05 Oct How is SMSC in a school ‘strategic’?
Bill Moore is the author of the Modern Governor module on SMSC and a former local authority adviser on RE & Citizenship. He is an adviser to local authority SACRE committees, currently teaches in a secondary school and is a consultant on RE, SMSC and citizenship. In this guest post he shares some introductory thoughts around the importance of SMSC and how governors might start to think about this important yet often misunderstood area.
It is sometimes too easy to think that all Ofsted is looking for during inspection is the achievement and attainment of pupils, and unfortunately experience of some inspections may reinforce this impression. However, as stated in the inspection handbook:
“Inspectors must use all their evidence to evaluate what it is like to be a pupil in the school.”
School Inspection Handbook, August 2015, p34, para 125 (emphasis added)
SMSC – the Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural elements of education – is seen as a significant aspect of this and, although not graded as a separate judgement, can determine whether a school is placed in a category.
If schools can get SMSC ‘right’ for their pupils and themselves, it can make a significant contribution to outstanding provision. This is a bold statement. Let me unpick it a little bit…
SMSC is about school improvement
SMSC is about the quality of leadership and teaching that provide the best climate and environment for learning for the pupils in your school so that they achieve the best they can in all aspects of school life. Leadership, including governance, creates, shapes and maintains the ethos of the school, based on shared values and purposes, enabling buy-in from all stakeholders in a school’s life and a commitment to work together for the benefit of all. It shapes attitudes to learning, to positive collaboration and a sense of shared success & challenge.
By taking SMSC seriously, schools address these aspects of leadership for all and have the opportunity to revisit, share and engage with the values and purpose of an institution. The spiritual dimensions of teaching and learning focus on thinking creatively and reflecting on experiences – including the learning experience – which help us to learn to overcome obstacles and to develop resilience. The moral, social and cultural dimensions help to root learning in pupils’ experience and the world as lived and experienced by them, their families and communities. There are opportunities across the whole curriculum and school experience including, but obviously not restricted to, collective worship and assemblies, both to promote and to evaluate the impact of SMSC.
Schools also have a duty to promote ‘British values’, and there has been a lot of concern about this, and also much misunderstanding. Ofsted mostly uses the phrase ‘prepare pupils for life in modern Britain’, a facet of school provision that makes educational sense. This is not done separately; it is achieved through SMSC, as part of the whole school provision (see the DfE guidance). Engaging all pupils, and indeed the whole school community in the question of what it means to be British, what things are of utmost importance in life and what kinds of people and society we want to create, will help develop an aspirational ethos, a sense of moral purpose and a vibrant learning community for all.
SMSC is strategic
It is vital that this is done in an educational context. Exploring SMSC as a whole school provides the opportunity to ask key questions such as:
- What is school for?
- What do pupils need to know – what is the best curriculum for this school?
- What attitudes and dispositions do we want our pupils to develop?
- What qualities do we want our pupils to have by the time they leave this school?
Governors have a crucial role to play as part of their statutory role to shape the strategic vision of the school. SMSC gives us the vehicle for collaborative whole-school development and realisation of this vision – as part of the school’s leadership team governors must take the wheel to direct our learners – both adults and children – towards a better destination.
Questions for your governing board
- What is our school doing to engage pupils in an exploration of what it means to be British?
- What difference does SMSC make in the classroom? How do we know?
- Is there a senior member of staff leading SMSC and British values? Is this person supported by the headteacher and governors? What CPD does s/he need?
- How does SMSC inform whole school priorities such as learning and teaching, behaviour, safeguarding, pupil voice and staff appointments?
- How does all this improve learning and outcomes for our pupils?
These questions are a selection from those included in the Governors and SMSC section of the new Modern Governor Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural module, which is released this week and will be immediately available to all Modern Governor subscribers. If your governing or trust board does not yet susbcribe then you and any of your fellow-governors can get a free 30 day trial of Modern Governor’s mobile-friendly e-learning modules in a couple of minutes – all each governor needs is access to a working email address.