Philosophy for Children (P4C)

‘Wisdom begins in wonder.’ - Socrates

We are delighted to share with you the exciting news that we are introducing a new thinking skills approach into our school’s curriculum called Philosophy for Children – P4C for short. The aim is to encourage a philosophical approach to thinking in school so children are able to analyse subjective matters and further practise their oracy skills so they grow up to become confident, assured thinkers and speakers.

P4C Letter to Parents

In regular P4C sessions, your child will be asking questions, taking turns to share ideas, expressing opinions, hearing other points of view, and justifying what they think. They will be working on their listening skills, their debating skills as well as a variety of ways to share their opinions. This will show children that they should trust their opinions and give them the skill set needed to support their opinions with rational thought.

Research has shown that effective P4C impacts the most on disadvantaged children, helps raise attainment across the curriculum and helps to boost children’s self esteem.

P4C sessions follow a simple structure, where a stimulus is provided to the children. This could be a video, a song, a picture or a poem. Philosophical themes will emerge from the stimulus and the children will decide which theme they’d like to launch an enquiry into and discuss further. Questions are then created by the children and they vote on which one to delve into. This leads to a subjective conversation where children either agree or disagree, but importantly, are able to justify why and respond to other’s opinions.

The structure of a P4C session can be seen in the table below:

Within the enquiry, children develop four key types of thinking (the 4Cs of P4C):

  • Caring - listening (concentrating) and valuing (appreciating) E.g. showing interest in, and sensitivity to, others’ experiences and values.
  • Collaborative - responding (communicating) and supporting (conciliating) E.g. building on each other’s ideas, shaping common understandings and purposes.
  • Critical - questioning (interrogating) and reasoning (evaluating) E.g. seeking meaning, evidence, reasons, distinctions, and good judgements.
  • Creative - connecting (relating) and suggesting (speculating) E.g. providing comparisons, examples, criteria, alternative explanations or conceptions

The History of P4C

"The aim of a P4C is not to turn children into philosophers or decision-makers, but to help them become more thoughtful, more reflective, more considerate and more reasonable individuals" - Mathew Lipman (1924-2012)

P4C started in America in the 1960s and was developed by Professor Matthew Lipman, Professor Ann Margaret Sharp and colleagues at the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children at Montclair State University.

The idea behind it was to encourage children to be able to reason and be reasoned with. Half of the focus is on presenting your own side of the argument but the second key part of it, is that children are able to listen to other opinions that are different to theirs and to be open minded to having their mind changed, or to show critical thinking in their disagreement. The creators of P4C really believed in the importance of questioning and enquiring, skills that are crucial across the curriculum as well as in wider life.

Putting these educational insights together, Lipman developed a new model of learning – ‘Communities of Inquiry’ – in which teacher and children collaborate with each other to grow in understanding, not only of the material world, but also of the personal and ethical world around them.

Today P4C is a worldwide movement. You can find out more about the history on the SAPERE website.

P4C Bronze Award

This year at OLSJ, we are working towards our P4C Bronze Award. Please see below how we will be assessed to achieve this award.

Pupils: how well are they doing P4C?

  • building a community of enquiry
  • questioning
  • development of philosophical thinking
  • review and evaluation

Teachers: how well are they developing their P4C skills?

  • classroom practice
  • facilitation skills
  • planning
  • P4C leadership
  • review and evaluation

School: how well is P4C supported across the school?

  • head teacher and senior leadership team commitment
  • level of whole school training
  • involving the whole school
  • review and evaluation