A chance to break down silos

14th December 2007 at 00:00
The Children's Plan announced this week is exactly that: a plan for children. While there is no suggestion that standards are any less important, it is good to see a strong acknowledgement of the broader needs of children and young people. To support this aim, some changes to the wider workforce working with children are also proposed. Though some of these seem mildly contradictory - such as aiming on the one hand to create an "integrated workforce which cuts across service boundaries" while at the same time keeping the "strong and distinctive professional ethos of different practitioners" - the plan rightly acknowledges the need for change. In this context, one can't help wondering if an opportunity to promote the role of the social pedagogue hasn't been missed.

What is a social pedagogue? Well, if you were living or working in Denmark, Spain or Germany you would know. In these and many other European countries, a social pedagogue is a professional who works in the education and care sector, supporting young people in a range of caring, educational and therapeutic ways. While in Britain the term "pedagogue" is usually used only in an academic context, in Europe the meaning is truer to its Greek origins - paidos, which refers to young people, and ago, which means to guide or lead the way. Social pedagogues have a much broader role than teachers and usually have three years' training across several fields, integrating social care, teaching, behavioural and social sciences.

In Britain we have a range of adults other than teachers working to support the needs of young people, but these roles have evolved to fit within the neat organisational silos that have given us social workers, educational psychologists, form tutors, parent support advisers, youth workers, personal advisers, careers officers and learning mentors. All some young people really need is access to an adult who sees them as a whole person, is someone they can trust and has the necessary range of skills and training to provide effective and long-term support across a range of areas.

After 10 years in which educational standards have risen in schools, further gains depend on the continued removal of barriers that prevent some young people from taking advantage of the improved opportunities on offer. The role of the social pedagogue could be a big part of the answer - let us hope the Children's Workforce Action Plan, due out early next year, is brave enough to propose it.

- Andy Buck's book "Making school work: a practical guide to secondary school leadership", is published by Greenwich Exchange.

Andy Buck, Headteacher at the Jo Richardson community school in Barking and Dagenham.

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