Social Pedagogy

The understanding of Social Pedagogy is growing in the UK.

The term Social Pedagogy has been used to describe a range of work that straddles both social work and education. Social Pedagogy (sozial pädagogik) has its roots in Germany. Cannan, Berry and Lyons Social Work and Europe (1992) define Social Pedagogy as:

‘a perspective, including action which aims to promote human welfare through child-rearing and education practices; and to prevent or ease social problems by providing people with the means to manage their own lives, and make changes in their circumstances’

In the UK, our understanding of Social Pedagogy is growing; whilst the DCSF is funding a longitudinal study, a pilot project that started in 2009 (to be evaluated in 2011). The pilot programme investigating the impact of a social pedagogic approach in children’s residential care has been running for 16 months. The development part of the project is being run by Thomas Coram Research Unit (TCRU) Institute of Education University of London and the evaluation, is being completed by teams at the Universities of Bristol and York.

A grass roots movement has been created, Social Pedagogy Development Network (SPDN). This aims to connect organisations and professionals, contributing to a coherent development of Social Pedagogy in a way that builds on existing best practice.

Local authority children’s homes in London, Hampshire, Bournemouth, Dudley, Blackburn and Darwen, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Surrey, Liverpool and Lancashire are taking part, as are private and voluntary sector providers Quarriers, Ingleside, Appletree, Lioncare, St Christopher’s and Break. 34 Social Pedagogues have been recruited. A programme of training and support is in place for the managers and staff in the children’s homes and for the social pedagogues.

What does all this mean?

Evidence from children’s homes in Germany and Denmark suggested that social pedagogically cared-for children are doing so much better in education and future life: it is also becoming evident that Social Pedagogy develops a close relationship with society. However, caution should be observed as it is impossible to simply transfer Social Pedagogy from one society to another. Therefore, Social Pedagogy in the UK needs to build on experiences in existing practice, inspiring professionals with different ideas, and underpinning their practice with pedagogic thinking.

Social Pedagogy has some new approaches to our current practice and offers aspects of professionalism that we could all certainly benefit from. However, it would appear to be more than just a tool.

Social Pedagogy represents a process, a developmental direction based on the continual improvement of practice for the children that we care for. It probably will not be something that is transferred in completeness and placed as an alternative to our current work. But it certainly can influence and improve what already works and give recognition to what is often undervalued; our staff.