The history of social pedagogy
Social pedagogy is a relationship-based approach to working with people, and is applicable across a range of human services professions. With its development orientation to realising potential, it is often referred to as ‘education in the broadest sense’. Those practicing social pedagogy are concerned with the formation and on-going development of the whole person – their physical, emotional, intellectual and social well-being is central to social pedagogic practice.
In the late 1990s, the British Government began to show an active interest in social pedagogy following study trips to Denmark, France, Germany and the Netherlands. This interest was an active response to concerns and scandals surrounding children’s residential care. As a result of this, the Department of Health, and later the Department for Education commissioned a series of studies into social pedagogy at the Institute of Education – now a part of University College London – where there was considerable experience of research into European social and educational provision.
Social pedagogic practice in the UK has grown substantially since then, in a major way through The Fostering Network’s Head, Heart, Hands programme. Over four years (2011-16) and across seven fostering services in England and Scotland, the Head, Heart, Hands programme evaluated how a social pedagogic approach to fostering would impact on the experiences of foster carers, fostering services and fostered children and young people. The Head, Heart, Hands end of programme report highlights social pedagogy as a valuable tool in providing an ‘ethical and theoretical framework’ for developing improved relationships, and helping fostered children and young people feel ‘more confident, empowered, and valued’.
It has been estimated that by 2018, around 2,400 people across the UK have taken part in learning and development courses in social pedagogy. Social pedagogy is now routinely practiced in a variety of organisations across the UK. Those practicing social pedagogy are concerned with the formation and on-going development of the whole person – their physical, emotional, intellectual and social well-being is central to social pedagogic practice.
As a UK membership organisation, SPPA holds the Standards for Occupational Proficiency, and the Standards of Education and Training in Social Pedagogy. We have members from a variety of fields, including foster carers, social workers in Local Authorities, social care practitioners and academics.
Social pedagogy allows individuals to take greater autonomy for their own lives, and giving them the power to take control over their own physical and mental well-being. We believe that the increased professional recognition of social pedagogy, and support for its practice will have a positive impact on individual and societal well-being in the UK.