The danish model of highly-qualified "social pedagogues" working alongside teachers could be tried out in Scotland, writes Henry Hepburn
The idea emerged last week at an event designed to explore ways of improving children's services. Denmark's social pedagogues resemble a mixture of youth worker, social worker and classroom assistant, and qualify after three-and-a-half years at university. They work alongside teachers, focusing on aspects such as social and emotional wellbeing.
Stig Lund, of the Danish Association of Pedagogues trade union, told a Children in Scotland conference that there used to be tensions between teachers and social pedagogues: pedagogues were seen as "interfering", although the relationship is "much better now".
Social pedagogues also provide after-school services and can be found in other settings; for example, they might spot children hanging around in shopping centres and persuade them to come to a youth club.
Henrik Kragh, a Copenhagen social pedagogue, said his vocation appealed over teaching because it was more about interacting with people. "I think it's more interesting to work with social skills," he said.
Edinburgh University professor of curriculum research Pamela Munn, who spoke at the event, said she would support a pilot project looking at how social pedagogues could meet Scottish needs. She stressed it was not wise to "plonk" the idea in Scotland without taking account of differences between the countries.
Social pedagogues are common in several northern European countries - in Iceland they are better paid than primary teachers - and a small number have been recruited for jobs in authorities including Dumfries and Galloway and Midlothian, in settings such as residential care rather than schools.