Delivering SMSC – Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development

Developing students spiritually, morally, socially and culturally (SMSC) has never been so important. A great education should cover these aspects regardless of what Ofsted or government policy dictate. Providing high quality SMSC lessons and learning opportunities in schools is also important due to the following:


  • SMSC development lessons support the bridging of the gap between social and economic circumstances by exploring a range of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural issues.
  • Developing Social and Emotional skills improves academic performance according to Professor Joseph Durlak. Social skills can be improved through SMSC development learning opportunities.
  • RSA research shows that SMSC helps students to feel safe.
  • In the wake of recent terror attacks, it is more important than ever that we educate about cultural diversity and beliefs

SMSC guidance

The DfE detail how British values should be promoted as a part of SMSC we also offer advice on delivering British values here. Developing outstanding SMSC has to be a process over time; it is not about reciting list of facts or processes. SMSC is a deeper, fundamental concept, which needs to be nurtured throughout a child’s education.

Outstanding SMSC

Ofsted evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the provision for pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development when making a final judgement. The 2015 Ofsted inspection handbook explains that a weakness in provision for student SMSC development could lead to being judged to require improvement or even as inadequate. This goes on to state that an outstanding school will place SMSC development and within this, the promotion of British values at the heart of the school’s work. 

Make sure that SMSC is at the heart of your school by delivering specific timetabled lessons covering SMSC and the fundamental British values. LessonSource can provide great lessons covering these issues which will eliminate teacher planning. The SMSC Bundles are fully mapped out against Ofsted and DfE guidance

According to Ofsted Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural development are defined in the following ways:

  • A student’s 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
  • A 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.
  • A students 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 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.
  • Understanding and appreciation of the wide range of cultural influences that have shaped their own heritage and those of others
  • Understanding and appreciation of the range of different cultures within school and further afield as an essential element of their preparation for life in modern Britain
  • Knowledge of Britain’s democratic parliamentary system and its central role in shaping our history and values, and in continuing to develop
  • 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, respect and celebrate diversity, as shown by their tolerance and attitudes towards different religious, ethnic and socioeconomic groups in the local, national and global communities

Lesson observations

SMSC should also be tracked on lesson observations; percentages of lessons evidencing SMSC, and percentages of good or better lessons with SMSC. A lot of observations are now electronic which can make it easy to track SMSC performance. Teachers should track their own performance of SMSC for their professional development files, especially when nearing pay grade threshold, or on performance related pay. Heads of department or faculty must also maintain an overview of SMSC performance within their subject, as must the Senior leadership team in order to maintain a clear whole school overview of SMSC.


No matter what you teach, you are responsible for delivering SMSC, it’s essential to stay tuned to the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of your students and look out for opportunities to discuss issues that impact on your students lives. There can be pressure on teachers to produce results, which can make lesson time become overly focused on subject content, leaving wider issues unaddressed. For example DT teachers should look for opportunities to design around cultures and when making, the ethics of sustainability can readily be addressed. However, often teachers are asked to deliver SMSC or PSHE as a part of their timetabled teaching commitment. Planning for this in schools can be difficult but there are plenty of places to find great lessons and resources to suit the needs of your students. SMSC is becoming a subject in it’s own right but because it is delivered by teachers across a whole school and not one small faculty, consistency in delivery and resource preparation can be difficult to co-ordinate, which is why so many schools opt to use externally provided resources.

Long term, whole school

Having a clear, long term plan for how and when spiritual, moral, social and cultural development will take place is essential. Events and experiences need to be planned, from year 7 through to year 13.

Cross curricula tracking

While a some aspects of SMSC development can be delivered through a range of curriculum subjects, it’s important to keep an up-to-date, cross curricula tracking map (available here). With new Ofsted and DfE guidance on British values, more and more schools are now opting to deliver a timetabled, weekly lesson of SMSC, often in combination with PSHE. To ease planning and resource provision, lesson content packages are often bought in from external providers.

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