I’m a qualified teacher with many years of classroom experience, before becoming a ‘PSHEe/Healthy School’ School Improvement Adviser with a Local Authority. I performed this role for almost 10 years and since 2010 I’ve been running my own consultancy and training business in relation to Health & Wellbeing education.
I like to keep busy, so in addition, I fill my time with being a Co-Director of Golden Tree CIC (mental health training provider), an experienced school governor, a MAT Trustee and a parent! Throughout my career, I have developed education programmes, resources and CPD in relation to PSHEe, RSE, Emotional Health/Resilience and mental health. I’ve spoken at several national conferences in relation to Prevent Agenda, fBV and SMSC.

'SMSC provision should be part of the school’s DNA; it is a foundation stone for a flourishing school that supports all of its stakeholders to thrive.'

What a wonderful job I have

I am proud to say that I have been a member of the National SMSC Quality Mark verification team since the very beginning - even attending its launch in the House of Lords on 18th September 2017. For 3 years now, I have been visiting schools all over the north-east to verify the staff assessment of the state of their school's SMSC provision.
I have seen first-hand a great deal of the wonderful and excellent practice that is happening in schools across my patch of England. I feel extremely privileged to have this role as part of my work life. In fact, it’s such a pleasure to do that it doesn’t even feel like work!

'SMSC is such a vital element to the success of a school that when it is truly embedded as a feature of the core values and ‘raison d’etre’, it really does become their self-perpetuating DNA.'

Here’s three principles with examples that underpin some of the good practice I’ve witnessed recently:
1. Encourage and inspire 
I visited a PRU that has developed and embedded their own ‘Pupil Passports’ - 20 things for students to achieve during their time there. These passports are working so successfully because of the supportive culture that is embedded and the genuine care that is evident between staff and learners. This, alongside a very strong and comprehensive therapeutic offer, helps students to achieve and attain whilst overcoming their challenging circumstances. A nurturing environment led students to be fully engaged in their education.

2. Empower your pupils

I've attended an excellent primary school that has an ongoing, pupil-led assembly scheme. The pupils decide what aspect of SMSC they’d like to cover, they develop the assembly content, take it forward to a member of staff who then allocates a date for the pupils to share their work. The pupils enthused about this scheme and openly explained how it works and how they decide their topics of presentation. It is clear they are extremely proud of their independence and the trust placed in them.

3. Embrace your uniqueness 

I was impressed with the way a small primary school developed and communicated its mission statement and core values, with the whole-school community. Located by the sea, near a protected colony of seabirds, the school has a ‘Puffin Code’, ‘Puffin Patrollers’ and ‘weekly values’ for their pufflings (pupils) ‘to fly by’! The school draws on its local community and its wildlife to reference exemplary SMSC development while telling a wonderful story. The puffins even feature on their logo! This is explicitly and effectively displayed around the school site. It is embedded and underpins their whole school ethos. It has everyone on the same page - engaged and empowered.

'SMSC is fundamental to all areas of school improvement; get it right and so many aspects of school will benefit - behaviour, readiness to learn, independence, mental health, achievement and attainment to name but a few.'

If the SMSC Quality Mark is something you are considering, then I urge you to go for it; “the process is so useful” is a comment I often hear from SMSC lead teachers. If this isn’t something that is being considered at your school, then I ask the question, 'why not?'! In the current educational climate: with the Ofsted framework and the new statutory curriculum requirements brought in this September - it means SMSC development has never been so important. 

I look forward to many more hours of being welcomed into schools either in person or virtually! I am always humbled and privileged to experience such varied and amazing learning cultures in our education system as each school develops future generations of well-rounded and well-equipped individuals.

Thanks for reading, Sandra.
Sandra is a qualified teacher (BA Hons QTS) with rich experience as a classroom teacher, School Improvement Adviser, Governor and MAT trustee. In addition to being a National SMSC Quality Mark verifier she is also and Director of a CIC. She has developed a range of education programmes and resources at local, regional and national levels.

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