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Keynote: Social Pedagogy and school-based education – distant relatives or close family?
Professor Peter Moss, UCL institute of Education, University College London

Working at an ‘Institute of Education’ but working with social pedagogy, I am constantly faced by the question of how ‘education’ and ’social pedagogy’ relate to each other. Are they distinct entities or closely connected? Are they distant relatives or close family? The answer, in best social pedagogic mode, must be: it depends. In particular, it depends on how we understand ‘education’ or, to be more precise, how we understand school-based education. For while it is clear that education can and does occur in many circumstances and settings, I want to focus on a particularly prominent and contested setting: the school.

Drawing on the example of the early childhood education in the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia, I will argue that there are many commonalities between a certain understanding of what school-based education can be and the salient principles and characteristics of social pedagogy: both work with a concept of ‘education-in-its-broadest-sense’ and both work with a ‘pedagogy of relationships and listening’. Of course, that is only one understanding of school-based education, which is arguably very different to the understanding prevalent today. ‘What is our understanding of education?’ is an important political question, and social pedagogy can and should provoke democratic discussion about conflicting alternative answers, as well as about the broader political question: ‘what do we want for our children?’

As a final point, I will highlight the value of social pedagogy as a possible overarching concept and practice for all services for children and young people – not just school-based education, and which could help develop a more coherent, integrated and inclusive approach to working with these young citizens.