Case studies






We want to hear about your work in social pedagogy

We know there are many exciting projects inspired by social pedagogy happening across the country and we would like to begin to capture them and share them on the SPPA website.

Submit a social pedagogy case study of your work by downloading the SPPA Case studies for social pedagogic practice in the UK form (Word) and submitting it below. Alternatively, we can also arrange a Skype/ video call interview with you which will be recorded and uploaded on the website.

If you have photo/s to accompany your case study, please send it to us and we’ll use it for the website and other SPPA marketing materials.


School of Social Work, Care and Community at UCLAN - Introduction to Social Pedagogy

Lowis’ background:

I am a qualified social work with 12 years experience of working with young offenders and care leavers. I am also a qualified teacher and have an MA in Contemporary Practice With Children and Young People. I am working towards my professional Doctorate.

Overview of project or work

Here at UCLan along with colleagues and ThemPra, we have developed an Introduction to Social Pedagogy module that students can take as an optional module. I have also helped develop, teach and now manage the new BA Hons in Social Pedagogy, Advocacy and Participation which started in September of this year. We are also thrilled that the university has just agreed to run an MA in Social Pedagogical Leadership starting in Sept 2018.

My main job is teaching social pedagogy, advocacy and participation to students and supporting them to apply their learning to their direct practice, as many of them are working either in social work or social care.

I have taken two groups of students to Denmark to visit the universities in Copenhagen and Arhus where we had taught sessions from the staff in the social pedagogy department. We also visited a number of projects who employ social pedagogues and talked to them about their roles. Once of the projects was a circus project that taught children and young people circus skills as a way of forming relationships and building self-confidence. A large number of these children were refuges or asylum seeking children, it was a fascinating project and we even got to try out some circus skills!

We are also involved in a European project aimed at developing awareness of social pedagogical practice across Europe. Along with eight other European universities we are representing the UK (a bit like the Eurovision Song Contest, but much friendlier) and talking about the developments around social pedagogy here in the UK. Each university is producing short videos and learning materials to help people across Europe get an idea of how social pedagogy is used in the different countries.

Keep an eye out for the opportunity to join the MOOC project towards the end of the year.

How do the values and principles of social pedagogy influence your day to day practice?

Relationships are a key part of being able to support people to learn. So social pedagogy is a key part of my role as a lecturer. Every student is on their own personal journey and will learn in different ways, therefore using the Dimond model is an important part of my work.

Also education should be fun and exciting and teaching in an experiential way means that students not only have fun but also are able to think about what they learn and how they can use this in their work.

Can you give one or two examples of practice where social pedagogy has been particularly effective?

Seeing our students grow and develop during their time on the course is brilliant. Using the 3P’s, I have been able to build really strong personal relationships with the students but within professional boundaries which has also helped me learn as much from them as hopefully they have from me.

How would you evaluate the usefulness of social pedagogy in your setting? How do you know?

Its very useful and has made me enjoy teaching even more.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of social pedagogy?

The advantages are that it helps you think in a much more creative way and you are prepared to try new things and have a go.

The draw back is that somethings you are fighting against systems that are not helpful or don’t support a social pedagogical way of working. It can feel like you need a lot of energy to keep going but then seeing the positive impact and getting together with other likeminded people at things like the SPDN, remind you that you have to keep challenging systems.

What would your message be to someone new to social pedagogy?

Come with an open mind and be prepared to try and step outside of your comfort zone.

Headliners and South Tyneside Virtual School - A 'learning placement': What can foster carers do to support learning at home?

What previous social pedagogy knowledge or learning does your organisation have?

Social pedagogy was new as a concept to Headliners but staff were briefed about it in preparation for this work. Staff from the Virtual School have participated in social pedagogy training in a variety of different ways.

Please briefly describe your project or work?

Headliners and staff at The Place worked with a group of young people on a media project entitled, ‘What makes a good learning placement?’ We delivered a series of practical and reflective workshops which were set up to encourage young people to reflect on their home environment and consider what helps and supports them to learn at home. Children met once a week for six weeks to answer the question.

This was part one part of a larger study which also interviewed Foster Carers and Designated Teachers.

How do the values and principles of social pedagogy influence your day to day practice?

The work we do with young people is by nature very reflective, and practical. The young people explore issues that affect them in society. We (The Virtual School) pose a question and the young people explore and research the answer. This is done through teaching them investigative Journalism skills coupled with technical skills, such as how to work a camera and interview people. This practical method equips young people with the tools to carry out a successful interactive project and get their voices heard. Children are empowered to take a lead in any given investigation rather than being the subject of one. The platform tends to be through film and photography. These views are then presented to stakeholders and decision makers.

Can you give one or two examples of practice where social pedagogy has been particularly effective?

We taught children the philosophy and principles of social pedagogy then asked them to capture it in their home setting. Children created comic strips where they were able to capture their ideas on learning at home. They were able to articulate examples of ‘common  third’ activities with their foster carers as well as other anecdotes depicting ‘learning’ in its broadest sense.

How would you evaluate the usefulness of social pedagogy in your setting? How do you know?

It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of social pedagogy as it is an approach or way of working that underpins the work.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of social pedagogy?

The advantages of social pedagogy are in the emphasis on relationships and the concept of learning as being something that happens in many different contexts not just in a lesson or in school. The drawbacks are in evaluating its effectiveness or measuring the impact it has.

What would your message be to someone new to social pedagogy?

Learning can happen anywhere. Social pedagogy can be used in a practical sense when working with young people. Through the use of reflection tools and creative exercises.

'Making for Change' - A project to encourage craftivism (craft + activism) in young people in the Aston and Newtown area of Birmingham

Who was the team supporting this?

Craftspace; Arts Council, England; William A Cadbury Trust; The Roger and Douglas Turner Charitable Trust; Birmingham City Council; a variety of local activists and craft practitioners.

The craft practitioners were: Dauvit Alexander (Jeweller, Birmingham City University), Melanie Tomlinson (Graphics and Metalwork), Danielle Laurent (Paper and Book-maker), Keith Bloomfield (Film-maker, Reel Access), Sarah Corbett (Craftivist Collective); Ben Sadler and Phil Duckworth (Juneau Projects, 3D printing and CAD/CAM); Social engagement experts from the Lighthouse Youth Project, Cliff Hammett (Data), Sheri Carr (Activism) and Sarah Lopez (Youth Facilitation).

Who were the participants?

The 12 participants, aged between 16-19, were drawn from the Aston and Newtown area of Birmingham, an area defined by government as being of “Multiple Deprivation”. Participants (surnames withheld as part of our agreement with the participants):

Jordan, Miles, Asher, Ajai, Jordan, Amar, Jasbir, Renisha, Bobbie, Nikhil, Aneno, Faiza.

What setting do you work in?

Youth work.

What Social pedagogy knowledge or learning did they gain?

All participants gained Level 1 (Bronze) Arts Award. (

The aim of the project was to develop an awareness of social justice and actions based around social justice through a variety of practices, including statistical and social research, computer literacy, media awareness and craft-practices.

Please briefly describe your project or work

Over the course of one week, the participants – who broadly did not know each other – formed small groups to address an issue of social justice which was of concern to them; each group chose a different area to explore and produced a craft-based response to their researches into the issues. These responses then formed the core of presentations of the project given to the public on the final day.

How do the values and principles of social pedagogy influence your day to day practice?

The whole project was informed by the values and principles of Social Pedagogy in that it was entirely participant-led. Craftspace, the makers and analysts all worked as enablers, rather than as tutors: at every stage of the project to empower and encourage rather than to be didactic. This approach to Social Pedagogy is embedded in all of the educational and social-enterprise projects with which Craftspace is engaged.

Can you give one or two examples of practice where social pedagogy has been particularly effective?

Making for Change is now in its third year and we are delighted to be able to say that one of the campaigns from 2016 is now an active part of the Birmingham activist scene and has even travelled to Ljubljana. “Tea4Change”, by Mahnaz Begum, seeks to help migrants to integrate into their new surroundings and to talk about their experiences. (

How would you evaluate the usefulness of social pedagogy in your setting? How do you know?

We feel that Social Pedagogy is extremely useful in rapidly generating results and encouraging young people to engage in the process of improving their lives by letting them see very quickly that they have control of the learning process; this is very different from the school experiences for many of the people we work with.

We encourage participants to keep in touch with Craftspace and to continue to engage with either their own projects (see above) or future projects run by Craftspace. Feedback from this project over the three years we have been running it has been overwhelmingly positive, as has been the feedback about our “Shelanu” Social Enterprise project, which has been running for 6 years.

What are the advantages and drawbacks of social pedagogy?

The advantages overwhelmingly outweigh the drawbacks. The main advantage is that it empowers people to take control of their learning and social engagement, especially within their local environments. It generates a “can do” attitude in the participants. It allows the participants to grow socially and emotionally as well as intellectually.

It could be viewed as a disadvantage that the projects grow organically from the participants – while it is possible to have a direction and a general intent, it is possible that the project might not end up looking the way the organisers would wish.

On rare occasions, it is possible for (a) participant(s) to disrupt the group or to fail to engage.

What would your message be to someone new to social pedagogy?

Don’t be tempted to follow the old, didactic models: trust your participants.

Social pedagogy in the London Borough of Hackney's Virtual School


Social pedagogues are employed in Hackney’s Virtual School as well as other posts elsewhere in the Children and Families Service.

Robert Koglek, the Head of Service for Corporate Parenting is a qualified social pedagogue and has worked for Hackney as a social worker for 7 years.

The Family Learning Intervention Programme (FLIP) also employs 2 social pedagogues to work with families whose children are on the edge of care as well as with foster carers whose placements are in danger of breaking down. Interventions employed include a week long residential with children and their families, as a safe context for addressing difficulties in their relationships.

A number of social pedagogues are also employed as social workers in the statutory social care service.

Social pedagogy learning and knowledge in the Virtual School.

Social pedagogues were first employed in 2010 to provide additional support in the Looked After Children Service. They later transferred to the virtual school where it was thought their skills could be better utilised.

The Virtual School head teacher, Nick Corker is a qualified teacher who has taken part in many social pedagogy opportunities, including the Fostering Networks Head Heart Hands project which was, unusually, placed within the virtual school and employed two additional social pedagogues, each funded 50% by the project. Three qualified social pedagogues continue to be employed by the virtual school.

Natalia Mihu is the school’s leaning manager for pedagogy. she ensures that all student’s personal education plans are completed on time; organises educational and holiday activities; promotes social pedagogy in the Department and delivers training for schools, foster carers and social care professionals.

Work with schools

The social pedagogues work hard with the schools to ensure that all Hackney’s Looked After Children achieve as well as they can. One aspect of this work is preventing school exclusion (particularly permanently). The social pedagogues work with the school to help them think through different ways of supporting a child when difficulties arise. This has included providing a ‘fidget box’ or the suggestion of moving a child to a smaller class.

Hackney has many children placed outside of the borough and the social pedagogues work with their schools wherever they live. Some on-line training resources have been provided to schools that are outside the Hackney boundary and these have been well received.

Social pedagogy learning opportunities

The Head Heart Hands programme deepened the knowledge of social pedagogy practice and philosophy in the virtual school, which has helped embed it more generally, particularly within the fostering service.

The virtual school learning manager and the social pedagogues deliver Open Space Events and Action Learning Sets for Hackney staff and foster carers. These are based on social pedagogy theories and values but not necessarily labelled ‘social pedagogy’. They are seen as a good space for social workers and carers to get to know one another and to work together to solve issues. A number of foster carers attend every month and some drop in according to the issues being discussed. Some of the topics covered have been ‘anger management’, ‘motivation and self-esteem’ and ‘dealing with children’s nightmares.’ The sessions include an ice-breaker, some theory and practical tools and group work discussing real life situations.

Values and principles of social pedagogy in the virtual school and putting them into practice

 Ofsted wanted to know how we get more care leavers into education, employment and training compared to other local authorities. We told them it’s about using you experience and above all building relationships.’ (Head teacher, Virtual school)

 Much of the practice within the virtual school is based on the following principles.

  • Building relationships: Bringing about change for children requires adults to work directly alongside them – as well as with other relevant adults such as foster carers and teachers.
  • Team work: Hackney’s virtual school employs a multi-disciplinary team which includes and occupational therapist; speech and language therapists, educational psychologist, learning mentors, education, employment and training advisors, a teacher and 3 social pedagogues, all working directly with children and young people.

Learning is seen to happen through doing things together and offering children experiences they wouldn’t have otherwise and helping them be reflective rather than running away from their thoughts and feelings. (Learning manager).

The social pedagogues are involved in a range of learning experiences which are the basis for relationships: through them children and young people come to know the social pedagogues as people.

Some of the activities that have taken place have included:

  • Social skills sessions in schools, conducted by the social pedagogues and delivered to a whole group, thereby not identifying the looked after child.
  • One-to-one reading activities such as an iPod reading programme and a ‘book club’.  ‘It’s one to one work and the children love it.’ (Head teacher, Virtual School)

Non-residential outings and learning activities such as visits to the Sea Life Centre or the cinema; activities like potting, climbing, gardening, outdoor cooking, face painting are a small selection of what has taken place. Foster carers are often invited to come and join in too. It’s an opportunity to see the child in a different context, to do new activities together, to get to know Hackney staff and other foster carers and to feel part of a team. Opportunities for reflection are built into the time table.

  • Residential holidays are very important. They take children out of their ‘comfort zone’ to experience different environments and learn how to challenge themselves and understand what they are capable of. For many, it’s the first time they have stayed out of the domestic environment. There are group reflection sessions where children are encouraged to give praise – including for themselves. ‘You could see how happy they were by the end of the week… the joy.’ Foster carers have often been very surprised by the change that is sometimes achieved.

Follow up to a residential farm activity

Following a week long residential trip to Jamie’s Farm, there were two follow-up sessions later in the year, at Oasis Farm in London. These were opportunities for everyone to reconnect together and to find out how everyone was doing. The children took part some general activities such as helping in the garden, painting labels for kitchen containers, making pizza and muffins, playing with the guinea pigs and stroking the lambs that they had met as new-borns earlier in the year. The children were excited to be back together and receive attractive photo albums of their time away including some of their own thoughts on what they had learnt about themselves during that time. They watched a film of the holiday and shared reflections and personal objectives that had arisen out of the holiday.

Some residential activities provided by the virtual school

  • Teaching English to children in India
  • Mountain climbing in Wales
  • Sailing trip to the Isle of White
  • A therapeutic countryside visit to Jamie’s Farm
  • Countryside activities in Kent
  • Cultural visit to Romania
  • Mindfulness retreat with the Sharpham Trust
  • Paris at Christmas
Reflection: How is social pedagogy valued in our home?

How is social pedagogy valued in our home?

A brief reflection – Hannah Severn (Assistant Manager and SPPA trustee)

When Fallon, a friendly Cockapoo came to visit our local authority children’s home, we saw a new side to one of our children. They adopted a caring and protective role we had not seen before. They radiated a sense of joy, and identified with being kind to animals. This is just one example of how we value our social pedagogical approach and was recognised when Ofsted visited in January 2019 and again awarded us an ‘Outstanding’ grade. We are very proud of the way education in the formal and holistic sense hold a place in our Home. Through our Social Pedagogy influences we have come to appreciate the value of learning and education in the “everyday” as well as the more classroom-based curriculum goals. The idea behind this is to help raise children’s self-esteem as they discover skills they may not have had a chance to uncover in the formal school setting – we would never have known how to interpret and build on the huge shift in self-perception that occurred when Fallon visited a child who had in past described themselves as “unmanageable” and “dangerous” without social pedagogical theories and influences.

The Ofsted inspectors recognised the contribution of social pedagogy to our practice when they commented in their report:

Children experience warmth and attentiveness from highly skilled staff who understand the complex needs of children. Children enjoy excellent relationships with staff who are committed and determined to help them develop, manage their emotions and keep themselves safe. In this nurturing, welcoming and stable home, children feel safe and respond to high quality care from staff.

The value of learning and education is embedded in the ethos of the home. Using a social pedagogy approach, children’s formal education is supplemented by staff encouraging them to learn through the ‘everyday’ to develop their self-esteem, communication and day-to-day living skills to prepare them for their futures. Staff work effectively with school staff and the virtual school to ensure that children have positive educational opportunities appropriate to their needs.


Wherever we can we try and draw on theories and models and reflect this in our practices; as a manager I can see this in the way we talk about our Home’s values and the way information is captured and recorded. We are committed to sharing our understanding and experiences in how learning about Social Pedagogy has directly impacted the lives of those around us. We are starting to see success stories for our young people and are delighted to see this recognised in external reports of our work:

“[Senior Practitioner] is an advocate of the Social Pedagogy framework which is concerned with wellbeing, learning and growth of each individual. The ethos being that each person has potential, is valuable, resourceful and can make a meaningful contribution to the to the wider community if we seek ways to include them… [Senior Practitioner] also stated that the team are aspirational and child centred and providing stability to the vulnerable young people placed within their care”

(NYAS’s Independent Person’s Report, December 2018).

Another way our holistic learning is reflected is in the time we spend in restoring relationships when things have gone ‘wonky’. We believe that children can develop skills in reparation and communication that can be transferred to other areas of their life. Indeed, two residents were involved in creating a film led by the Restorative Development Team  about living here, with particular emphasis on what they have learnt and experienced in terms of relationship building. In this exercise their experiences of being in care; their stories around transitioning to and then living with us and explanations of the roles they perceive us as their “carers” playing in their lives has been captured. With their consent this footage was shared with some of the County Councillors – it was a powerful moment to observe as these two children were able to creatively challenge some of the perceptions that were held about what is it is like to live in a Residential Home and how we can complement a child’s support network without challenging the place of the birth family.