With Grafton Primary as the lead school, SAPERE, a UK charity, is running an LSEF funded project to introduce Philosophy for Children (P4C) into nine primaries and one secondary in Islington. The aim of the project is to enhance students’ educational, personal and social development, especially those who come from deprived backgrounds. SAPERE is providing Foundation and Advanced level teacher training in P4C facilitation to all schools, backed up by in-school coaching and resource support.
P4C is a proven learning approach that 3,000 teachers and more than 50,000 students a year are adopting in the UK. There are numerous benefits from P4C including substantial gains in thinking, speaking and listening skills, literacy and numeracy and increased motivation to learn, particularly in the less able.
The project is intended, in part, to help address the attainment gap faced by pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. The schools in the project have up to four times the national average level of disadvantaged pupils.
Evidence shows that P4C can be effective in tackling this problem. In a Dundee University study, the increase in cognitive ability from P4C was greatest among lower achieving pupils. Primary schools that qualified for P4C awards had higher attainment overall and a narrower gap than the national average. The head teacher of Gallions Primary in Newham primary says: “For children living in difficult family settings, P4C may be the only time they will be given the space to talk about important issues. These children are often the ones who are entitled to the deprivation pupil premium”. You can see what he means on this video clip: https://vimeo.com/113524022.
The dominant style of teaching in the UK is didactic, where the teacher’s role is to impart knowledge. This favours pupils who already know the “right” answer – usually those from advantaged backgrounds. By contrast, P4C uses a facilitative pedagogical model where the teacher’s role is to encourage questioning and thinking through collaboration and dialogue. It deals with topics where there is no single right answer. All pupils have an equal voice and, provided they give sound reasons, all viewpoints are treated with respect. Pupils from less advantaged backgrounds find their voice and build confidence and self-esteem, with benefits for their engagement with learning, attainment and school contribution.
P4C can also be effective in establishing parental engagement through the use of P4C with parent groups or combined groups of parents and students. The contestable nature of the topics discussed in a P4C enquiry mean that adults and children can engage on equal terms – and can learn from each other. Such parental groups have been successfully implemented in several schools in London and elsewhere.
The project outcomes are being monitored at three levels: pupil, teacher and whole school. We will use a combination of standardised measures such as students’ progress against expectations and pupil, teacher and head teacher evaluation questionnaires.
P4C is being widely adopted across many London boroughs. For more information or to arrange a visit to a P4C school, please go to www.sapere.org.uk or call 01865 408 333.