Social Pedagogy FAQs



You will find commonly asked questions about social pedagogy, the Social Pedagogy Professional Association (SPPA) and the Diploma in Social Pedagogy Qualifications here. If you cannot find the answer to your question here, please get in touch with us.

What is Social Pedagogy?

Social pedagogy is a field for theory, policy and practice, sometimes referred to as ‘education in the broadest sense’. In public policy, the term social pedagogy covers measures that take a broadly educational approach to social issues, either alongside or instead of other policy options. It is an academic field in its own right, with its own theories as well as drawing on disciplines such as psychology and sociology. Social pedagogy is an ethical practice. Respect for other people as equal human beings and trustworthy relationships with colleagues and service users is at the core. The ideas and principles of social pedagogy are found, in various forms, across many Western and Eastern European countries and further afield, as in some Latin American countries. There are related forms in some English speaking countries. Find out more about social pedagogy

What is a Social Pedagogue?

In continental Europe, people qualified in social pedagogy are known as social pedagogues. They work alongside children, young people and adults in a range of services. To gain their qualification they train for between 3 and 5 years, undertaking both theoretical study and practice placements, in preparation for work that requires regular professional reflection. For social pedagogues, reflection is an ethical process, and involves theory and, not least, self -awareness. They learn to be alert to how they themselves affect – and are affected by – different situations and, importantly, how various social factors influence people’s lives. For social pedagogues, reflection should lead to appropriate action; they believe that everyone has potential and does not need to be completely stuck in a difficult place.  Social pedagogues often judiciously challenge the status quo, whether in relation to an individual’s capabilities, or to bureaucratic or political arrangements. Social pedagogy courses often include creative activities, such as art, drama and music; some students opt for outdoor activities or sport. Aspects of these activities can be turned to, as a medium for developing relationships and the mutual enjoyment of doing things together, sometimes as part of a group. Group work is a common feature of social pedagogic practice.

Isn’t social pedagogy just good practice?

When people first hear about social pedagogy they often ask ‘Isn’t that just good practice?’ This misses how social pedagogy underpins good practice throughout a service by providing common understandings, useful theories and models, and builds on personal strengths. Social pedagogy:

  • Is based in an ethos that fosters equality and respect, whether for colleagues or the people who use a service.
  • Values relationships, dialogue, joint activity and team work.
  • Maintains critical awareness of the workings of society and its organisations.
  • Emphasises personal strengths and the potential for further development. It does not rely on a ‘deficit model’ of other people.
  • Appreciates the different contributions people can make to improve social life through activity and dialogue.
  • Treasures opportunities for creativity, fun and play.
  • Holds that reflection, leading to appropriate action, is essential. It offers concepts and models as a framework for reflection and subsequent action, including in challenging circumstances.
  • Allows staff to adapt their practice to different situations, as appropriate, rather than being overly tied to procedures and habits.
  • Understands that all people are social and psychological beings. Both both of these human characteristics inform how we view the world and our place in it.
  • Supports individual human development and promotes social justice. It does so through activities which are mostly small scale and everyday, but in the light of the larger social picture as well as individual circumstances.


Where does the term 'social pedagogy' come from?

The term social pedagogy as a field for policy, practice and theory was first coined in mid-19th century   Germany.  This coincided with a movement for a united Germany in place of the neighbouring and independent principalities then existing. At the same time, as in Britain and some other European countries, the industrial revolution was bringing to light, and contributing to, the needs and poverty of much of the population. Social reformers saw education as a way of bringing about social and cultural unity and meeting some of the problems brought about by poverty. Social pedagogy is now found in most European countries.

When did social pedagogy come to the UK?

In the United Kingdom the term social pedagogy was unfamiliar until fairly recently. In the academic world interest arose from about the 1980s, via interchange with colleagues in continental Europe, not necessarily focused directly on social pedagogy but concerned with services where social pedagogues were employed, such as early childhood education and care, youth and social work. As a result, the term social pedagogy became somewhat more familiar. In the late 1990s, for the first time a British a government department showed an active interest in social pedagogy and mention in official documents followed. This interest arose out of immediate concerns and scandals surrounding residential care and led to funding for a research programme at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, and began in 1999.  In Scotland, also, there has been some Government and children’s services interest. This was stimulated by Children in Scotland, the Scottish Institute for Residential Childcare, academics and others. Various pilots and demonstration projects followed, with Government and other funding. A review of reports from these has found consistently positive outcomes (Cameron, 2016). Thempra and Jacaranda have been influential in much of this activity and since 2008, in the Social Pedagogy Development Network (SPDN) which has brought interested people together, twice yearly, for seminars and a day’s learning and exchange. Up to 200 or more participants attend each time and the events are hosted by local authorities and independent agencies. In 2009 the Centre for Understanding Social Pedagogy was established in the Institute of Education, which among its other activities has fostered international exchange and has celebrated its first PhD. The latest development in the UK is arrival of SPPA, hosted in UCL IOE. In 2019, it will stand on its own feet as a membership organisation. With SPPA comes the development of Levels 3 and Level 5 Diploma in Social Pedagogy.

What does the 'social' refer to?

In social pedagogy the term ‘social’ refers to working with people on behalf of society, to help them achieve their goals and to support their integration into society through, for example, providing advice, advocacy, supporting self-expression, and broadening horizons. It is a broadly educational role but with a deep concern for those individuals and social groups who are usually materially, culturally or socially disadvantaged or marginalised. In some countries, this has sometimes extended to acting on behalf of disadvantaged groups in a representational sense and empowering people to take action for themselves.

Who do social pedagogues work with?

Social pedagogues work across a wide age-range, in some countries from 0 – 100 years, as in Denmark, for example, which has a well-developed system of social pedagogy. They may be found in care, health and educational services and in both universal services like early childhood care and education, and special services such as those for disadvantaged children, young people and adults. Social pedagogues are concerned with the formation and on-going development of the whole person, their physical, emotional, intellectual and social wellbeing. Their aim is to promote social agency and resilience so that the people they work with can fulfil their potential. They do this via the relationships they form with people, often in the course of everyday activities and by means of ‘small steps’. Social pedagogues often use arts, creativity and outdoor life as a medium for developing relationships and mutual enjoyment of being together. Group work is a common feature of social pedagogic practice.

Are there any social pedagogues working in the UK?

Until now, the only social pedagogues working in the UK are those who have trained overseas and taken up positions in social work, social care or related fields. Most focus in the UK has been on the potential for social pedagogy in work with looked after children but this has been extended to seeing social pedagogy as a way forward for youth work, family support, support for people with disabilities, practice in schools and early childhood settings and other fields. SPPA is now engaged in promoting a qualified and recognised professional workforce for the UK.  For more information on how you can engage and network in a broader scale, contact SPPA.

How can I join SPPA?

You can join as an Individual Member or with your organisation with the types of packages that we offer. Find out more on Individual Memberships/Group Memberships and Organisational Memberships. In the meantime, why not join the SPPA mailing list.

What does SPPA do?

SPPA is the professional home for social pedagogy in the UK. We are a centre of excellence for social pedagogy theory and practice. We are working towards professionalising social pedagogy to equip workers with training to provide better care and support to children, young people and adults, especially those who are disadvantaged or are vulnerable. Our membership offer include the following: providing continuous professional development opportunities including conferences, focused learning days and webinars, networking with like-minded people, being part of a growing community, helping us develop and promote excellence in social pedagogy, raising its profile in the UK and more. Find out more about who we are and what we do.

Why am I asked to sign a Charter for Social Pedagogy?

SPPA is a professional association that is seeking to establish and maintain a group of people who are not only interested in the field but prepared to live by the values that social pedagogy espouses. Signing the Charter for Social Pedagogy is a way of showing your active agreement to the principles and values of social pedagogy as defined through the appreciative enquiry work of the Scaling up Social Pedagogy project during 2016. The Charter will be open to periodic review.

What is the difference between the Charter and the Standards?

The Standards of Proficiency for Social Pedagogy were developed for practitioners. They frame the qualifications in social pedagogy and were devised through the same consultative process as the Charter. The Standards are aimed specifically at what is taught and learned in the qualification courses and are applicable to people with these qualifications.

How can I get involved in SPPA?

SPPA has a programme of events for members throughout the year. You can view our upcoming events here. SPPA is open to members who wish to develop interest groups or learning communities in specific areas or practice or policy. Please join groups you are interested in, share ideas and suggest groups that don’t currently exist. Our Project Bank is now open, so you can register your own projects, seek partners to support your projects, file resources and report results.  

How can I gain a qualification in social pedagogy?

If you are 18 years old and above and you are employed in a care/education setting or have a minimum of 200 hours of volunteering in a similar setting, you may be eligible to undertake the Level 3 Diploma in Social Pedagogy. The qualification is 47 credits, which means a total qualification time of 470 hours will be taught. 70 of these are guided learning hours. This qualification is assessed through a portfolio of evidence. You will undertake a holistic approach to assessment, which means using assessment tasks which cover elements across units. Jacaranda and ThemPra are now offering the Crossfields Institute Level 5 Diploma in Social Pedagogy for people working in care and education across the age range, with a particular focus on social pedagogical leadership and organisational development. Regulated by Ofqual, the 60-credit qualification is equivalent to one semester of university studies and consists of 3 integrated modules. Graduates from the social pedagogy Diploma programmes will be known as social pedagogy practitioners. Social Pedagogue is a protected title in European countries and is acquired after an extensive programme of study at Bachelor and, often, Masters level. Follow these links for the Level 3 and Level 5 Diploma for more information.

Will my qualification be recognised by SPPA?

SPPA endorses social pedagogy courses run by Centres that are approved by Crossfields Institue. ThemPra and Jacaranda are the two Centres approved to run the Crossfields Institute Diploma in Social Pedagogy. During 2017 and beyond, SPPA will endeavour to evaluate which other courses are equivalent to the Crossfields Institute Diploma in Social Pedagogy and publish a list of them. This will enable recognition by SPPA.