• Daniel O'Brien

What does outstanding SMSC in primary schools look like

The definition of outstanding SMSC provision in primary schools has become less clear cut, since the 2019 Ofsted framework came out.


Spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development has been inspected by Ofsted since 2012. In the previous framework (2015), SMSC appeared in the grade descriptors for leadership and management. However in the 2019 framework, SMSC appears under the new judgement of personal development, along with citizenship and British values.


To receive an outstanding judgement for personal development (and thus SMSC), according to the 2019 inspection handbook, primary schools need to do the following:


· The school meets all the criteria for good in personal development securely and consistently.

· Personal development is exceptional.

In addition, the following apply:

· The school consistently promotes the extensive personal development of pupils. The school goes beyond the expected, so that pupils have access to a wide, rich set of experiences. Opportunities for pupils to develop their talents and interests are of exceptional quality.

· There is strong take-up by pupils of the opportunities provided by the school. The most disadvantaged pupils consistently benefit from this excellent work.

· The school provides these rich experiences in a coherently planned way, in the curriculum and through extra-curricular activities, and they considerably strengthen the school’s offer.

· The way the school goes about developing pupils’ character is exemplary and is worthy of being shared with others.

(page 62 of the 2019 Ofsted School Inspection Handbook)


The handbook says inspectors will look at a number of indicators to evaluate whether personal development provision is outstanding. This includes:


· the breadth, quality and take-up of extra-curricular activities

· how subjects such as citizenship and RE, and areas such as PSHE, support pupils’ personal development

· how well leaders promote British values through the curriculum and broader activities

· how well leaders develop pupils’ character through education provision

· where appropriate, the quality of debate and discussions

· pupils’ understanding of protected characteristics and how equality and diversity are promoted


The handbook lists a number of bullet points that outline what should be included in the provision of each area: spiritual development, moral development, social development and cultural development. See pages 59-60 of the 2019 Ofsted Inspection Handbook for the full detail.

A tool like the Gridmaker will help schools to evidence outstanding SMSC provision, by making it easy for teachers to record brief details about a lesson or activity and map it to relevant SMSC criteria. School leaders can then use the information to analyse evidence and impact.

© 2020 GridMaker is an OPEUS product by TDK Business Technologies Ltd

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