What is SMSC?

It's a good question - especially as Ofsted are now very keen to see effective SMSC provision in all primary schools

We've searched the web and found the following definitions for you...

Spiritual Development

… of all experiences, it is the spiritual which, it seems, is most resistant to operational definition. At its worst, attempts to pin it down lead only to a greater awareness of its intangibility and pervasiveness.

Best, R. ‘Introduction: Where are we going with SMSC?’ in Education for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development. London, Continuum, 2000. Page 10.


Spiritual development relates to that aspect of inner life through which pupils acquire insights into their personal experience which are of enduring worth. It is characterised by reflection, the attribution of meaning to experience, valuing a non-material dimension to life and intimations of an enduring reality. ‘Spiritual’ is not synonymous with ‘religious’; all areas of the curriculum may contribute to pupils’ spiritual development.

Handbook for the Inspection of Schools. Part 4. Inspection Schedule Guidance. Consolidated Edition, 1994. HMSO, 1994. Page 86.


…individuals to make sense of these questions, and about what it does to help form pupils’ response to life and various forms of experience, or even to questions about the universe.

Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Development: An Ofsted Discussion Paper. Ofsted, 1994. Page 8.


Where schools foster successfully pupils’ self-awareness and understanding of the world around them and spiritual questions and issues, they will be developing a set of values, principles and beliefs – which may or may not be religious – to inform their perspective on life and their behaviour. They will defend their beliefs, challenge unfairness and all that would constrain their personal growth, for example, poverty of aspiration, lack of self-confidence and belief, aggression, greed, injustice, narrowness of vision and all forms of discrimination.

Handbook for Inspecting Secondary Schools. Ofsted, 2003. Page 67. Similar statements appear in other handbooks.


Spiritual development is 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’.

Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral,social and cultural development. Ofsted. March 2004. Page 12


Moral Development

...a framework of moral values which regulate personal behaviour… through teaching and promoting principles rather than through reward or fear of punishment.

Handbook for Inspecting Secondary Schools. Ofsted, 1999. Page 68. A similar statement appears in other handbooks.


Moral development is about the building, by pupils, of a framework of moral values 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.

Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral,social and cultural development. Ofsted. March 2004. Page 15


Social Development

....pupils who are socially aware adjust appropriately and sensitively to a range of social contexts. They relate well to others and work successfully as a member of a team. Older pupils share their views and opinions and work towards trying to reach a sensible solution to problems. They show respect for people, living things, property and the environment.

Handbook for Inspecting Nursery and Primary Schools. Ofsted, 2003. Page 57. An identical statement appears in other handbooks.


Social development is about 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. It is about functioning effectively in a multi-racial, multicultural society. 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 interpersonal skills necessary for successful relationships.

Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral,social and cultural development. Ofsted. March 2004. Page 19


Cultural Development

• to enable young people to recognise, explore and understand their own cultural assumptions and values

• to enable young people to embrace and understand cultural diversity by bringing them into contact with attitudes, values and traditions of other cultures

• to encourage an historical perspective by relating contemporary values to the processes and events that have shaped them

• to enable young people to understand the evolutionary nature of culture and the processes and potential for change.

All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education, National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education. DfEE and DCMS, 1999. Page 48.


Cultural development is about pupils’ understanding 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, 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.

Promoting and evaluating pupils’ spiritual, moral,social and cultural development. Ofsted. March 2004. Page 23

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