Social Pedagogy in Essex

In September 2008 we began a social pedagogy pilot project with Essex's Residential Service. Together we set out on a process of change, learning about continental European social pedagogy in theory and practice and discovering how we can jointly create social pedagogy in Essex. This was not just about training or about altering practice but about further developing the culture within homes and the wider services under a social pedagogic framework. With its emphasis on ethics as first practice, a value-based holistic way of working, social pedagogy fitted well from the beginning, offering practitioners a framework they could relate to both on a personal and professional level.

In order to share the experiences of residential care workers in Essex of how relevant social pedagogy turned out to be for their practice, how they realised its potential to guide and further enhance their practice, we are now able to publish our project report titled 'The Art of Being a Social Pedagogue'. You can download it here ...

Throughout the project lifecycle there were also regular publications and media coverage:

  • Essex's pioneering social pedagogy project was first announced in Children & Young People Now in early December 2008. The article outlined the national relevance of the project and rationale for undertaking the systemic change strategy.
  • The Who Cares Trust also reported a few times about the Essex pilot, meeting with both staff and young residents to find out how social pedagogy has affected life in the children's homes. An initial overview of the project was published and is available here, and a later article in the Who Cares Magazine followed up the project's impact on young people.
  • In early 2009 the BBC sent home editor Mark Easton to visit one of the children's homes and offer an insight into social pedagogy. His blog outlining his experiences at the Essex home and at a brief visit to Denmark can be found here.
  • A Guardian article a few months later further served to put the project in the spotlight, alongside the Government-funded national pilot project managed by the Thomas Coram Research Unit. Here is the link to the article.
  • Following the first year of developing social pedagogy within the homes, ThemPra drew together examples from participants' assignments on how social pedagogy had influenced their practice. The essay aimed to offer an insight into social pedagogy from a practitioner's perspective, what they consider the most relevant concepts and how social pedagogy compares to their previous practice. The paper was published on and is still accessible via this link.
  • At the NCERCC Annual Conference in January 2010 Susie Stephens, social pedagogy project manager for Essex, gave a presentation on the processes, challenges and achievements connected to the change strategy. Her presentation can be downloaded on the NCB website.
  • For the ChildrenWebmag special edition on social pedagogy the internal researcher in Essex, Nicola Boyce, wrote an article about some of the research findings on where changes to culture and practice had occurred and what had facilitated these developments. She identified a change in the role of the practitioner, in the conceptualisation of risk, and in the quality of relationships. To read her full article please follow this link.
  • The positive developments, which were also reflected in Ofsted inspections and Reg. 33 visits, led to one of the residential child care workers, Viki Bird, giving a presentation at a care leavers conference at London City Hall. Viki described how she and her team have supported young people in the areas most commonly highlighted by care leavers as important in their lives: negative stereotyping of children in care, lack of identity, and social exclusion. We've subsequently published Viki's narrative in the GoodEnoughCaring Journal, so if you are interested to find out more details please click this link. The article was published just as the council's Cabinet made the decision to close Essex's mainstream children's homes.
  • The strategic decision by Essex to spot-purchase all mainstream placements externally, which is detailed in the Cabinet report, has unfortunately overshadowed the completion of the 3-year pilot project in October 2011. However, the 3 homes for children with disabilities and the secure unit remain committed to social pedagogy and are still part of Essex County Council. We are also confident that the many passionate professionals who have worked very hard to develop their practice in a social pedagogic way will continue to be an inspiration and take their learning, expertise and achievements into any future roles.
  • Further reading on the likely impact of the closure of increasingly more children's homes - not only in Essex but across the UK - can be found in this Guardian article and this article in Community Care. The articles place the Cabinet decision within the current political context of budget savings, which are likely to be very detrimental to children in care. As numerous research and a look into countries with social pedagogy demonstrate, residential child care has an important role to play as an option for caring for children. Dramatically reducing placements in children's homes is a step in the wrong direction - sadly an irreversible step for many children.

ThemPra's Essex Report:

The Essex Report
download pdf here.