Beacons of SMSC education: reflections on a university placement project

SMSC Quality Mark manager and verifier Victoria Quijada reflects on a recent project that connected trainee teachers with SMSC Beacon schools.

From January to March, I was joined by three second-year BA Education students from Hope University, Liverpool. Their aim was to “gain some insight into the wider world of education outside the curriculum!” Ellie, Tom and Ameer were all based in Liverpool for the duration of their placement, but with the use of good old Zoom we were able to meet regularly.

Each student was placed with an SMSC Beacon school: an educational setting that is deemed a centre of excellence in SMSC. They worked virtually but closely with the SMSC Lead in each school, learning about the their SMSC provision and their journey to gaining the Quality Mark award. They conducted interviews with each school’s SMSC Lead as well as a few of their brilliant students to discover its positive impact.



The placement experience was so positive and heart-warming. All three students gained not only an insight into the Quality Mark and the benefits of achieving the award, but also the sheer importance and wonderful results of an excellent SMSC education.

Tom realised that SMSC can have a huge impact on students’ futures and wider society. “Having SMSC to break down the way we learn is a great thing as it allows young people to develop their citizenship skills and be able to live and work in a society that is fair and equal.”

Similarly, Ameer was amazed at what SMSC can do for the spirit of the school. “Teachers and students are happy to be a part of the school, and a big part of that is because of SMSC. The school has a massive community feel to it.”

Ellie concluded that: “Oakley school were awarded gold in the National SMSC Quality Mark because of their passion and commitment for spiritual, moral, social and cultural education. They understand that it is beneficial for young people to gain these life skills for the future. Most schools seem to only focus on the academic side of things, but Oakley school really does celebrate everything, which is so refreshing. It has shown me the importance of pupils’ voices; the trust Oakley has in their pupils, and the confidence the pupils have is so amazing to witness.”


SMSC in teacher training

SMSC not only benefits schools, but should be a fundamental part of teacher training according to Alice Thomas at Southam College.

“I believe it is extremely important for university Education students to learn about SMSC as I believe it is the foundation for a student’s education. SMSC provides them with an all-round understanding of the purpose of education and how social, moral, spiritual, and cultural development can interweave throughout the curriculum and underpin students awareness of a variety of different religious and non-religious worldviews. It encourages university Education students to build an inclusive, diverse and though-provoking approach to the curriculum and current topics.”

I personally would like to thank Mary Newell at Oakley SchoolGemma Orchard at Parkside Academy and Alice Thomas at Southam College. Their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge was inspiring and infectious. I would also like to thank Karen Wynne at Liverpool World Centre for sorting the placement. And finally I would like to thank Tom, Ameer and Ellie. They were a delight to work with, sharing their growth and understanding of SMSC and how they will take it forward into their teaching career.


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