring pupils' SMSC development.

In addition, schools should have a clear understanding of the values and principles underpinning SMSC and actively promote them throughout the school community. This includes promoting fundamental British values, such as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. These Personal Development Sheets show exactly what Ofsted are looking for

Strategic thinking
step 1 of 4

Identify SMSC opportunities

Teachers should identify opportunities within their subject areas to promote SMSC development. They can do this by reviewing their lesson plans and looking for opportunities to incorporate themes related to spirituality, morality, social and cultural development.

Child in school using lego to learn
step 2 of 4

Plan SMSC-focused lessons

Teachers can plan specific lessons with SMSC objectives in mind, and incorporate relevant activities to support students' SMSC development. This could include discussions about different cultures, sharing experiences of spirituality or religion, or exploring moral dilemmas in literature.

Guest in SMSC assembly
step 3 of 4

Make use of external resources

There are numerous external resources available to schools that can support SMSC development, including workshops, assemblies, and guest speakers. Schools can also utilize resources such as films, books, and online resources that promote SMSC themes.

School cake sale for SMSC
step 4 of 4

Engage parents and the wider community

Schools can engage parents and the wider community in SMSC development by organizing events that promote cultural awareness and understanding. This could include multicultural festivals, inviting guest speakers to talk about their experiences, or organizing fundraising events for local charities.

The role of SMSC assemblies and other school-wide events in promoting SMSC

Assemblies and other whole-school events can be an effective way to promote SMSC, by creating a sense of shared purpose and community. Here are some examples of how schools can use these events to promote SMSC:

  • Inviting guest speakers or performers from different backgrounds and perspectives, to help broaden students' understanding of the world.
  • Using themes or topics that relate to SMSC in assemblies and other events, such as compassion, respect, or intercultural communication.
  • Creating opportunities for student-led presentations or performances that showcase their understanding and engagement with SMSC.

Take it even further:

In addition to these strategies, schools can also use events such as sports days, cultural fairs, or charity fundraisers as a way to promote SMSC. These events can provide opportunities for students to develop their social and teamwork skills, as well as their sense of empathy and responsibility towards others.


One example of how schools can promote SMSC through events is by organising a cultural exchange programme. This could involve partnering with a school from a different cultural or ethnic background, and arranging for students to participate in joint activities and events. This can help to foster understanding and respect between different communities, as well as providing opportunities for students to develop their communication and teamwork skills.


Another way schools can promote SMSC through events is by organising community projects. This could involve partnering with local charities or community organisations, and arranging for students to volunteer their time and skills to help others. This can help to develop students' sense of social responsibility and empathy towards others, as well as providing opportunities for them to develop their leadership and organisational skills.


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Examples of SMSC in Different Types of Schools

When it comes to promoting SMSC, different types of schools may approach it in slightly different ways, depending on their ethos and values. Here are some examples of how SMSC can be promoted in different types of schools:

SMSC in Primary Schools:

In primary schools, promoting SMSC often involves creating a nurturing and supportive environment where students can feel valued and respected. This may include activities such as circle time, where students can share their thoughts and feelings in a safe and supportive setting, or opportunities for students to participate in school-wide events such as sports days or cultural festivals. Primary schools may also use stories, songs, or art activities to explore themes such as friendship, empathy, or fairness.

SMSC in Secondary Schools:

In secondary schools, promoting SMSC may involve encouraging students to take responsibility for their own learning and personal development. This may include opportunities for students to participate in leadership roles, peer mentoring, or community service projects. Secondary schools may also use debating, drama, or other interactive activities to explore ethical or moral issues and encourage critical thinking.

SMSC in Catholic & Church of England Schools:

Catholic & Church of England Schools promote Christian values such as compassion, forgiveness, and social justice. These schools provide a supportive and inclusive community where students can develop their spiritual and moral understanding in the context of their faith. Students also have opportunities to participate in community service projects, charity fundraisers, or social justice campaigns that align with their religious values.

In Catholic schools, the promotion of SMSC is often linked to Catholic social teaching, which includes principles such as the dignity of the human person, the common good, and solidarity. Catholic schools may organize retreats, pilgrimages, or other religious events to help students deepen their faith and understanding of Catholic values. Students are also encouraged to develop their social skills and empathy towards others through volunteering, charity work, or community service.

Similarly, Church of England schools promote SMSC through the lens of Christian values, such as love, respect, and service. These schools provide a space for students to explore their spiritual beliefs and develop their moral understanding in the context of their faith. Church of England schools may organize collective worship, prayer groups, or reflection sessions to help students deepen their faith and understanding of Christian values. Students also have opportunities to participate in community service projects or social action initiatives that align with their religious values.


Writing an SMSC policy for your school


Writing an SMSC policy can be a daunting task, but with a clear plan and some guidance, it can be easily accomplished. Here's a step-by-step guide for teachers in the UK on how to write an SMSC policy:


Step 1: Understand what SMSC is


Before you can begin writing your policy, it's important to have a solid understanding of what SMSC is. SMSC stands for Spiritual, Moral, Social, and Cultural development, and it's a key aspect of education in the UK. Essentially, SMSC is about helping students develop a range of personal and social skills that will enable them to become well-rounded, responsible, and engaged members of society.


Step 2: Gather information


The next step is to gather information about SMSC and how it's implemented in your school. This might involve speaking to other teachers, consulting with the school's leadership team, and looking at any relevant policies or guidance documents.


Step 3: Define your school's values


An SMSC policy should reflect the values and ethos of your school. Take some time to think about the key values that underpin your school's approach to education. For example, your school might place a strong emphasis on respect, collaboration, or creativity. These values should be reflected in your policy.


Step 4: Define the key aspects of SMSC


Now that you have a clear understanding of SMSC and have gathered information about how it's implemented in your school, it's time to define the key aspects of SMSC that your policy will focus on. This might include aspects such as promoting respect for diversity, developing students' empathy and understanding of others, fostering a sense of community, promoting ethical and responsible behaviour, and encouraging reflection and self-awareness.


Step 5: Outline how SMSC will be delivered


Once you have defined the key aspects of SMSC that your policy will focus on, it's important to outline how SMSC will be delivered in your school. This might include specific activities or programmes that will be implemented, such as peer mentoring or community service projects. You may also want to outline how SMSC will be integrated into the wider curriculum, and how it will be supported by staff training and development.


Step 6: Define how the policy will be monitored


Finally, it's important to define how the policy will be monitored and evaluated. This might involve setting up a system for regular review and feedback, and identifying key metrics or indicators that will be used to measure the effectiveness of the policy. You may also want to outline how parents and students will be involved in the monitoring process, and how feedback will be used to inform future developments in SMSC provision.


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