What is Global learning?

Global learning can be described as an approach to learning about international development through recognising the importance of linking people’s lives throughout the world. There are several definitions of the term ‘global learning’ and ‘development education’. In the context of the Global Learning Programme (2013-2018), global learning encourages critical examination of global issues and an awareness of the impact that individuals can have on them.

Schools participating in global learning recognise the impact that knowledge and understanding of development can bring to pupils’ learning across the curriculum.


Global learning supports the long-term development and success of pupils, by enhancing their critical thinking skills and boosting their relationships with peers.

Incorporating a global element into teaching across the curriculum can help schools to:

  • develop a richer, more interesting curriculum
  • use real-world contexts to enthuse, inspire and engage pupils
  • support raising standards
  • deliver SMSC and respond positively to the current focus on British values
  • help pupils make sense of the world in which they live and to understand their role within a global society
  • develop an ethos encouraging empathy, fairness and respect.

Global learning can help pupils gain additional knowledge about the developing world, the causes of poverty and what can be done to reduce it. It can also help them develop the skills to interpret that knowledge in order to make judgements about global poverty. Through this, young people are able to:

  • better understand their role in a globally-interdependent world and to explore strategies by which they can make it more just and sustainable;
  • become more familiar with the concepts of interdependence, development, globalisation and sustainability;
  • move from a charity mentality to a social justice mentality;
  • gain greater awareness of poverty and sustainability
  • think critically about global issues
  • explore alternative models of development and sustainability
  • and consider the relative merits of different approaches to reducing global poverty and draw conclusions about the causes of global poverty and how it can be addressed.

Ofsted and global learning

There is no explicit requirement in the Ofsted inspection criteria for pupils to do global learning. However, the National Director stated in an Ofsted School Inspection Update (December 2015) that, as the GLP ‘maps onto the four Ofsted core judgements and to SMSC’, schools on the programme should be able ‘to set out how the GLP is contributing to their provision and outcomes for pupils’. This new guidance for inspectors means that a school’s involvement in the GLP could now play an even more important role towards the outcome of a school inspection.

A number of schools have had their global learning work highlighted positively in their recent Ofsted reports, and there are a number of criteria, particularly around SMSC, where global learning work can be used positively to show evidence of meeting the Ofsted inspection requirements.

‘The school uses global education themes very effectively to set pupils’ learning in a worldwide context and broaden their views of the world. This makes the learning more relevant and interesting for pupils, and so it contributes to their enthusiasm for learning…’

This is an extract from a recent Ofsted report for a GLP school. More examples can be found below.

Our mapping document maps the areas where possible links could be made. This is for guidance only, and should not be seen as definitive. It references the relevant paragraphs in the Ofsted School Inspection Handbook (September 2015) and maps them against the GLP Whole School Framework. Guidance on how to use this document can be downloaded here.

Schools may also find the following documents useful:

Extracts from Ofsted reports

The following extracts are taken from Ofsted reports of a handful of schools that were involved in the GLP:

Ofsted Inspection report: Buntingsdale Primary School, January 2015

The school uses global education themes very effectively to set pupils’ learning in a worldwide context and broaden their views of the world. This makes the learning more relevant and interesting for pupils, and so it contributes to their enthusiasm for learning… Teachers plan lessons that ensure pupils are able to apply their knowledge and skills to real-life problems. This engages their interest and extends their learning… Pupils’ spiritual, moral and cultural development is good and they are well prepared for life in modern Britain.

Ofsted Inspection report: The Beaconsfield School, October 2014

The school promotes tolerance and diversity effectively. It has been identified as a local centre for global learning. Students are given the chance to become school prefects, visit non-European countries, as well as support charities such as Amnesty International and Stonewall. As a result, students show high levels of tolerance to members of the school community and understand that they can, and should, make a positive contribution to improving their school and the wider community… Changes to the curriculum are helping students to contribute positively to their local and wider community.

Ofsted Inspection report: Hawkeshead Esthwaite Primary School, July 2014

Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is exceptional. They have a highly developed understanding of global issues and how they can make a positive impact on their local environment and beyond.

Ofsted Inspection report: Hillview Primary School, May 2014

The school provides pupils with an interesting range of subjects, topics and experiences which ensures they enjoy their learning…. Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is given great importance in the school, so that pupils are well prepared for the future… Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is a strength of the school. Spirituality is developed in a number of ways. These include sensitive assemblies that encourage pupils to think about their place in the world, as well as frequent opportunities for them to reflect on their work, relationships and behaviour. The well-established partnership with a school in Kenya contributes to their understanding of other cultures, as does their exchange of blogs with other schools in this country.

Ofsted Inspection report: Castle Park School, March 2014

An imaginative approach to the curriculum inspires pupils to become confident learners. It promotes strengths in pupils in writing, science, art and, increasingly, an awareness of global issues.