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P4C

Children are the boldest philosophers. They enter life naked, not covered by the smallest fig leaf of dogma, absolutes, creeds. This is why every question they ask is so absurdly naïve and so frighteningly complex. Yevgeny Zamyatin

Intent

It is our intent that Philosophy for Children will have a positive effect on a number of subjects by offering an alternative delivery. While its methods lend themselves perfectly to facilitating discussion in Faith & Belief and Citizenship & Ethics, it can support the children’s learning through debate in many subjects. It is an approach to teaching and learning which enhances children’s thinking and communication skills, boosts their self-esteem, and improves their academic attainment.

Its value, based on carefully carried out research, is evidenced by the approximate two months’ progress children make in reading and maths after just a year’s implementation. It has a particularly positive impact on KS2 results amongst disadvantaged pupils but it also has a positive influence on wider outcomes such as pupils’ confidence to speak, their listening skills and their self-confidence.

Therefore, our intent is that it takes a whole school approach and is used across the curriculum in every subject and with all ages and abilities. It is timetabled as ‘Philosophy Circles’ and is a regular activity, enabling children to develop their skills and understanding over time.

In line with the principles that guide P4C, the role of the teacher is crucial to ensure quality dialogue and progress as well as integration with the curriculum. Pupils, over time, will develop an understanding of what philosophy is, notably the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence, which gives us an understanding of why people want to do things and directs us in how to live a good life. Equally, staff will share this understanding and use the quality training they have received to ensure sessions are carefully planned and well executed.

It is the aim that philosophy and enquiry based learning are seen as part of the culture of Lowbrook Academy; the idea that people think differently about things is celebrated and children understand that it is okay to disagree and they find it interesting to see why others think as they do.

In essence pupils will show increased confidence and become more thoughtful and articulate drawing on different strategies to express their opinions. Their speaking and listening skills develop and their range of vocabulary and grammar will be widened. The programme will serve to impact positively on: cognitive ability, critical reasoning skills and dialogue in the classroom and emotional and social awareness.

Implementation

Philosophy for Children has a specific slot on the timetable and time allocated to each session equates to 30 minutes a week in KS1 and 45 minutes in KS2. P4C is also being amalgamated into all subject areas as staff identify specific topics which lend themselves to discussion.

Following an intensive programme of training and having delivered weekly lessons, staff speak of feeling increasingly confident about using the techniques for instigating debate. Pupils also speak positively about the lessons they have participated in. A bank of high quality resources including videos, lesson plans, a story or picture book, a news item, an object or artefact along with top tips is building which staff can draw on.

Once the classroom has been set up in such a way to facilitate good discussion, lessons begin with a warm up activity which often involves the children moving in the space. It might include them addressing a less complex question or simply playing a game to break down inhibitions and inject energy into the room. The main body of the lesson revolves around a more in depth question which at the moment stem from the teacher. However, these questions have been determined by topics currently being addressed and events that have taken place. For instance, Book Week led to a discussion on whether it would be better to read books ourselves or if books could read themselves to us and Comic Relief prompted a debate over what causes are most deserving of charity.

Each class has a Philosophy Circles class scrap book in which weekly discussions are presented. These are intended to be a working document into which the children can add questions which interest them and which they would like to discuss in future lessons. Already the children are showing an openness to the programme and a keenness to participate. They are also becoming more accustomed to the teacher taking a back seat which often involves staff physically removing themselves from the circle. Instead the pupils pass the discussion back and forth to peers having developed ways of indicating they have a point to add. This might be by raising a thumb or extending legs into the circle rather than putting a hand in the air.

The programme has been introduced with the help Jason Buckley, ‘The Philosophy Man’ who has conducted a considerable amount of research into the benefits of using this approach in schools. Assessment opportunities arise during lessons when staff are able to measure the impact the children have through their input into the discussion. Staff monitor which children contribute and how often, to establish whether there is a growing confidence over time. As the subject relies solely on discussion, it is becoming increasingly evident that the ability to record ideas well on paper is not essential for a child to contribute effectively and to interact successfully. Pupils who may appear less confident in a more formal lesson which relies on the written word, can make a positive contribution which in turn boosts self-esteem. Where some struggle to articulate ideas on paper, they can convincingly convey a point of view.

Useful Documents

P4C Curriculum Overview

Supporting Documents

The Philosophy Man