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The 4th P – Social Pedagogy in Children’s Social Care


In this week’s blog, our colleagues at Lighthouse Pedagogy Trust discuss Social Pedagogy as a model of care practice and why LPT add another P to Catch22’s People, Purpose and Place.

At Catch22, we talk a lot about our 3Ps – the idea that, in order to thrive, we all need good people around us, a safe place to be, and purpose in life. This is just as true for the young people who live in our Lighthouse Pedagogy Trust (LPT) children’s home – they spend time together with the brilliant adults who work there, enjoying the thoughtfully designed spaces created for them, and work towards qualifications and experiences that will set them up for independent adulthood and a career they’ll enjoy.

For us at LPT, though, there’s a 4th P we consider essential – Pedagogy

‘Pedagogy’ describes the theory behind learning and focuses on education in the broadest sense of the word. Applied to children’s care, and combined with the all-important relationships children build with their caregivers, this becomes Social Pedagogy, our model of practice in the home.

What is Social Pedagogy?

Social Pedagogy is a term that features across public policy, ethics and academia, as well as in theory and practice. It’s well established in several other European countries, as well as in South America, but is still relatively new to the children’s care sector in the UK.

The ‘social’ and ‘pedagogy’ are combined in the belief that the best conversations happen when children and practitioners participate in activities together – what we call ‘common third’ activities. These activities strengthen the relationship between adult and child, allowing them both to develop new skills. If we undertake any activity with the intention of enhancing our relationship and learning together, it can become a ‘common third’ activity.

A practical example of this could be assembling a new IKEA bed for a rapidly-growing teenager whose feet have started dangling over the edge of their old bed. Since neither adult nor child is a professional IKEA-bed-assembler, both learn how to do it together. They can divide up tasks, work as a team, get frustrated, manage frustrations, and after half a day finally succeed. In those few hours, they’ll have learned so much about each other, and it does wonders for the relationship. For this to work, practitioners have to be open to trying new things, be excited to learn and not be afraid of bringing part of themselves to the situation. The children will appreciate it – 100%.

How does Social Pedagogy influence our work?

A home is made of people. In our case, it’s the children who live here and the adults who look after them. Every adult has their own style of parenting, often influenced by their own upbringing. This can be conscious or unconscious, which is why it’s important for everyone to have a clear understanding of, and to sign up to, the ethos and values of the home, as well as the Social Pedagogy approach. Social Pedagogy sees each individual child as a ‘diamond’ with their own personal value, and identifies four key aims that help children to thrive: well-being and happiness, holistic learning, relationships, and empowerment.

Illustration showing the elements of Social Pedagogy
Illustration provided by St Christopher’s

For us, Social Pedagogy helps us to understand how our values impact our day-to-day decisions, and to process the world around us. We use our relationships with our children as a vehicle to help support them to become the very best version of themselves.

On a broader scale, we want to process and challenge social inequalities through building relationships and listening deeply, and via education and participation. It’s worth noting that although Social Pedagogy runs through everything we do in our children’s home, we also draw from the good evidence-informed practice that we find in other models such as PACE (Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity, Empathy) and TIP (Trauma-Informed Practice).

To wrap up

For us at Lighthouse Pedagogy Trust, Social Pedagogy – our 4th P – is the glue that sticks the other 3 Ps together to produce good outcomes for the children in our care.

Find out more about Lighthouse Pedagogy Trust here.

To see what our children’s home looks like, check out our virtual tour.

If you’d like to learn more about how we’ve gone about shaping the culture in our home, check out the blog posts written by Leoni, our Deputy Manager, about language and relationships.