Celebrating Head, Heart, Hands


An Open Letter from the Social Pedagogy Consortium

Dear friends and colleagues,

At the end of the Head, Heart, Hands programme we, as members of the Social Pedagogy Consortium, want to send greetings to all its participants and all who showed a lively interest in it. We want to thank you for your contribution to its many successes and hope you’ve found the experience as valuable as we have, as delivery partners with The Fostering Network. With them, we set out, four years ago, to demonstrate the practical and theoretical value of social pedagogy for UK foster carers and their young people.

Over that time, our appreciation both of fostering and of the potential of social pedagogy for the UK has grown. It has been a complex programme: Several hundred people were involved, with many different roles, duties and perspectives, not to mention a wide variety of settings. These ranged from the intensely rural to the inner city, from the South of England to the far North of Scotland. Unsurprisingly, such differences presented challenges for this national programme, but they also gave opportunities for learning and contributed much to the richness of the programme.

From our point of view, Head, Heart, Hands was stimulating, hugely interesting, intense, demanding, challenging, rewarding, and often a lot of fun – perhaps many of you felt the same. In each site the programme set up learning and development courses mainly involving foster carers but also social workers and other personnel. It was an opportunity for all to share in the same learning experience and to develop a common language about the work and the young people they had responsibility for. We found that most participants were very appreciative of this opportunity.

Many foster carers said that their confidence in relating to the children had increased and they shared inspiring examples of how the children were benefitting. For these foster carers, social pedagogy wasn’t just ‘good practice’, it was about developing a new perspective on the work, finding ways into more reflective practice and valuing their own contribution more highly. They often told us how they’d found creative ways of building relationships and of sharing family life with their foster children. They also said that the programme had enabled them to react differently – and successfully – when difficulties arose, because they could adapt their learning to their own situations. When they needed to speak up for young people in the outside world, they now felt better able to professionally challenge, request change and discuss issues with other professionals, as confident members of the team around the child. Developing confident team work is just one aspect of social pedagogy that is different from many other approaches.

We found it very impressive that most of the foster carers involved, the five local authorities and the two independent providers stayed with the programme through its highs and lows. Also, as a result of the programme, a number of strong advocates for social pedagogy have emerged, who continue their learning and development with great dedication.

We want to thank and congratulate The Fostering Network for undertaking Head, Heart, Hands and all of you have worked so hard to make it a success. Now, we’re looking forward to new growth that will enable the achievements and learning of Head, Heart, Hands to live on across the UK. The Social Pedagogy Professional Association (SPPA) will launch in 2017, and Ofqual-recognised qualifications, now in development, will follow. There will be opportunities for people who have already undertaken courses in social pedagogy to take their existing learning forward to accreditation at Diploma level.

Individual and organisational membership of SPPA will be open to different professionals working with people across the age range. To begin with, SPPA will have a home in UCL Institute of Education (see www.sppa-uk.org) before it stands on its own feet in 2019. We warmly invite foster carers, among many other occupations, to help us make SPPA a vibrant community of practice, creating change such as that which resulted from Head, Heart, Hands.

We are looking forward to meeting and working with many of you in the future,

Abby, Thure, Manuel, Kristina, Pat, Robyn, Sylvia, Andy, Alex, Charlotte, Gabriel and Christina

Head, Heart, Hands site and programme team at Orkney practice group, 20-21 July, 2015



Developing a Massive Open Online Course in Social Pedagogy across Europe


We’re delighted to announce that ThemPra has been awarded with a substantial 3-year Erasmus+ grant to develop a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in social pedagogy! In realising this long-term ambition, we’re really pleased to be able to draw on the collective expertise of an international partnership with the University of Central Lancashire (UK), UCC Copenhagen (Denmark), Common View (Denmark), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain), Ghent University (Belgium), Masaryk University (Czech Republic), Kocaeli University (Turkey) and KJSH Verbund für Kinder-, Jugend- und Soziale Hilfen (Germany), who will all provide many amazing insights into practice innovations and the role of social pedagogy in their respective countries. Thanks to EU funding we will be able to offer the 9 MOOC sessions free of charge. We hope that the course will reach many people around the globe and contribute to social pedagogy developments internationally, particularly in countries where interest in social pedagogy is still relatively new. As we want these ideas to travel far and wide, we will also put together a research report to strategically support policy-makers in implementing social pedagogy innovations across cultural barriers.

We’re very keen to start building a network of critical friends and interested allies who want to help us make this a unique learning resource that inspires students, practitioners and policy-makers alike. We’re planning to pilot the MOOC with 100 international learners next year and to share this more widely in 2018. We will also form a multiplier network and critical friends groups in each country to inform the development of the MOOC. If you would like to get involved, please send us an email or sign up to our emailing list (form in the right column) to receive further updates!

The project is funded under the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme Key Action 2: Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices. More details about the project can be found here.


Social Pedagogical Leadership


‘Great leaders find ways to connect with their people and help them fulfil their potential’ (Steven J. Stowell)

Leadership is seen as vital to realising aspirations, achieving high-performing teams and creating positive cultures of care. The challenge, however, lies in practicing leadership in ways that are authentic and draw out our own and others’ potential. And just as with geese flying in V formation, leaders aren’t just the ones at the top – it’s essential to develop each person’s leadership potential. With its strong emphasis on more equal relationships, learning processes, a shared life-space and ethics as first practice, social pedagogy has important implications for leadership at every level of an organisation. To help existing and potential leaders better understand how they can integrate social pedagogical principles in the way they lead, we’ve developed a 3-day course. Until now we have only run this as part of social pedagogy projects with bespoke organisations, but given the very positive response and substantial interest we’re now also opening the course to individuals to join.

Here is what you can expect: over the 3 days you will get plenty of opportunities to explore how key principles in social pedagogy translate into leadership, what this means for you, your team and wider organisation, and, most importantly, how social pedagogical leadership can benefit children, young people and their families. The leadership course is facilitated over 3 consecutive days using a variety of learning methods to make social pedagogical leadership become real – through experiential learning activities, group discussions, theoretical inputs, reflection and action planning on how you can develop your leadership.

If you’re interested in the course, please download our brochure, which includes the registration form for our next social pedagogical leadership course in Edinburgh on 16-18 November. Alternatively, you can stay informed by joining our emailing list, liking us on our Facebook page or getting in touch with any questions via email.

Group of Canadian geese flying i V formation over frozen lake

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.