The SPDN in Kirkcaldy on 28/29 November, 2013

The Social Pedagogy Development Network's event in Kirkcaldy brought together 180 participants interested in exploring how social pedagogical principles can be integrated into practice with children, young people and adults in care. Hosted by Aberlour Child Care Trust, which has been actively developing social pedagogy within Aberlour Sycamore Services, Aberlour Fostering and the Dundee Early Intervention Team, this SPDN meeting aimed to further explore systemic dimensions of social pedagogy.

Evening Seminar

The evening seminar thus began with an introduction into systemic social pedagogy and a short activity to highlight that we all play a number of roles within the system and should therefore not underestimate our 'sphere of influence'. We also introduced participants to the Diamond Model from an organisational perspective. The presentation is available here.

slides from presentation slides from presentation

David Barr, area manager for Aberlour, then outlined the organisation's social pedagogy journey so far, which began with the late Tim Foley's interest in social pedagogy as a conceptual framework that complemented his own philosophy, the 'Sycamore Way', and led to Aberlour Sycamore Services commissioning ThemPra to facilitate training courses in social pedagogy. From the beginning, this also included foster carers and support workers from Aberlour Fostering, which, as its head of service Nicola Fearon outlined, continued with Aberlour Fostering becoming a demonstration site in the Head Heart Hands programme. When Aberlour jointly set up the Dundee Early Intervention Team in 2012, the family support service was designed to be underpinned by social pedagogy. Hillary Brookes, DEIT's team leader, gave an overview of how the ThemPra training for her team had provided a clear vision and shared understanding of how they would support families and what their successes had been so far. Graham McPheat, workforce development lead at CELCIS, unfortunately couldn't be with us but has provided this summary outlining CELCIS's ambitions around social pedagogy.

Following on from the presentations, Anthony Moorcroft from Lancashire County Council showed 'Beyond All Limits', a short film made by young people with disabilities to showcase the great abilities they possess and thus challenge stereotypes. The 007-styled film sees them drive James Bond's Aston Martin, skydive, rock-climb, do archery, zip-wiring and other high-adrenaline activities, which only 'the best of the best of the best' are able to undertake. You can watch the exclusive trailer here:

The evening programme concluded with contributions from the audience before culminating in a ceilidh evening with many opportunities for further conversations and networking.

full-day event

From the very beginning there was a familiar and buzzing atmosphere at Friday's SPDN event. It felt as if all 180 participants knew each other and realised that they were strongly connected by a shared determination to improve the lives of the children, young people and adults in their care and a joint passion for social pedagogy. The day began with a welcome and an interactive introduction that got participants fully engaged. Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, gave an excellent keynote speech about his hopes and aspirations for children and young people in Scotland. He outlined why listening to children and acting upon their views can create a better society and how children's opinions had influenced his work. Tam clearly highlighted the importance of using children's rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as a prism for practice and drew parallels between a children's rights and a social pedagogical perspective. You can watch his thought-provoking and engaging presentation below.

The range of workshops available this time was excellent and seemed to capture participants' imagination. For those looking for a hands-on introduction to social pedagogy, Andy Carter (ThemPra Social Pedagogy) facilitated a few social pedagogical activities for young people and adults. Together with participants he reflected on key principles and explained core concepts. In their workshop, Pat Petrie (Centre for Understanding Social Pedagogy, Institute of Education, University of London) and Helen Chambers (National Children’s Bureau) introduced the Arts Award and outlined how young people’s learning around arts and creativity can benefit them. Story Pockets, a workshop by Beth Cross (University of the West of Scotland), gave participants an opportunity to make their own story pocket - an inexpensive early language exploration tool for families that is part scrap book, part puppet theatre, part art portfolio - and explored ideas for using this in a range of practice contexts. An introductory workshop on social pedagogy in a Scottish context, by Anne Kunz (Aberlour Fostering), Manja Golobic (Orkney Islands Council) and Christine Spurk (Edinburgh City Council), provided participants with an insight into social pedagogy and discussed ideas about how it can be embedded in different professional settings. Grace Howard and Freya Burley (The Fostering Network) facilitated a workshop about the Head, Heart, Hands programme introducing social pedagogy into foster care, which gave a real impression of the achievements and challenges they have experienced in the first year of working to introduce social pedagogy into six fostering services in England and Scotland. Nicole Chavaudra (Derbyshire County Council) and John Bowie (University of Derby) reflected with participants on Derbyshire County Council's pilot project developing social pedagogy understanding and practice across the workforce. Pedagogy or the Oppressed, a workshop by Malcolm Christie and Elke Greenhow (Aberlour Sycamore Services), offered a very thought-provoking round table debate on the pros and cons of using restraint and whether there is any place for restraint within a pedagogical approach. Hillary Brookes and her Dundee Early Intervention Team gaven an insight into their 'sparkly moments' in using social pedagogy with families. With recent interest in social pedagogy amongst policy-makers and sector leading organisations, Abby Ladbrooke (Jacaranda) and Claire Cameron (CUSP) were joined by participants in their workshop to actively shape policy positions around social pedagogy. If you are interested in further details about the workshops you can access resources from most workshops here or alternatively get in touch with the facilitators.

In between workshops, after an excellent lunch, we undertook an energizing group activity illustrating how quickly an idea can spread and become 'contagious'. It all started with one balloon, which we threw into the audience. Participants had each been given a balloon too and were asked to blow up and release when they themselves touched a balloon. Thus the number of balloons 'snowballed', multiplying with each individual touching them until, within a very short time, everyone was involved. Very quickly the room filled with 180 colourful balloons zooming from the left to the right and the front to the back. The laughter, excitement and focus were palpable - in fact, they were key to making the balloons spread so quickly. In many ways, we reflected afterwards, the spread of social pedagogy has been very similar: it has been carried by the passion and determination of many people who have been inspired by its philosophy, ideas and focus on the positive aspects in human beings. And it feels that we've reached a crucial moment where the momentum has built up, where enough individuals, organisations and sector leaders like The Fostering Network, CELCIS, Children in Scotland and the Association of Directors of Children's Services are contributing to the wider discourse around social pedagogy and thus encouraging further exploration. This is visible in the SPDN itself and the fact that, within 4 meetings, the number of participants has doubled! If all of us continue to talk about social pedagogy, then we can reach a significant number of social care and education professionals. Participants were very encouraged by this message and, as several commented on, by the sense of being part of a quickly growing movement.

snowballing balloons

To further develop our shared understanding of social pedagogy and co-construct the learning from the workshops and other conversations, the afternoon concluded with a world café session. On different tables, participants could choose to explore how social pedagogy related to, and could further enhance, their practice; to reflect on their organisational journey and identify how to their organisation can further embed social pedagogy; or to discuss policy implications of social pedagogical principles and how these fit with existing policy frameworks. Summaries from several of the world café tables are available here. These conversations seemed to capture participants' imagination, and the feedback at the end highlighted their learning from the day.

world cafe

world cafe summary

If you would like to join us at future SPDN events, please send an email to We look forward to hearing from you.

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