December 2021

Last month the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care launched a Call for Ideas asking the community to share their thoughts for change. Robyn Kemp, SPPA Chair of trustees and Cecile Remy, SPPA trustee wrote an amazing proposal that has social pedagogy at its core.

Social pedagogy for every professional working with children

Our idea for change is offering social pedagogy training for every professional working with children. Children’s social care can only really change sustainably when we address some fundamental problems in the whole system. We argue that the systemic adoption of social pedagogy would tackle many of these problems, thus reaching a transformative tipping point.

“Social pedagogy provides a coherent ethical and theoretical framework for working with people – compassionate care is central”

Working in an empowering relationship, treating people with respect, dignity and kindness consistently through good and bad times remains a serious issue for children’s social care – quality of care is patchy at best and damaging at worst. Social pedagogy can provide a coherent ethical and theoretical framework for working with people where compassionate care and relationships are central.

Since the death of Dennis O’Neil in 1945 public inquiries into the preventable abuse and deaths of children have cited a failure to collaborate as a significant factor in their deaths, with the deaths of Arthur Jabinlo-Hughes and Star Hobson being the most recent examples. Our society has a welfare system that includes social work and social care as well as housing, health, education, justice, employment and culture, nevertheless, we have nothing yet that can hold these professions and vital functions of our society together.

Social pedagogy, as a function of society, provides a specialist profession, an academic discipline, and particular training for all professionals working with people. A common approach with a shared language between and among professions like social pedagogy would address our consistent failures to collaborate. Social pedagogy also acts as a critical policy informant so that problems are tackled systemically and with those concerned actively involved.

The impact of social pedagogy as a common approach 

Relationships catalyse change. Social pedagogy provides the coherent ethical framework for relational practice that is currently either missing or inconsistent and negatively affects trust between service users and professionals.

Professional practitioners who deeply understand how to work in an empowering relationship provide the emotional and relational space for development and healing in a different way to that of other approaches and existing thinking.  When all professions have a common approach for working in relationships and a shared theory-based language between them, the possibilities for collaboration grow exponentially, thus we reduce the chances of failing children and families.

The average length of career for social workers is 7 years and consequently practice wisdom is weakening.  Social pedagogy empowers social workers to be more emotionally resilient and establishes organisational structures and systems for critical reflection. Social pedagogy offers a myriad of ways to address poor mental health and wellbeing that complements therapeutic methods, but which is distinctly different, appeals to users and systemically addresses historic and contemporary problems in our society.

Social pedagogy is considered an innovative approach that supports children’s upbringing and development by recognising the child as a whole person (Cameron & Moss, 2011). For instance, in Denmark and Germany, research has demonstrated that social pedagogy is beneficial for working with children and young people in services (Patrie, 2006; 2007). In the UK and Ireland, social pedagogy is being used in children’s homes, care services, early childhood education and higher education programmes as a successful approach for both theory and practice (see examples from our organisational members here).

Want to share your ideas of social pedagogy with us?

Email us at we would love to hear from you!