Social pedagogy and the upcoming annual conference

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Robert Tapsfield, chief executive of the Fostering Network reflects on a year of the Head, Heart, Hands programme and looks forward to the upcoming annual conference.

When we were first developing the Head, Heart, Hands programme, back in 2010, we thought that it would be challenging, exciting, and innovative - and we were absolutely right. 

Asking organisations to make huge systemic changes in how they work is a big enough challenge in itself. When we’re asking them to develop an approach that is relatively unheard of in the UK, it really is quite an extraordinary prospect.

The programme began in June 2012 and in the last year I have had the opportunity meet with directors, assistant directors, chief executives, foster carers and project teams in our six demonstration sites.  I have attended programme boards and planning groups; and worked very closely with the Social Pedagogy Consortium who are our delivery partners.

Recently I was also able to meet with a group of foster carers who had just completed the eight day Head, Heart, Hands learning and development core course. I was bowled over by the group who, without exception, were incredibly positive about their experience of the course. Even more importantly, a number could already see how their learning had changed their behaviour and this had had a beneficial effect on the children they fostered. What struck me was the thoughtful and reflective way in which they talked about their work as foster carers, and how what they talked about supported everything, we as an organisation, are trying to achieve for foster care.

Despite the magnitude of the challenge of Head, Heart, Hands, I have been impressed by the level of commitment and energy within the sites, and also the belief and drive within the Fostering Network and the Social Pedagogy Consortium.

Senior managers at the demonstration sites have told me how important this programme is, and how introducing social pedagogy into foster care fits with their strategy of increasing stability and improving outcomes for children in foster care.

Meeting the social pedagogues who have been employed by the sites to support their work has also been a great experience. Their enthusiasm for social pedagogy is contagious, and I have heard great things about what they have been able to contribute to their teams in a relatively short space of time.

The Social Pedagogy Consortium are supporting the social pedagogues and the sites to make the changes needed to support this approach. We are also delighted to be working with Loughborough University who are undertaking  the evaluation of the programme. They have an excellent team in place who are already fully engaged and collecting vital information.

If the next three years are as challenging, exciting, and innovative as the first, it’s sure to be an extraordinary journey for the Fostering Network and for foster care in the UK. I urge you to come and hear more about the Head, Heart, Hands programme and journey so far, and social pedgogy, at our annual conference this October.

Professor Pat Petrie is hosting a seminar at the Fostering Network annual conference, Putting the Child at the Heart of Foster Care, alongside a social pedagogue, a foster carer and a young person who are on the programme. You can get your ticket and book your place on the seminar by visiting the Fostering Network website.