SPDN event at Camphill School Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University – summary


With its warm community spirit, peaceful environment and holistic approach to living together, the Camphill School Aberdeen is easily one of the most inspiring social pedagogical settings to visit. Participants at the 14th SPDN were able to feel this with every fibre as the Community hosted our summer event of the Social Pedagogy Development Network together with the Robert Gordon University. Over 24 hours, we explored social pedagogy across the lifespan, with keynote presentations by Kate Skinner, Janine Bolger and Patrick Walker, Fiona Feilberg, and Claire Cameron, as well as lots of interactive parts that made this a very memorable event: experiential workshops in Camphill settings, group activities including a performance by the newly initiated SPDN band, time for open space conversations, networking, and thematic workshops. A more detailed summary of the event, including presentations and photographs, is available here. And if you’re not already signed up to our SPDN emailing list, please feel free to register for future updates here. We’ll soon announce details of the next SPDN event in winter and look forward to seeing many of you there!

Organisers SPDN Aberdeen

Scaling up Social Pedagogy



Social Pedagogy Professional Association

The Centre for the Understanding of Social Pedagogy at UCL Institute of Education has been awarded a major grant to set up a Social Pedagogy Professional Association (SPPA). The intention is to scale up the already positive development of social pedagogy in the UK by means of a membership organisation which will be self-sustaining and self-governing.

Over the next three years, and through wide consultation, we will develop national occupational standards and professional qualifications. Our partners ThemPra and Jacaranda will join us in taking this work forward, particularly in developing and disseminating high quality social pedagogy training across the UK. We intend to build a framework for a social pedagogy career in the UK.

This work has grown out of sustained consultations over some years, through CUSP, within higher education institutions and through the Social Pedagogy Development Network. SPPA aims to provide sustainability and scale up major achievements in projects such as the Head, Heart, Hands programme in foster care, but recognises that social pedagogy is a broadly based profession with applicability across a wide range of settings and across the lifecourse.

The work

The first task is to create Standards for Social Pedagogy, which are called SOPs (Standards of Proficiency) for those who are practising in the field and SETs (Standards of Education and Training) for those who lead on educating practitioners, managers and others. We will advertise opportunities to help define social pedagogy for the UK via the SPDN database and the SPDN meeting in 2016.

Next we will create SPPA itself and will encourage everyone to become members. SPPA will be launched towards the end of 2016. SPPA will be the UK reference point for all those interested in promoting social pedagogy in the UK. SPPA will have a quality assurance role as it will ‘hold’ and periodically revisit the standards for practice developed. It will provide an umbrella association for different communities of practice, and those with theoretical or policy concerns, to come together, in interest groups and more generally. SPPA will be sustained through membership fees. Look out for the SPPA website through social pedagogy websites and Facebook page once it becomes live.

Finally, through our work with the Crossfields Institute, we will develop Ofqual approved accredited qualifications for practice in social pedagogy. These will initially be delivered by Thempra and Jacaranda. This is a UK wide project and we aim to make qualifications applicable across the four nations, taking into account different thresholds and Levels in each country. In time, SPPA will support the development of social pedagogy qualifications at BA level and beyond.

Please get in touch with Prof. Claire Cameron any questions or queries. We will update the social pedagogy community with new developments as they arise.

Immersed in Nature


It’s been fantastic to see more and more news stories recently highlighting the need for children to engage in risky play. The latest illustration of this – Kids Gone Wild – offers some wonderful insights into Danish forest kindergartens run by highly qualified pedagogues. With quite literally stunning images of small children climbing tall trees, whittling sticks with sharp knives and playing together in open water, the report shows the close connection between risk, adventure and learning. It is impressive just how quickly and naturally children learn about risk and develop a very astute sense of their own physical abilities and competence – if they are actually given opportunities to engage in risky play and are trusted by adults to explore the world on their own terms.


It is also telling that in countries like Denmark, with a vibrant tradition of social pedagogy, risk-taking is seen as beneficial for children rather than as dangerous. It is not only that actually bad things very rarely happen when children are allowed to take risks – the pedagogue in the film mentions that in his 17-year work at the forest kindergarten, only once did he have to take a child to hospital (because a parent accidentally drove their car over the child’s foot). In fact, really good things happen within the process. Where children grow up with opportunities to test their mental, emotional and physical abilities, to develop them by challenging themselves to dive a little deeper than they have previously done, jump off a rock that’s a little higher than the last one, or climb a little higher than before, they usually have a very astute sense of where their boundaries are, how competent they are and what is still beyond their abilities. In social pedagogy, this ability to understand, assess and safely take risks is often referred to as risk competence. Children who have had opportunities to develop their physical abilities and motor skills, a good sense of balance and rhythm and to experience their bodily limits will be more risk competent in activities such as climbing a tree than children who have little or no sense of coordination, of gravity, of how much weight their arms will hold. This doesn’t just make a difference when it comes to safely climbing a tree, it affects children’s entire everyday life. Evidence suggests that accidents are more likely to have serious consequences for those children who are not used to taking risks and develop risk competence than for those who have learned how to run without losing control, how to land when jumping, how to fall without hurting themselves. In order to develop risk competence children require opportunities to experience risk situations first-hand in order to make both cognitive and emotional sense of risks as well as their ability to assess and manage such situations.

Whilst more and more research points to the importance of risk-taking and practice examples such as the Danish forest kindergarten show how this can be facilitated safely, unfortunately, research also highlights that culturally we’ve yet to implement these lessons and strengthen the case for risky play. It is important not to underestimate the significance of our collective approach to risk. Protecting children from risks and managing those for them does not simply mean that we do not develop their risk competence – it means that we are keeping them in a bubble of pretend safety, a bubble that is destined to burst sooner or later. Furthermore, by preventing them from acquiring essential skills to understand, analyse, emotionally cope with and master risky situations, we are also limiting our collective resourcefulness as a society. Life in what sociologists refer to as ‘risk society’ relies on us better understanding the many small and large, predictable and unpredictable, visible and invisible risks around us and on our ability to use this knowledge for our collective safety. Enabling children to develop risk competence is therefore not just about their well-being, it also has potentially a profound impact on the shape of our society in the future.

In a world of uncertainty, where the ways in which we solve problems, innovate, collaborate, perceive and think matter more than the hard knowledge we have acquired, we must equip children to not be afraid of risk but to respect it, to not let fear hold them back but to guide them forwards. Admittedly, this is no easy task. It requires from parents, practitioners, policy-makers, regulators and others to take their own risks, to be prepared to let go and let children explore freely.

In the end, the question is this: What world do we want to contribute to? A world where children don’t play outside, don’t take risks, move less, grow obese, are less active and develop more physical and mental health issues? Or a world where children have stimulating play opportunities in their communities, where they can explore and develop their ability to assess and master risk situations, where they learn to solve problems, collaborate and imagine, where their bodies and their minds are active and engaged and where they enjoy a sense of well-being as a result? Which of these worlds is likely to produce the innovators and leaders that our societies will need in the future? We must remember that the choice over the world we want to help create is ours.


If you’d like to find out more about a social pedagogical approach to developing risk competence, please check out our article on risk competence or get in touch with us.

SPDN event at UCLan summary


Whether you’ve missed or participated in the Social Pedagogy Development Network event hosted by the University of Central Lancashire last December, you’ll hopefully be really interested in our write-up from the 24 hours. It’s more than just a write-up actually as it includes photos, slideshows and a video of the morning seminar on taking social pedagogy to scale. Check it all out here – and if you’re not already signed up to our SPDN emailing list, please feel free to register for future updates here. We’ll soon announce details of the next SPDN event in early summer and look forward to seeing many of you there!


ThemPra goes TEAL


As a social enterprise we have been committed to serving a wider purpose and being an organisation with a difference from the start. In coaching other organisations to develop social pedagogy within their practice and culture, we feel strongly that social pedagogical principles must also apply to the ways we work as an organisation both externally and internally. We want to nurture authentic relationships, focus on strengths and potential, create meaningful learning, encourage a sense of empowerment and celebrate the profound sense of joy that comes from making a positive difference. Our journey towards becoming a TEAL organisation – described by Frederic Laloux in his influential book Reinventing Organizations as organisations characterised by self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose – is now enabling us to translate these principles more effectively into our own structures and internal practices in ways that feel very congruent with what attracted us to ThemPra in the first place. We’ve always been purpose-driven, and now feel even more encouraged to make our purpose central to everything and listen more to it. We have also aspired to provide a soulful organisational culture in which we each can bring in all our sides as human beings and form authentic relationships – and in our experience this has been one of the most important reasons for our success as a pioneering organisation. As a virtual team engaged in a variety of projects, our different team members have always shown a high level of self-management. As an emerging teal organisation we now see self-management not just as a necessity but value it even more as an asset. Adopting the advice process to make decisions has meant that we make better decisions, make them faster and more inclusively and that we all feel trusted to take responsibility. We’ve been fortunate to have found an excellent external consultant in Judy Rees whose support has helped us develop towards a TEAL organisation and has offered us a clear sense of direction and connectedness both to our inner motivations and to a wider movement – a sense that what we do as an organisation has a sound foundation, that we’re not successful despite the ways in which we operate but because of them. Frederic Laloux’s research has been truly inspirational and, together with Judy’s brilliant coaching, provided us with new ideas and ways to work through the challenges that characterise meaningful change.

We’re incredibly excited about this emerging organisational model, which has received more attention recently (see BBC Radio 4 programme) and can be found in a wide variety of sectors. We strongly feel that, with its emphasis on trust and autonomy, wholeness and purpose, TEAL has much to offer to social care organisations. We are always happy to share more insights into our journey towards TEAL and to support other organisations in reinventing themselves. Please feel free to get in touch with us to find out more.