Any definition of social pedagogy should highlight the importance of its relationship to its social context. As an academic discipline social pedagogy is concerned with human beings’ learning, well-being and inclusion in society. Social pedagogy emerged to address culturally specific social problems through educational means (see Hämäläinen, 2003), and as every culture encounters its own unique problems, solutions to social problems are dependent on the context.
With this background, it is interesting to see how social care agencies in the UK engage with social pedagogy and to take stock of the role recruitment of European Social Pedagogues plays within that.
Recruiting from Continental Europe
Jacaranda Recruitment is one of a number of organisations directly involved with the implementation of social pedagogy in the UK. Jacaranda’s contribution takes the form of both recruitment of Social Pedagogues for permanent posts and consultancy and taster training sessions and workshops for UK staff.
Jacaranda Recruitment started recruiting Social Pedagogues, Social Workers and other care professionals for permanent work in the UK social care sector six years ago. At that time we felt the professional approach of Social Pedagogues was an excellent match for some of the recognised needs of services here, as identified in Every Child Matters and Care Matters, for example.
At that time, however, our service was most readily received as an answer to shortages of qualified Social Workers and recruitment problems in residential child care. It is worth noting that Social Pedagogues can, in the main, register with the GSCC and work in fieldwork settings, in both children’s and adults’ services. Social Pedagogues are able to work both directly with clients in settings such as residential child care and in ‘qualified work’. The status issues associated with this differentiation do not exist in continental Europe in the same way as they do in the UK.
As a recruitment solution, our service has been effective, with high retention rates and progression of staff – the question of how the social pedagogic approach could be utilised by employers was a secondary consideration for the employing agencies that was not, and possibly still has not been fully explored. Over the past year to eighteen months, that position has changed.
Translating SP into English Residential Child Care
During 2007, the project Introducing Social Pedagogy Into Residential Child Care in England was commissioned by the Social Education Trust (SET) and managed by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC).
The project aimed to develop knowledge of the theories behind social pedagogic approaches, build the confidence of Residential Child Care Workers and discover possible ways of translating social pedagogic approaches into meaningful practices in English residential child care settings.
Nine residential child care settings participated in a programme of practice development training facilitated by Social Pedagogue consultants from Germany and Denmark. The overall outcome of this pilot project, as seen through the eyes of the facilitators and participants, was highly positive. The key aims and objectives of facilitating a better understanding of the relevance and possible translation of social pedagogic approaches into the English residential child care context and increasing staff confidence in relating to the ideas and translating them into their every day practice in this project were met.
Following the completion of these pilots, it was felt that an interest had been awakened, particularly following the NCERCC national conference in Birmingham where presentations updated the conference on the pilots and Social Pedagogues facilitated a social pedagogic activity for a very large number of delegates to illustrate the power of the group.
There was a momentum that those who had been involved with the pilots wanted to further enable. This is how the website www.SocialPedagogyUK.com was born. This website is sponsored by Jacaranda and managed by the TCRU, Institute of Education, David Crimmens from SET and University of Lincoln and Jonathan Stanley, NCERCC. It provides updates on the development of social pedagogy in the UK. A newsletter is also available to keep people up-to-date with the latest developments.
The virtual meeting place in the form of this website has since found an echo in the real world with the creation of a Social Pedagogy Development Network, the first meeting of which will take place in November 2009. This forum will offer all people involved with social pedagogy, at all levels, the chance to meet and exchange experiences and ideas. And there are more and more organisations looking at social pedagogy for what it has to offer and less by default via the recruitment of European staff.
An Expanding Profile
Possibly due to the compelling evidence that outcomes for children and young people vary positively in key areas such as engagement in education, training and employment in continental Europe as compared to England, there is an increased focus on social pedagogy as an approach.
In key areas such as workforce planning and DCSF funded pilots to explore the potential of social pedagogy, we see an increased interest at a government level with coordinated communication between the agencies. The CWDC are taking Social pedagogy into consideration in their workforce consultations and are addressing the question of resourcing implications of a graduate level role within residential child care. The DCSF are funding a pilot project looking at the use of social pedagogic approaches in residential child care in England. The pilots are starting in the Summer of 2009 and will be evaluated in 2011.
In addition to this, some local authorities have engaged first and foremost with the concept of social pedagogy and how to use the approach. Jacaranda delivered consultancy and recruitment services for two Social Pedagogues to work in the Looked After Children service in a London borough. We assessed the compatibility of the social pedagogic approach with the authority’s own values and methods, generated job descriptions for Social Pedagogues and advised how the staff could be best deployed. A second local authority in the Midlands have created a small team of Social Pedagogues who also work with Looked After Children, working creatively with practical issues and group work, addressing conflict and challenging behaviours and supporting young people into independence. Another local authority in the Midlands hired two Educators/Social Pedagogues and are undertaking Jacaranda’s taster training for residential staff. BREAK Charity in Norfolk have five Social Pedagogues in place and have done a joint fieldtrip with Norfolk County Council and looked after children to similar providers in Germany.
What Social Pedagogues Think
But what do our Social Pedagogues think about working in the UK? Many, before they apply to work here, didn’t know that we don’t have a social pedagogic system. First and foremost, those who apply are keen to share their knowledge and experience and delighted to be valued professionally. There is no feedback as yet available from the Social Pedagogues employed as part of the DCSF pilot project, but we can share with you the comments of one Pedagogue placed in child care team in a local authority in the South of England:
“I have been working as a Social Worker for a local authority for two years now. I qualified in Germany and a hold a university degree in pedagogy. At the beginning the job appeared to be dominated by bureaucracy and that seemed to clash with my background in pedagogy at first. It took me some time to get my head around the English system, but then I realised that social work in England is shifting towards social pedagogy instead of focusing on control mechanisms only and that I can contribute to the current changes with my qualification.
“My understanding of family dynamics and their potential is often different from those of other professionals I work with. This difference is crucial for the families I work with. Although that is not always easy, it feels great to see families re-engaging and participating to improve their children’s lives due to my involvement. And, of course, it is great seeing more and more professionals adopting a social pedagogic approach when working with these vulnerable families.
“There will always be ups and downs in the work, but now I can clearly see the advantage of being here. I am able to plan my career and I have started further studies with the support of the local authority I work for and have recently been promoted. I never thought I would say this, but I can’t see myself going back to Germany in the foreseeable future.”
Further Exploration Ahead
These are early days in the adoption of a social pedagogic approach – to the extent that we may hesitate to use the words ‘implementation’ or ‘adoption’ of the approach. It is probably more the case that we are busy learning what social pedagogy means in other European contexts and the question of what an English or UK social pedagogy may look like is one that is a long way from being answered. But one thing is clear – we seem to be keen to explore it to the fullest, not least underpinned by our belief that the children, young people, adults and older people who are most vulnerable in our society may have much to gain by our open-mindedness and dedication to exploring the potential of social pedagogy in the UK.
If you are interested in speaking to Jacaranda about our service, please contact:
020 8676 5619
020 8676 5616