Philosophy for Children

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Philosophy for Children (P4C) is incorporated across the whole school curriculum and is such an integral part of school life that all of our classes are named after philosophers. P4C provides an education that emphasises community, communication and intelligent enquiry; it teaches a constructive attitude to all tasks and areas of life and we feel that it provides the foundations that will equip and prepare our students to be empowered, confident and positive citizens of a constantly evolving and ever changing world.

P4C underpins our caring and questioning ethos, where children learn to listen to and respect one another and challenge and explore the beliefs and values of others, as well as developing their own views and making more deliberate and responsible judgements. It encourages children to have an enquiring mind in all that they do and teaches them the more advanced skills needed to succeed as readers and writers, mathematicians and scientists, geographers and historians; such as inference and deductions, and analysing and summarising evidence.

Philosophy for Children results in confident children who are keen to share their ideas, express their beliefs and say what they feel is right.

What do our pupils think about P4C?

“In P4C we share ideas in a circle. It helps us to get better at listening to other people. My favourite thing about P4C is sitting in a circle . The thing I’m best at is explaining my ideas back to other people.” – Jozef

“I think p4C helps me in SATs because of the skills needed to read and answer the questions. It also helps because you have to learn to make good decisions. P4C is about resilience because you have to wait your turn and respect what other people say. Communication is a huge part of it. I think it helps us develop in life because the things we talk about makes you more aware of situations around the world. It has helped me be able to generate better ideas and questions and it helps me be more sociable and friendly. We do P4C because it helps us develop at school by giving us a chance to think freely. Although we don’t always work with our friends, it’s good to come up with new ideas in unique groups.” – Chloe

“In P4C we work as a team and share our ideas. It helps us to get better at listening to everyone’s ideas. My favourite thing is talking in a group.. The thing I am best at is talking with all the class about the ‘big ideas’.” – Gabriela

“I think P4C helps us develop in school because it teaches you skills such as inference, which is identifying clues whether it’s in the text or in a picture. It helps you be resilient and not give up and it’s also helpful for developing teamwork and communicating well together. Furthermore P4C is very helpful in your everyday life, which gives you confidence to explain your ideas to a large group. It makes you understand yours and others’ emotions and feelings. I think P4C is about maturity and making the right decisions and being reflective. Overall I think Philosophy for Children is really good. I personally enjoy these lessons because they’re helpful for every single human being at any age. Moreover it helps you develop your skills such as caring, collaborative thinking and being critical and creative.” – Samin

[tabby title=”P4C Gold Award”]

Coleridge Primary School

SAPERE Gold Award visit Report

SAPERE Assessors: Alison Allsopp,  accompanied by Chris Houghton

Date of assessment: May 21st 2015

gold P4C picture

The overall judgment is that Coleridge Primary School should be awarded the SAPERE Gold Award in recognition of the outstanding commitment, significant progress and dedication to the Philosophy for Children approach, over the last three years. In this report, I wish to acknowledge particular areas of strength and many excellent features of practice.

In assessing the school’s progress in P4C, evidence has  been drawn from observations and discussions during the day of the visit, as well as the excellent folder of evidence submitted for the Silver award in January 2015.

Introduction and Background

Coleridge Primary School located in Rotherham, Yorkshire, is one of the most deprived areas of social deprivation in the UK. 63.4% of children are on free school meals, 35% SEN. The intake is culturally diverse; 63% of children do not speak English as a first language. Many children live in social housing and their lives are affected by poverty, low aspiration and other kinds of deprivation. Due to high mobility amongst families, often the children do not stay throughout the full primary years. The school’s profile is an important factor in appreciating the extent of the school’s progress in P4C over the last three years.

The school converted to a sponsored academy approximately three years ago. Since then, under the inspiring leadership of Headteacher, Jane White, the school has transformed its values and ethos. The school claim that much of this is down to the P4C approach.

The school environment is aesthetically pleasing, showing off imaginative opportunities for the children through classroom and school displays. On entering the school there is a welcome feeling and one of respect for others; positive behaviour and consideration for others was evident throughout the day. During the visit, there was an impression that children were engaged and happy in their learning.

The strongest first impression of P4C as central to the ethos of the school was in terms of how the children behave calmly, are encouraged to listen to each other, respect each other’s opinions. It was clear that they are very used to talking in a P4C way and that P4C has become part of their way of learning at Coleridge. Children love P4C sessions.

Of the 4Cs most evident was caring and collaborative thinking. The manner in which staff talk to children and children engage with adults and each other is noticeable, modeling respect and demonstrating care. It is clear that staff care and the children feel cared for. The Head expressed how P4C had helped to improve behaviour; she quoted ‘previously, teachers managed their behaviour, now it’s more that the children manage their own behaviour’.

Structure of the day

The visit began by meeting the Headteacher, Jane White and the P4C Leader, Nick Chandley who has worked closely with the school as their P4C leader for three years. The day was one of their regular termly ‘P4C days’. It started with an assembly led by Nick, who introduced the children to some of the concepts the children would be thinking about during the day, essentially, rules, fairness and democracy. During the first part of the morning, classes were involved in range of role-play activities, and story reading, as a stimulus for their enquiries which took place after break. From this other work evolved during the afternoon session, which culminated in a shared presentation. Everyone, children and teachers alike were excited by the P4C day.

During the day, there were observations of parts of P4C sessions across the key stages. There was a chance to speak to the Head, the P4C leader, parents, teachers and the school’s chair of governors.

Gold Award Criteria

Pupils – How well are they doing? 

It was evident in all classes from foundation stage to Year 6 and indeed from a whole school assembly that children are used to the P4C approach; children took turns to speak, asked open philosophical questions, shared their ideas and views, identified and explored important concepts, made links to their own lives.  As a whole school, the children are very familiar with the character ‘Hugo’ from ‘What’s the big idea?’ BBC films and often explore philosophical questions in assembly as well as in the classroom

For example, in a Year 4 class, children were easily identifying concepts from a film clip and exploring the idea of what it means to be in charge. They then went on to ask their own philosophical questions linked to the concepts. For example, in Year 1/2 children listened to the story of Farmer Duck. In groups, they were then allocated tasks on the farm and the teacher decided how much they would be paid depending upon how well they did the jobs. A discussion arose about whether the amount of money paid was fair. In Year 5/6 were questioning how much certain professions should be paid and whether or not it was fair to pay some more than others.

The way in which foundation stage children were engaging with stories in a philosophical way in small ability groups was impressive; children were sitting calmly and attentively, responding to the story and sharing first thoughts. A special room has been set up with continuous playing of the ‘What’s the big idea?’ film clips, which children have access to as part of their learning through the day.

Although, on the day, there was not particular full observation of the main dialogue part of an enquiry, it was clear that the children are making good progress in their P4C sessions, aided by good and often excellent facilitation by the teachers.. This is particularly impressive, given the high percentage of children who do not speak English as a first language.

Further evidence from children’s transcripts in Year 6 shows that children are able to build on each other’s ideas and think more deeply around concepts. It is also worth mentioning that due to the high mobility of the children, they often do not make it through the four years at Coleridge, providing a further challenge to the building of a Community of Enquiry in the longer term.

In summary, there is evidence of 4C thinking, with particular strengths in collaborative, caring and creative thinking. Simply, through observing the way children engage in  and are accustomed to P4C sessions even in  the whole school P4C assembly, demonstrates that they love doing P4C and it means a great deal to them.

Teachers – How well are they developing their P4C skills?

This is an excellent feature of the school’s progress in P4C.

There was evidence of good, often excellent quality of facilitation by teachers in all classes observed. The teachers are confident in facilitating their P4C sessions. They obviously enjoy the P4C style of teaching and learning which is evident in their teaching as a whole. They model the 4Cs of P4C well and use high-order questioning effectively. The P4C sessions are well planned and managed in a way that supports and encourages children as well as bringing out discussion about important concepts. A session observed in Year 1/2 saw a teacher push for depth to get children to think about what it means/looks like to work hard, even when they kept coming up with the same reason. The pace of P4C sessions was good and varied, giving opportunities for children to move around to show their thinking. Teachers plan a cycle of P4C sessions to a broad format, identifying concepts and opening activities to engage the children so as not to pre-empt where the children might lead the enquiry.

Nick Chandley, the P4C leader and SAPERE trainer, dedicates a great deal of time to supporting teachers in their P4C sessions, helping them to plan and then reflect on what went well and what could be improved. All teachers carry a P4C journal where they record their own notes and reflections of the P4C sessions. There is a regular programme of CPD, one staff twilight per half term, dedicated to P4C; on the day of the visit, Nick led a twilight session, focusing on the analysis of children’s dialogue. Nick supports staff with a wide range of creative resources, for example, he has just prepared a set of ‘Tools for Thinking’ cards for each class, providing practical ideas and strategies to vary the model of enquiry and develop P4C skills.

The school is totally committed to a continuous programme of training and CPD, conducted by Nick.  All new staff are trained to Level 1 and several staff are trained to Level 2, including the Headteacher.

Displays around the school and in the classroom reflect the practice that was going on, for example, the classroom displays showing philosophical concepts being discussed and ground rules, linked to ‘Growth’ mindset.  There was a whole school display which children were encouraged to add their  own ideas. Each classroom displayed their current philosophical question outside on the door for others to see.

It was clear that the teaching skills developed in P4C were applied in other areas of the curriculum. Teachers in interview explained how P4C did impact on their teaching overall and how it had enhanced their questioning skills and understanding of a conceptual approach.

The School – How well is P4C supported across the school?

This is another excellent feature of the school

P4C is part of the long-term strategy and vision for the school. It is evident all around the school through displays and in an interview with the Head, P4C leader, teachers and the Chair of governors. The Headteacher leads and is a strong advocate of P4C both as a practitioner and as a manager. She is very happy to engage with SAPERE and has attended several SAPERE  events to talk about P4C at Coleridge.

There are regular half termly P4C days at Coleridge, often linked to an area of the curriculum, for example P4C and Maths and P4C and Music. These days are much awaited and enjoyed by the staff and children alike.

In addition to regular weekly P4C sessions and making stimuli links with subject areas where possible, there are further plans in the next academic year to link P4C more coherently to the social, moral, spiritual and cultural curriculum (smsc). From September, each class will have one P4C question linked to smsc.

Another indication of the whole school approach and commitment to P4C is shown by each class being named after a philosopher; the children have researched into the name of their famous philosopher to learn about what important ideas they stood for.

A new school in the Academy nearby is opening in September 2015 and already, both Jane and Nick have been seconded to help set it up with a plan to implement P4C there too.

The school has submitted a case study showing the impact of P4C, which is frequently circulated by SAPERE as a model to other schools wishing to take up P4C.

The school makes good use of social networking and tweets weekly. Most of the tweets are directly related to things children have said in enquiry or their chosen questions.

The Head and the P4C leader have encouraged parents to engage with P4C; parents are regularly invited into school to observe P4C sessions, particularly during the P4C days.

The Head and the P4C leader have a clear way forward for the continued development of P4C in the school.

Both Chris and I enjoyed the day thoroughly and felt emotional witnessing the incredible progress of P4C at Coleridge especially for Chris, having known the school before the journey began.

Alison Allsopp –   SAPERE Training Manager   June 2015