The SPDN in Northern Ireland - Glencraig on 31 March / 1 April, 2011

The last SPDN meeting took social pedagogy to Northern Ireland. Camphill Community Glencraig, near Belfast, hosted the meeting on Friday, April 1, in which nearly 90 people participated. And to make the journey doubly worthwhile, Camphill also organised an evening seminar on Thursday, March 31, at which three highly esteemed speakers talked about social pedagogy: Prof. Pat Petrie from the Thomas Coram Research Unit spoke about social pedagogy and the creative/expressive arts; Mark Smith from the University of Edinburgh discussed social pedagogy and ethics as first practice in social care, and Vibeke Alfred from the Camphill Steiner School Aberdeen explored the links between Camphill Communities and social pedagogy. This offered a great opportunity for an audience of around 140 to gain some insights into social pedagogy from a more theoretical perspective and thus better understand what social pedagogy is about. The evening talks also set the scene for much of the discourse at the SPDN meeting the following day.

Both events began with a musical performance of the Camphill Community's orchestra and a welcome by Patricia Lewley, Northern Ireland's Commissioner for Children and Young People. Participants on Friday came from a range different professional groups, such as social workers, teachers, youth workers, legal advocates, residential care workers, health workers, foster carers, adult care workers, social pedagogues, lecturers and students. They also represented different UK countries, with 30 people from England, 41 from Northern Ireland, 12 from the Republic of Ireland, 7 from Scotland, and 1 from Wales. The day started with perspectives from the NICCY Youth Panel about issues facing young people today and their "Disable the Label" campaign to challenge negative stereotyping of youths in Northern Ireland. Their video presentation was followed by an open panel discussion linking the young people's message to social pedagogy and exploring the implications for professionals. Afterwards, different organisations from across the UK presented their work around social pedagogy: Maureen Caton from Essex County Council talked about the progress that had been made there as part of the 3-year implementation project; Trish Connelly from Belfast Health and Social Care Trust summarised the work they have done together with ThemPra; John Kelleher and Guy Brewer from Sycamore Services provided an overview of their social pedagogy journey with us; Jutta Weber from Hackney Borough gave an insight into her work as a social pedagogue as part of the virtual schools team there; Ekua Bayunu, Christine Hayward and Gail Riedhorst from Derbyshire County Council showed a short video about a piece of work done by one of their children's homes that has undertaken a social pedagogy project with Jacaranda Recruitment; and Graham McEnhill from Kibble discussed his organisation's plans to develop social pedagogy within its care settings. Participants then had time to get more into dialogue with all presenters to explore in more detail how social pedagogy had been taken forward.

After a tour through the grounds of the Camphill Community and some practical creative activities facilitated by Pat Petrie, the afternoon culminated in 'world café' table discussions focussing on the meaning of social pedagogy to participants, how social pedagogy is practiced and what ways there are to promote social pedagogy within and beyond one's own context. Summaries of the discussions and feedback from participants on the day can be accessed via the SPDN's virtual forum.

Overall, the day offered many opportunities for participants to progress their thinking on, and get into dialogue around, social pedagogy and to enjoy building relationships with others active around social pedagogy. It seemed that both people who hadn’t been at previous SPDN events or were new to social pedagogy and those who were already further in their social pedagogy journey found the day equally enriching and benefitting their professional development. They found lots of ways to learn from each other, using the great expertise amongst participants to jointly develop social pedagogical traditions for Ireland and the UK.