Whole-school SMSC implementation: case study

Promoting SMSC in school is more important than ever as schools must prove they are providing more than an academic education. Suzanne O’Connell finds out how to successfully get the whole school on board

Author details

Suzanne O'Connell has more than 25 years' teaching experience, 11 years of which were as a junior school headteacher. She has a particular interest in special needs, child protection and extended services and is currently a writer, editor and...

Sch​ool information

Name of school: Torpoint Nursery and Infant School
Type of school: community
Number on roll: 332
Headteacher: Elisabeth Carney-Haworth  
Pupil premium: average
SEN: below average
Other information: a quarter of pupils are from Armed Forces families

‘SMSC is simply at the heart of everything we do. It’s not a bolt on.’ This is how Lis Carney-Haworth, headteacher at Torpoint Nursery and Infant School, explains the praise Ofsted gave them for their SMSC provision.

Their glowing Ofsted report describes SMSC provision as excellent and yet Lis is keen to emphasise that they had done very little to change it in the past few years.

‘It worries me that schools are approaching their SMSC development as some kind of spreadsheet exercise. They are trying to break it down into parts and allocate them to areas of school life. We haven’t changed anything we do, it’s intrinsic to everything.’

It’s in the ethos

‘If you’re not already covering SMSC as part of your school ethos, then it’s your school ethos that’s the problem,’ says Lis. Torpoint staff reviewed their ethos and developed their definition of SMSC from there, but it was a case of highlighting what already existed, rather than adding extras on.

‘The only thing I’ve done to make it explicit is the mind maps. There is one for each year area of SMSC and these are reviewed when necessary.’

This review of SMSC and the mind maps isn’t part of a yearly plan but is addressed as and when needed or when external change demands it. This response to need rather than a schedule has worked well for the school and allows them to respond to other events, including the needs of the large number of Armed Forces families who attend.

If you’re not already covering SMSC as part of your school ethos, then it’s your school ethos that’s the problem

Eviden​ce for inspectors

Torpoint might have been confident in their provision but they weren’t complacent over the need to demonstrate SMSC to inspectors.

‘We keep photo albums and I stick anything in there that I think is a good example of what we’re about as a school. Newspaper cuttings, children works, photographs,’ explains Lis. ‘They went through my headteacher’s reports and took evidence from them too. They had the copies of the mind maps, the statement of SMSC and, of course, they looked at our displays.’

The displays are slightly different at Torpoint. They are not organised by subject or even theme but whatever happens to be going on in the school at the time. ‘So, at the moment we have one outside Year 2 about ‘under the sea’ and outside Year 1 there’s one about Peru and bears,’ says Lis.

During the inspection, Lis found that she was spending a lot of time with inspectors whilst doing paired observations and giving feedback. ‘This gave us the opportunity to talk about the school and he could see what we were about.’

Lis’ statement about the curriculum emphasised to inspectors the important role that SMSC has at Torpoint. ‘I described the relationship between SMSC and the curriculum as being like ‘warp and weft’ - the curriculum won’t hold together without it. You can’t have one without the other.’

Look at what your school is about, what it prioritises and what you believe in. That’s where SMSC must come from

An unforeseen​ opportunity

When asked to provide examples of SMSC at work at Torpoint, Lis stumbles. Not because there aren’t examples to provide but because there are so many.

Again, they are not bolt on examples and the first one comes from an incident that the school could not have anticipated.

‘We had to have a tree cut down,’ explains Lis. ‘We didn’t want to waste this opportunity and so we decided to make it into a totem pole. Each of the classes is named after an animal and we had each of these animals carved into it. During the carving process children were given time out from their classrooms to watch the carvers at work.’

Following this, the children had the chance to respond to the whole event in their own way through art and craft work.

‘When the inspectors came,’ says Lis, ‘the children talked naturally about the whole event. Nothing was stage managed.’

SMSC is simply at the heart of everything we do. It’s not a bolt on

Priorities, not spreadsheets

Preparing for their new parents’ evening, it occurred to Lis that she might not be the best person to do it. ‘Who better to talk to new parents about our school than our children?’ says Lis. ‘They’re the ones that really know.’

She gave the School Council the powerpoint she was using and they put together their own presentation to accompany it. ‘They came up with the ideas. For example, when talking about uniform, they wanted to show parents what they wore.’

The pupils at Torpoint may be young but they are not unused to public speaking. They won the House of Commons Speaker’s School Council Award and have done presentations to adults on a number of occasions. However, even Lis was surprised to see the confidence with which they tackled this new task.

‘The parents were amazed. It made them even more passionate about their children coming to Torpoint. They want their children to be happy and they want them to be cared for. They can see that’s what happens here.’

It has to be remembered that these children are not Year 6 primary but Year 2 infant. ‘Our children are confident, they are not cocky,’ says Lis. ‘There is a big difference.’

Lis’ advice for other schools; ‘You have to look at your ethos. If SMSC isn’t there already then you have a lot of work to do, but spreadsheets are the last way you should be tackling it. Look at what your school is about, what it prioritises and what you believe in. That’s where SMSC must come from.’

Last Updated: 
08 Jun 2015