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SMSC: What Could Be More Necessary?

Simple words, but powerful. We all feel it – the environment we live in today – society – it’s a challenge. We need to be strong for ourselves and each other. So, what an inspiration it was to see and hear people talking about the development of ‘character’ in children.

Monday 18th September was one of the most exciting days I have had as an educator. It was the launch of the National SMSC Quality Mark at the House of Lords. It was a day of inspiring speeches, surrounded by like-minded educators, politicians and professionals – all there in the interests of the young people of our country. There was also some lovely cream tea & cake! It was fantastic day out but to hear the speakers talking about things that I am passionate about was incredible.

(NB: although the invite says National Primary School SMSC Quality Mark, it has been decided that it will be rolled out to secondary as well).

The Speeches

Jim or Lord Jim or Lord Knight, (apparently, he is quite easy-going about his title), began the proceedings. He spoke of how as educators we concentrate on knowledge and skills yet character education is so important.

Steve Chalke, OBE was an inspiration. He spent time with Native Americans on their reserve and recounted a story the Elder told…

What a fantastic story! So, as educators, parents, and human beings, which wolf would you like to help young people feed?

Steve said, as individuals when we are stressed, the ‘real’ us comes out, like a stick of Brighton Rock. Thus, the life skills taught as part of SMSC can be taken forward and embedded into students’ lives like the words running through the stick of rock.

Golden threads of character

It was heart-warming to see the range of schools, from privileged backgrounds to deprived areas in the country all talking about how wonderful their students were and how they instil values into the curriculum. It was touching to receive a key from Abbey Catholic Primary School in Birmingham. David Harris explained how all the students are given a key; on the front is the list of school values (not rules!) and on the back they have to write something they will work on to be a better person. How lovely! It’s had a great response from parents who have noticed a difference in their children.

Sam Done, the Principal of Hillcrest Academy in Leeds, spoke with passion about the welfare of his students. Hillcrest is in the 8th most deprived area of the country and Ofsted said SMSC is the ‘golden thread’ running through their school. That’s pretty poetic for Ofsted! I looked up their Ofsted report – do have a look at the last bullet point in the first column and the first two bullet points in the second column.

No wonder the Principal was delighted, but he said he was most proud of not the results but of the personal development of the students. It certainly put a lump in my throat as he spoke with such pride of the students at his school.

According to Ofsted, an ‘outstanding’ school ‘will have a ‘thoughtful and wide-ranging promotion of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’. Janet Palmer (former HMI & National Lead for PSHE) reinforced the previous speakers’ points stating ‘Supporting pupils’ SMSC development is crucial because it is those difficult to measure qualities such as empathy, cultural understanding, generosity and a capacity for joy, that are most important for a civilized society’.

The tide is turning

The National SMSC Quality Mark demonstrates a changing in the tide in education to consider the whole child not just the academic. I couldn’t welcome this more. It considers the whole school community. It is a supportive process rather than an inspection. It is a celebration of what you do already.

This work brings together all my passions within education – teacher & student wellbeing, diversity, equity, PSHE, SRE, Mental Health, values. In short SMSC within schools.

What all the speakers had in common (including Lord Sudbury who had a sudden tirade against celebrity culture and money grabbing lawyers) was they all talked about the importance of character, values, empathy, kindness, compassion, resilience, discerning young people and young people knowing their place in the global community.

As Jim Knight said, in our current national & global climate, ‘what could be more necessary?’

Watch highlights of the launch of the SMSC Quality Mark here

For more information have a look at the website If you would like me to do some SMSC CPD or to complete your verification at your school, please contact Victoria Quijada asking for me directly at 020 7566 5036

So, what is SMSC? SMSC stands for spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. All schools in England & Wales must show how well their pupils develop in SMSC.

I am part of the working party with the Citizenship Foundation. As a former PSHE lead, and responsible for embedding SMSC into Teaching & Learning I relished the opportunity to be involved in this. I am working with fantastic consultants and teachers across the country and the experience around the table is incredible. It is fabulous working with a team who all have the same aim in mind; how can we help schools promote and embed SMSC into their schools in a supportive, developmental process.

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