How Ofsted inspects 'personal development'

Learn how 'personal development' is inspected under the Ofsted framework, including how SMSC development is considered. Download our list of questions inspectors might ask, including ones about British values.

Last reviewed on 4 June 2024See updates
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  1. What inspectors are looking for
  2. SMSC development is evaluated as part of the 'personal development' judgement
  3. Relationships and sex education (RSE)
  4. Download our list of questions about British values
  5. Grade descriptions 

What inspectors are looking for

The 'personal development' judgement evaluates:

  • Your school's intent to provide for the personal development of all pupils, and
  • The quality with which you implement this work

Ofsted recognises that you often won't be able to assess the impact of your personal development provision while a pupil is at your school. For that reason, inspectors won't try to measure the impact of your provision on individual pupils. 

Inspectors will check you're: 


  • Responsible, respectful and active citizens who are able to play their part and become actively involved in public life as adults 
  • Pupils’ understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law and mutual respect and tolerance 
  • Pupils’ character, which Ofsted defines as a set of positive personal traits, dispositions and virtues that informs their motivation and guides their conduct so that they reflect wisely, learn eagerly, behave with integrity and cooperate consistently well with others 
  • Pupils’ confidence, resilience and knowledge so that they can keep themselves mentally healthy 
  • Pupils’ understanding of how to keep physically healthy, eat healthily and maintain an active lifestyle, including giving ample opportunities for pupils to be active during the school day and through extra-curricular activities 
  • Pupils’ age-appropriate understanding of healthy relationships through appropriate relationships and sex education 


  • Equality of opportunity so that all pupils can thrive together, understanding that difference is a positive, not a negative, and that individual characteristics make people unique 
  • An inclusive environment that meets the needs of all pupils, irrespective of age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation 


  • Pupils to recognise online and offline risks to their wellbeing – for example, risks from criminal and sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, substance misuse, gang activity, radicalisation and extremism – and making them aware of the support available to them 
  • Pupils to recognise the dangers of inappropriate use of mobile technology and social media 


  • Readiness for the next phase of education, training or employment so that pupils are equipped to make the transition successfully 

Providing secondary school pupils with: 

  • An effective careers programme in line with the government’s statutory guidance on careers advice that offers pupils:
    • Unbiased careers advice
    • Experience of work, and
    • Contact with employers to encourage pupils to aspire, make good choices and understand what they need to do to reach and succeed in the careers to which they aspire

See paragraphs 325 and 340 of the inspection handbook.

SMSC development is evaluated as part of the 'personal development' judgement

Here's what inspectors may look for in pupils related to each aspect of spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development:

Spiritual development

Moral development

Social development

Cultural development

See paragraphs 332 to 335 of the inspection handbook (linked above).

Relationships and sex education (RSE)

The new curriculum became compulsory in September 2020. Inspectors will consider whether your RSE curriculum (and health education and wider curriculum) contributes to pupils' personal development as part of this judgement. Inspectors expect it to include:

  • Sexual harassment, online abuse and sexual violence
  • Consent and health relationships, both online and offline
  • Online risks

If you're failing to meet your obligations, inspectors will consider this when reaching the personal development judgement.

See paragraph 325 of the inspection handbook for more detail.

For further support, take a look at:

Download our list of questions about British values

Inspectors may ask staff, governors, and pupils about 'personal development', including British values. Download this list of potential questions to help you get an idea of what to expect:

KeyDoc: questions Ofsted might ask about personal development DOC, 222.0 KB

Grade descriptions 


To achieve an 'outstanding' grade you must meet all the criteria for a 'good' grade securely and consistently.

You must also meet the following criteria:

  • Personal development is exceptional
  • You consistently promote the extensive personal development of your pupils. You go beyond the expected, so that pupils have access to a wide, rich set of experiences. Opportunities for pupils to develop their talents and interests are of exceptional quality
  • There's a strong take-up by pupils of the opportunities provided. The most disadvantaged pupils consistently benefit from this excellent work
  • You provide these rich experiences in a coherently planned way, in the curriculum and through extra-curricular activities, and they considerably strengthen your school’s offer
  • The way you go about developing pupils’ character is exemplary and is worthy of being shared with others


You'll be rated either 'good' or 'requires improvement' using a 'best fit' approach based on the inspector's professional judgement. 

'Good' schools will:

  • Provide high-quality pastoral support 
  • Provide a wide range of opportunities to nurture, develop and stretch pupils’ talents and interests. Pupils appreciate these and make good use of them 
  • Prepare pupils for life in modern Britain effectively, developing their understanding of the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, tolerance and respect 
  • Promote equality of opportunity and diversity effectively 
  • Provide pupils with meaningful opportunities to understand how to be responsible, respectful, active citizens who contribute positively to society 
  • Work to enhance pupils' SMSC development, and this work is high quality 

Your curriculum will:

  • Extend beyond the academic, vocational or technical and provide for pupils’ broader development 
  • Support pupils to be confident, resilient and independent, and to develop strength of character 

Pupils will: 

  • Engage with views, beliefs and opinions that are different from their own, in considered ways 
  • Show respect for the different protected characteristics as defined in law and not tolerate discrimination 
  • Know how to discuss and debate issues in a considered way 
  • Understand, appreciate and respect differences in the world and its people, celebrating things we share in common across cultural, religious, ethnic and socio-economic communities 
  • Know how to eat healthily, maintain an active lifestyle and keep physically and mentally healthy
  • Have an age-appropriate understanding of healthy relationships

Secondary schools will: 

  • Prepare pupils for future success in education, employment or training. They use the Gatsby Benchmarks to develop and improve their careers provision and enable a range of education and training providers to speak to pupils in Years 8 to 13. All pupils receive unbiased information about potential next steps and high-quality careers guidance 
  • Provide good quality, meaningful opportunities for pupils to encounter the world of work 

'Requires improvement'

  • Personal development in the school is not good


Personal development is likely to be 'inadequate' if any of the following applies:

  • A significant minority of pupils don't receive a wide, rich set of experiences
  • Leaders and governors or trustees:
    • Through their words, actions or influence, directly and/or indirectly, undermine or fail to promote equality of opportunity in the school
    • Aren't protecting pupils from radicalisation and extremist views. Policy and practice are poor, which means that pupils are at risk
    • Are actively undermining fundamental British values
  • Pupils or groups of pupils:
    • Are discriminated against, and the school is not taking effective action to address this
    • Are unprepared for life in modern Britain

See paragraphs 456-7 of the inspection handbook.

Article Updates

19 February 2024

We reviewed this article in line with Ofsted's updated inspection handbook (in force from 1 January 2024).

22 August 2023

We reviewed this article in line with Ofsted's updated inspection handbook (in force from 1 September 2023).

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