Sunday, 8 February 2009

The same sad song...

‘Social pedagogy’, a new UK craze

The established discipline/craft of ‘social pedagogy', long commonplace in Norway, Germany and other European countries, has been spotted by English social-work academics and is now spreading down (over?) to fieldwork practitioners and their agencies. A local newspapaer in Essex has reported a recent practical development:

Over the next three years, 200 staff in the county council children’s homes will be retrained in a theory known as social pedagogy.

The practice is widely and successfully used in Denmark and Germany, where it has reduced teenage pregnancy, drug use and crime among young people leaving care. It has also improved levels of school achievement.

The Government is still running trial schemes elsewhere in the country, but Essex County Council has now decided to go ahead and adopt the scheme – the first county in the UK to do so.

The aim is to fundamentally change the culture in children’s homes, so young people get more choice and support to follow individual interests…. [continues]

Granting that this is just an extract from a good-faith local-newspaper report (see the link below for the full text) there is nothing here to suggest anything radical that might generate fundamental change.


An established European pedagogic tradition (in theory and in practice) is spotted by the English-speaking world. Depending upon where one is thinking of in Europe, it might take three to five years to train as a practitioner in this pedagogy. In Essex, existing staff in existing institutions, steeped in good old British ideologies and British ways, are expected to have no problem in absorbing this approach, transforming themselves, their practices, their institutions and, most vitally their outcomes, from a bit of in-service training.

No sweat. And no doubt it will all be evaluated. And, when the carnival is over, if social pedagogy ‘doesn’t work’, then Johnny Foreigner must have got it all wrong in the first place, Time to move on to the next fad, with fundamental tenets, structures, practices and ideas unaffected.

Foreign labour

In the meantime, one might wish to cut corners, by employing properly trained European pedagogues to do the work that they are trained to do, albeit within different organisational structures. The following is extracted from a current advertisement by a recruitment agency (Jacaranda Reruitment, 2009):


£29,958 to £37,368 Location: Central London Interviews: March 2009 Start: Spring 2009 Qualification: Social Pedagogy Do you want to work with young people in public care involved in gang culture? This employer is at the front of growing interest in Social Pedagogy in the UK. This is a state employer providing a challenging and interesting work environment and good benefits. The local population is culturally and ethnically diverse. Requirements • Good level of written and spoken English • ENTHUSIASM • Qualification in Social Pedagogy • Experience working with young people • A driving license and the willingness to drive in the UK • Minimum 2 year commitment • GSCC registration required The job • Working in the “Looked After Children” team • Mediating between young people and their families • Social pedagogical family support, counseling, mediation, conflict-management…

This advert (in English, as quoted) has been placed in a weekly Polish-language magazine Goniec Polski - The Polish Times, published in London, One should not ask why advertise specifically to Poles, but that is not what is happening here, since specifying the nationality of the social pedagogues whom you seek can hardly be legal. Any German or Norwegian, Danish or Russian social pedagogue reading the job ads in Goniec Polski should stand an equal chance of employment. Maybe indeed there are already similar adverts appearing in other British ethnic outlets, or across Europe itself.

One hopes that no one forgets to tell the Hungarian szociálpedagógusok.

As the world of Conductive Education well knows, trained Hungarian pedagogues of another kind have been shown to do rather well working in foreign countries, including the United Kingdom (for an example of a Hungarian seven-semester BA training in social pedagogy, see Debrecen University, 2008)

Good luck to the childcare workers in Essex in acquiring the skills, the theory and the philosophy of whichever social pedagogy they are to be introduced to. And best wishes particularly to any European social pedagogues who decide to try their luck in ’child care’ in the United Kingdom.

People in Conductive Education should look to the future success of this new tendency to see what might be learned for how to do things differently themselves. Maybe some people outside might even look to CE for a similar reason…

A long, ignoble tradition

The English-speaking peoples have a long tradition (maybe others have too, konduktive Förderung anyone?) of grabbing roughly at foreign pedagogies and other psychosocial interventions, misunderstanding, then crushing their life out before dropping them still misunderstood and moving on to something else. The following list is unlikely to be exhaustive:
  • the younger Montessori, from transforming the mental development of young children from the mist dire social circumstances into something rather twee
  • [Sigmund Freud, perhaps not propely included here but it seems a shame to miss out the reification of Ich, Uber-Ich and Das, into the Ego, the Super-Ego and the Id]
  • Jean Piaget, structuralist philosopher of the mind, adopted as the supposed intellectual base of Anglo-Saxon ‘progressive’ pre-school education, and his associate Bärbel Inhelder, documenter of the qualitative distinctions with and between human thinking in different levels of mental retardation, transformed into… who can tell?
  • Vygotskii, Luriya and Lenont’ev, at the forefront of developing a revolutionary Marxist theory of mind, intimately linked with Socialist pedagogic practice, transformed over the last thirty or so years into fodder for post-modernist liberal ‘academics’.
  • Reggio Emilio, the original essence of which is now hard to determine beneath the overlay of a very successful tourist industry.

And of course, András Pető and Conductive Education, of which enough said.


Calkin, S. (2009) Social pedagogy system will give kids in care a brighter future, Basildon and Wickford Recorder, 4 February

Debrecen University (2008) Szociálpedagógia (BA) szak

Jacaranda Recruitment (2009) Social pedagogues in London (advertisement). Goniec Polski - The Polish Times

Smith, M. K. (2009) Social pedagogy, in The encyclopaedia of informal education,

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