P4C in the mathematics classroom: a workshop

SAPERE trainer Rod Cunningham is running a one-day workshop on maths and P4C in London on Thursday 28 March and again on Thursday 20 June. The course will provide a range of mathematical starting points invoking creative, collaborative, critical and caring thinking and which lend themselves to exploration of ‘big’ mathematics ideas. The course is suitable for primary and secondary and examples for all ages will be used.

To find out more and book a place on the course, see the SAPERE website.

Rod has worked as a mathematics educator for over 30 years and P4C trainer for five. He is interested in developing the use of P4C approaches across the curriculum. Further details of his work can be found on his website.

Here Rod blogs about the benefits of using P4C in maths and discusses the example of the Chinese number puzzle.


An OFSTED report into promoting achievement in mathematics claims that success is linked to ‘Teaching that focuses on developing students’ understanding of mathematical concepts and enhances their critical thinking and reasoning together with a spirit of collaborative enquiry that promotes mathematical discussion and debate.’ (OFSTED 2006)

My experience of working in schools that practice P4C shows that there are many ways in which learning in mathematics can be enhanced through collaborative work which builds upon P4C experience. I believe there are two key reasons for the success of using 4Cs thinking and enquiry in mathematics. First, mathematics is built upon a network of interrelated concepts in much the same way as ordinary language. Second, the facilitation skills that teachers hone in P4C enquiry are crucial to the conduct of collaborative learning in mathematics.

The nature of mathematics and the importance of enquiry

It may sound strange to some that mathematics is a creative discipline that employs powers of the imagination as much as those of reason. However, mathematics is underpinned by a number of big conceptual ideas which develop and grow as the learner progresses towards more sophisticated understanding and competency. Like any conceptual system, such understanding develops through practical and collaborative enquiry and interaction. Brent Davies suggests that “If we consider mathematics as a human activity, as opposed to a collection of actual objects independent of our being human, then mathematics is a body of knowledge entwined with culture, including language.” (Davis et. al. 2015 p78)

The importance of facilitation in mathematical enquiry

The facilitation of enquiries in P4C is a subtle skill which takes time to acquire. It involves modelling the language of dialogue and reasoning, providing provocation whilst avoiding becoming overly interventionist; letting the dialogue take its course but at the same time encouraging the participants to dig deeply into their thinking and that of their fellow enquirers. My observation is that teachers who have facilitated communities of enquiry regularly become better able to assist pupils to build collaborative understanding of difficult mathematical concepts.

Making links between P4C and mathematical thinking

In my experience, pupils with a P4C background appear to be more confident in tackling novel problems and in working collaboratively to solve them. They demonstrate 4Cs thinking through the language they use when offered open-ended mathematics problems. The subsequent reflection and dialogue enables pupils to build connections between important mathematical ideas lending coherence to the subject. The teacher/facilitator can enhance this by helping pupils ask ‘big’ mathematics-related questions which can promote coherence within the subject through further dialogue.

Story books figure strongly in developing mathematical ideas in the Early years. This is dependent upon teachers being aware of the extent and importance of such ideas. Models, images and metaphors are important for the effective learning of mathematics across primary and secondary ages. In upper primary and secondary years, I draw heavily upon the work of Malcolm Swan (2006), who demonstrates that particular activities are particularly effective for developing deep thinking and learning in mathematics.

Below is an example of the type of activity which engages mathematical enquiry and builds on experience of P4C. This activity is not necessarily new to the mathematics classroom. The difference in a P4C-rich classroom was the language used by pupils during their work on the problems, and the type of prompts given by the facilitator and the subsequent “bigger” questions posed which are then followed up. This example is appropriate for upper primary and lower secondary classes but the principles extend across the age range.

Number scripts

chinese number jigsaw 1
Image: The Chinese number jigsaw

Groups of three year 6 children were given a Chinese number jigsaw. They took some time to complete these. They were asked to think about the patterns in the way the Chinese numbers are written. It was pointed out that the number representation we use has developed from several different traditions over a long time and suggested that an investigation of the history of this would be very interesting, but for another time.

chinese number jigsaw 2
Image: Children working with a Chinese number jigsaw

The facilitator asked, “Can you make 64 using the Chinese script?” which led to discussion about how the numbers were formed. The facilitator then asked, “How about the system that we use?” There was general discussion about the use of just ten symbols and with some prompting, the importance of the position of each digit. The groups were then given a poster as a stimulus and asked to come up with questions, observations, points of interest and record these, choosing one question to share with the whole class. Some groups focused on the value of the poster as a stimulus, which was in itself interesting given that they are used to evaluating the stimulus in P4C. The children are used to responding to the prompts ‘good because’ and ‘bad because’.

place value questions poster

Image: Place value questions poster

The groups shared their observations with the whole class. Further questions came from the learners about the use of the base ten system. A list of these questions was produced for future sessions available for further discussion and investigation by the whole group. These questions included:

  • Why is the base ten system useful?
  • When was it ‘invented’, and is ‘invented’ the right word?
  • Is it the ‘best’ system?
  • How would we decide if [a number system] is good, or the best?

There was widespread interest in finding out about other number systems, as well as the history of the base ten system. This included enthusiasm for making up jigsaw puzzles in other number systems.


Davis, B. and the Spatial Reasoning Group 2015 Spatial Reasoning in the Early Years. New York: Routledge

OFSTED report 2006 (Ref HMI 2611) Evaluating mathematics provision for 14-19 year olds

Swan, M. 2006 Collaborative Learning in Mathematics: A challenge to our beliefs and practices. London: NRDC/Niace

Thanks to the teachers and pupils at Willowtown Community Primary School in Ebbw Vale where this example was recorded.

Can stories allow young people to develop new perspectives of forgiveness?

Our friends at The Forgiveness Project have developed a series of four resources for use within P4C enquiries, or as stand alone activities within lessons or tutor time. Each resource includes a preparation activity, film link to a real life story of forgiveness, a concept mind map and example philosophical questions.

Here, Anna Blackman, Education Co-ordinator at The Forgiveness Project, discusses the new resources.

Promoting stories of compassion, empathy and forgiveness is the essence of what we do at The Forgiveness Project. However, we know that sharing these stories with young people is often challenging because many young people see forgiveness as a sign of weakness. We are also living at a time where personal insults and messages of hate are glorified and magnified on social media and with this blatant disregard of others becoming increasingly the norm in society, no wonder young people are following suit.

Whilst recently gathering feedback from a London school who had worked with our resources, teachers told me that beforehand their students were black and white about forgiveness, stating with absolute clarity what was, and wasn’t forgivable. But in giving young people the opportunity to engage in a conversation about stories of forgiveness, their pre-conceived ideas were challenged, and new perspectives offered.


Clockwise: Natalia Aggiano, Shad Ali, Elizabeth Turner, Andrea Martinez

Our new resources share stories with young people through the Philosophy for Children (P4C) approach. Like the work of The Forgiveness Project, P4C does not provide answers, but opens up discussion to allow different possibilities to be explored. This approach has resonance with many stories from our website for example Cathy Harrington, the mother of a murdered child, who said: ‘Lots of things in life are senseless. There’s so much we can’t explain, but we need to be able to love the questions.’

It is this love of questions that continues to inform our work and has inspired the development of this resource – a series of short films from four individuals sharing a very personal journey of forgiveness. Marina Cantacuzino, Founder of The Forgiveness Project writes:

‘I have come to believe that hardened attitudes and fixed perspectives can only shift when we hear the stories of others.’

The resources allow young people to engage in our stories, challenge their own thinking of forgiveness and be a part of a meaningful dialogue around this complicated subject.

In the development of these resources I visited Broadwater School in Surrey, a Lead School for Philosophy for Children. The Year 10 class explored the story of Shad Ali, who after a brutal and unprovoked attack in Nottingham offered forgiveness to his attacker, even though friends and family initially only wanted retribution.

After watching Shad Ali’s film the students generated questions in small groups and chose to focus on the question ‘Is there a true meaning of forgiveness?’. Students delved into Shad’s story, building on each other’s ideas, with one student reflecting on why Shad chose to forgive his attacker:

‘part of the reason was to be kind to himself…and having respect for the person who did the crime.’

Their careful choice of language and ability to frame his story as one about self-preservation and a shared humanity was enlightening to watch.

Other stories in the resource include Natalia Aggiano, whose mother was brutally murdered by her father after 30 years of bullying and abuse, Elizabeth Turner, who lost her husband in the attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September 2001, and Andrea Martinez who was seven years old when she was sexually abused by a relative and after many years began to consider forgiveness as a way of healing.

By using real life stories as a stimulus for learning, these resources offer young people examples of alternatives to revenge, and peaceful solutions to conflict.

Please continue the discussion on forgiveness and share widely with your friends, colleagues and most importantly young people. As singer Pete Seeger wrote:
‘The key to the future of the world is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.’

The Forgiveness Project Philosophy for Children Resources are available to download for free at https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/education-resources.

SAPERE annual conference 2018: Creative and imaginative possibilities for P4C

The theme of SAPERE’s annual conference this year is Transforming Teaching And Learning In Your Educational Setting. The conference, which takes place on Thursday 29 November at Conference Aston in Birmingham, will offer P4C ideas, tips, suggestions and inspiration to take back to your classroom and is suitable for teachers and educators at all levels from EYFS to secondary.

The conference will kick off with a keynote session with leading P4C figures Joanna Haynes, Karin Murris and Sara Stanley who will co-present and co-facilitate an enquiry on Literature and Philosophy with Children, Young People and Adults.

Here they share an insight into how their thought-provoking session will engage and involve conference delegates in practising P4C.

‘We know that a wide range of literature forms the starting point for many P4C lessons and that the narrative form of many P4C resources is a very important part of what makes it such a distinctive approach to philosophising. Good stories both provoke questioning and provide us with rich examples that we can work with in our enquiries. Our panel of linked presentations will explore creative and imaginative possibilities for connecting literature and philosophical enquiry, whatever the age, stage or context of learning.

‘We know that a wide range of practitioners, trainers and educators will be attending the conference. We plan to engage everyone in an active, enquiry-based keynote session which will express those distinctive characteristics of P4C that we seek to espouse: radical openness, thought-provoking material and philosophical questioning, emotional involvement and participation in meaningful dialogue. Rather than talk about P4C, we want to practise P4C with conference attendees.

‘The philosophy underpinning P4C raises profound questions about children, young people and practices of thinking and dialogue. We will be examining pressing issues in education, including the view of child and young person as less than fully human (Murris, 2016). This viewpoint, we argue, is one that the practice of P4C should always bring into question.

Our panel of linked presentations will explore creative and imaginative possibilities for connecting literature and philosophical enquiry, whatever the age, stage or context of learning.

‘Through reference to the research project, we explore what happened in a Grade 2 classroom in Cape Town when we challenged the what, how and why of the education system in South Africa. As in many other countries, we argue that this system often limits opportunities for children to ask questions, use imagination and critical thinking of any sort.

‘Working with this research material, generated and focused on a philosophical literacy lesson led by Sara, with the picture book How to Find Gold (2016) by Viviane Schwarz, we will be sharing some of our practices and inviting participants to extend and develop the playful philosophical possibilities offered by this example. Working between small group discussion and enquiry among the audience as a whole, participants will be able to think about and discuss possibilities for putting such ideas to work in different settings – not to repeat or replicate what we present, but to think how these ideas might inform your practice.

‘Picture book author and illustrator Viviane Schwarz will present a recorded reading of the story stimulus used in this project. We hope that this will be a strong starting point from which to launch enquiry into what happens when educators consider different ways of understanding and responding to children’s thinking, moving ‘beyond words’. These analyses include taking into account the material environment entangled with the teaching and learning that happens in classrooms.

‘We aim to encourage the inclusion of additional visual material in our philosophical ‘resources’ and challenge overly prescriptive choices of starting points for P4C. The session will draw participants into a community of enquiry with examples and provocations drawn from literature, philosophical enquiry and from classroom research.

Rather than talk about P4C, we want to practise P4C with conference attendees.

‘We will show that this approach to unfolding P4C is relevant for all phases, for teacher education and for educators working in informal settings. We share a love of visual art, provocative stories and dynamic, inventive post-human approaches to teaching, learning and boundary-breaking philosophical enquiry. We believe that philosophical enquiry is an intra-generational practice: a dialogue between all ages and involving more than words. Our experience suggests that we can approach P4C in a wide variety of ways and extend enquiry through a wide variety of different media and activities. These expand opportunities for what participation means. They draw our attention to practical and embodied aspects of philosophy, such as how different spaces work, our relations with each other and our intra-actions with human and non-human bodies.

Reading ‘classrooms’ differently
4.1 The 'classroom'JPEG (00000002)

‘The presentation will draw on a two-year book project which was part of a National Research Foundation of South Africa-funded research project, led by Karin, with a team of international collaborators from all around the world. If you would like to explore some of the ideas about childhood, philosophy and education generated within this research project, please go to https://www.decolonizingchildhood.org/.

‘This research has resulted in a collection of writing for the book Literacies, Literature and Learning: Reading Classrooms Differently, edited by Karin Murris and Joanna Haynes, and published by Routledge in June 2018. Sara Stanley taught the philosophical literacy lesson, collected data and contributed to a chapter of the book. It includes many other co-authors, teachers, students and academics from different parts of the world, all analysing one single P4C lesson.

About Joanna Haynes, Karin Murris and Sara Stanley

pic pic2

‘We have known one another and worked together with Philosophy with Children in different ways and places for around 25 years. Our experience includes many hours of classroom practice with children and young people, in nurseries, primary and secondary schools, as well as in informal and community-based settings nationally and internationally. We have all been involved in teacher education and continuing professional development, SAPERE training and school-based courses. We each have special interests and concerns with P4C and we have found interesting and exciting ways to make these overlap in our practice and in our publications and resources. We have learned so much from each other. We write for different audiences and we are actively engaged in research and innovation in our own practice and with students and colleagues.’

Book your place at SAPERE’s conference here.

Philosophy for Children at Alfreton Nursery School

by Amanda Hubball, Alfreton Nursery School

Prior to introducing P4C into our school curriculum, our approach to learning had always been based around the belief that children should not have external limitations imposed on their experiences and that every individual should be immersed in high aspirations and an intrinsic belief in the value of their own interests and passions. It was my hope, therefore, that P4C practice could be an extension to our current practice.

I realised quickly that many of the ‘choosing’ activities that I had been doing for years, e.g., ‘what would you rather be, an octopus or a spider?’ and dilemmas such as ‘how easy would it be to be friends with a toothbrush?’ were linked very much to the P4C practice. However, the structure and tools that P4C use to allow enquiries to develop were new to me.

My first exploration of the application of these approaches proved to have a hugely positive impact on the children’s thinking questioning and understanding.  Rather than the ten stage enquiry model, I decided that for my EYFS children a slightly different process would be more beneficial and the duration of the session needed amending.  For my group of children I decided to run a daily twenty minute session.

Day one involved telling the children a little about the aims of the week and introducing them to some of the P4C language. After this brief introduction the children were shown a 3 minute film stimulus – linked to the solar system. Once this was finished they were asked to stay quiet and think about something they would like to know, in relation to what they had just seen. I left them for about 30 seconds – an eternity for a 3 year old! I then put the question quadrant on the floor along with slips of question paper. I introduced the children to the concept of different types of questions.

If children could ‘think a question’ to share they blew their question into their hand, and were asked to ‘throw the question’ to me. If I caught this invisible question they could tell me what it said as I scribed it onto the question paper. We collected all of the questions and I read each of them to the group. There was a tendency at times for the children to state a fact or an opinion rather than to ask a question. When this occurred we talked about how we could turn that statement into a question that could help others to think for themselves. With a brief recap this saw the first part of our enquiry come to a close.

The following day, children returned to the same space and were met by Queenie Question – a puppet that helps children to ask questions. The stimulus was played again to the group. The question quadrant was already on the floor and the questions were scattered around it. Queenie passed her bag of question crystals around the group as they were going to need extra magical help today to think carefully about their questions! We reread the questions to remind ourselves of our thoughts from the previous day and then the questions were turned face down. Queenie Question chose two children to randomly select one question each from the many papers and the other questions were discarded. I carefully read out each of the two questions to the group. The children then physically voted for the question of their choice by moving to one of two corners in the room. Once the question had been selected the children returned to the quadrant. Whilst holding tightly to their question crystals, the children talked as a group about whether the question could be answered by watching the stimulus again. On this occasion the answer was no. We looked at the other options and decided that maybe an expert could help us. Queenie stuck our question onto the quadrant in the right space and that concluded the session.

The third session had the stimulus as the introduction, the quadrant and question in the middle of the floor and Queenie with her question crystals. Additionally there was a fancy dress headband present for me to wear.  The headband helped me to take on the role of a ‘lazy leopard’.  I explained that during the session I would wear the leopard ears to visually alert the children to the fact that my role was to listen and not to offer answers to their questions.  They were in control of the session, not me and now they needed to ‘grow the question’ as everyone collaborated to help each other think.  After a tentative few minutes, the children settled into this idea and I offered minimal input, occasionally asking a ‘why’ question to stimulate further discussion.  At the end of this session the children had explored the question in many different ways and offered many different opinions.   As it was an ‘ask an expert’ question, I provided the children with the answer to the question before they left the group.

On session four, the children physically explored the question/concept through movement, music, drama and ICT.  They made shapes with their bodies, sang related songs and role played.  They also explored the solar system using augmented reality.

On the fifth and final session, the children reviewed the week, recalling the enquiry process and using the language of P4C to evaluate what they had learned.  I felt personally that the week had been a huge success.  The children had proved that they were extremely capable of ‘thinking big’ and asking many different types of questions.  They had enjoyed sorting the questions and learning about how different types of questions provide different opportunities for learning.  The question quadrant will be used incidentally throughout all sessions (not just P4C) as the children are already beginning to ask ‘what sort of question is it?’

The impact of this level of understanding is going to spread across the curriculum as children are now beginning to analyse their own thinking processes.  The visual support that the quadrant offers, helps children to isolate, compare and select the best way to explore their experiences – placing them in the lead role of their own learning production.

Are emotions educable?

Helena Modzelewski, Universidad de la Republica, Uruguay

This is a summary of a seminar that took place in London, March 2018

The issue of emotional education is not only an important way to address the problem of moral motivation, but also in order for citizens to lead a good life. The realization of democracy, understood as a system of government where everyone is respected in their uniqueness and whose voice is heard, requires the development of an egalitarian social background. To achieve this, it is necessary to go beyond the scope of justice limited to institutions. If citizens should not only be recipients, but actors of justice, it is necessary to take into account the conditions that support their motivation to participate, which requires the mediation of emotions. Thus, the consideration of emotions in civic education is essential and adds a dimension that has not yet been sufficiently considered in traditional educational programmes.

However, it is first necessary to ask whether emotions are educable, and the answer requires a retrospective journey through the history of philosophy, which was one of the focuses of my research. The main conclusion was that different philosophers who have treated the topic of emotions, implicitly agree that the concept of self-reflection is the one that enables their education. A self-reflexive subject may decide by themselves which emotions to develop. A democratic society whose objective is the formation of autonomous citizens should aim at a kind of education which, in this way, respects the autonomy of each of its members.

But how can self-reflection related to emotions be cultivated? Contemporary American philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s theory of emotions offers a plausible answer to this question. She conceives of emotions as cognitive, which is directly connected with the idea of self-reflection, but she additionally defines them as narrative. This points in the direction of narrative in general and literature in particular as tools for emotional education.

The Community of Inquiry (CoI), aimed at the development of autonomous, critical thinking which includes metacognitive and self-reflective strategies, and at the same time revolves around a narrative that serves as the starting point for group inquiry and discussion, is a well established tool. It is my proposal that the CoI is the most suitable methodology for emotional education.

How to select the narratives to accompany the methodology of COI targeted at the education of emotions is another issue that needs addressing. The design of criteria for such selection is my ongoing research. When a story is told, the reader or listener engages in dialogue. But this dialogue is not strictly with the author, narrator or storyteller; it is, in fact, with the characters that the reader or listener gets to know, judges and sympathizes with. It is the character that should have the right to ensure their voice is heard. To define the characteristics of a text where the voices of all its characters are authentically heard, I use the Bakhtinian notion of polyphony, which implies that the voices of all the characters, both heroes and villains, can be heard. In fact, there would not be villains in a polyphonic narrative, because every character can make mistakes and feel dragged towards failure and evil. For there to be a true democratic teaching, we must understand that evil is nothing more than a slip of fragility; it is not a deliberate evil. This perspective of the villain becomes a democratic tool to understand the other in their difficulties, and thus want to help, not eliminate them. The Greek tragedy, from Nussbaum’s perspective, seems a good example of the polyphonic narrative I am looking for, as it shows the hero’s unintentional tragic mistakes and terrible outcomes, but the world is full of stories that can fulfill this characteristic as well.

Could the readers suggest polyphonic narratives they think would be good for the COI approach?

Philosophy Ireland update

by Marelle Rice, Director of Philosophy Ireland and The Thinker’s Midwife. Marelle has also co-authored the Junior Cycle Philosophy Short Course and is a PDST P4C and SAPERE Trainer.

Philosophy Ireland is an invitation to the people of Ireland (whatever their age, and whoever they are) to think, enquire, and reflect – to get philosophizing! Our mission is to support the development of philosophy in the Irish curriculum, universities, and wider community. Philosophy Ireland is passionate about philosophy. We believe that philosophy is for everyone. We believe that everyone could use more thinking time.

With the support of the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), a motivated community of National CPD Advisors, teachers, academics and researchers with a range of curriculum specialisms has been established. We have embarked on a three-year programme with a view to embedding philosophical enquiry across the Irish curriculum and teacher training and development.  This has afforded opportunity for networking between a range of institutions and areas of the wider educational profession, and has given a fantastic foundation for our journey.

We have also helped support the development and launch of University College Dublins’ Irish Young Philosopher Awards, which has garnered a great deal of interest and support nationally. As this is an all Ireland showcase, entries from Northern Irish schools are very welcome. You can read more in this recent article in the Irish Times by Joe Humphreys: Philosophy in the classroom: ‘It’s okay not to find an exact answer’

It is incredibly fortuitous that Philosophy and P4C have support from the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, providing a platform to raise awareness of the benefits of Philosophy to the wider society, and there are multiple projects planned for the year ahead.

This photo shows Philosophy Ireland with President Michael D. Higgins and Sabina Higgins on World Philosophy Day. President Higgins spoke passionately about the importance of philosophy for society.

An exposure to philosophy is vital if we truly want our young people to acquire the capacities they need in preparing for their journey into the world.

Read the full text of his speech here.

Follow Philosophy Ireland on Facebook and Twitter: @philosophyire

Philosophy for Children (P4C) in Parliament

Is democracy fair?

Why can’t children vote?

Do politicians always tell the truth?

These are some of the questions we get asked every day at the Parliament Education Centre. During the course of the day we might run an election with ten year olds from Poole, help fifteen year olds from Glasgow make a law and discuss the Suffragettes with seven year olds from London.

Parliament, democracy, representation and fairness are concepts we talk about daily. That is why I was given the opportunity to go on the SAPERE Philosophy for Children training to help find ways to guide students through these big ideas. My name is Bridget and I am a Visits Officer for the Parliament Education Service. Our job is to develop and deliver informative and engaging workshops to school groups that visit, and to answer the many questions students have about the democratic system and Parliament.

Over the last two years I have been on the SAPERE Level 1 and Level 2A training, both of which have shaped the way we approach engaging with students. Our visits run over a set format, which means our approach to P4C has been slightly adapted. A visit will last two and a quarter hours, the first hour and a quarter involving a tour through the Houses of Parliament, followed by an hour long workshop. We also invite the constituency MP to visit the group for a Q and A session that lasts twenty minutes, so sometimes we have forty minutes for the workshop! Due to these timings, and the fact we will only see each group once, some aspects of P4C – such as the 10-step model of enquiry – do not fit with our timetable. However many of the techniques from P4C are the perfect way to encourage questions from groups and help develop their ideas.

Since my training many staff members have started using “The Mighty Might” when phrasing their questions. “Why might Parliament….” is less intimidating than “Why does Parliament….” And many people have reported more students being ready to have a go at answering questions. Another common occurrence is finding a way to challenge assumptions students have in an impartial and supportive way. In our ‘Laws and Debating’ workshop it is common for groups to choose “Homes for the Homeless” as the law they want to make. This will often raise questions around why people become homeless and how much we should help them.

During these debates the MTV (Meaning, Truth, Value and Validity) method of questioning can help children think about their beliefs. For example, if a student says that all homeless people are at fault for their homelessness, the workshop facilitator can probe as to whether this is true in all cases and to find examples of when this might not be the case.

Currently we have one workshop that is based entirely on P4C principles. Our ‘People’s Parliament’ workshop for ages 7-11 uses a short story, as well as a clip set in our 360 degree immersive space  about the Suffragettes to encourage children to discuss concepts like fairness, representation and whether it is okay to break the law to try and change the world. The workshop is very popular with groups, some of whom already use P4C in their own schools. However, even groups that have never heard of P4C enjoy the opportunity to air their thoughts and share ideas with their classmates.

As a result of my Level 2A training I have come to realise how important it is to link the discussion to the children’s own experience. So I am now going to revisit the workshop and create more opportunities for children to discuss their own experience of fairness and unfairness as well as times they wanted to have a say or make a change.

We currently are accepting bookings until 15th January 2018 for the Summer Term if you would like to bring a school group. The booking form can be found at the Parliament Website. And short notice bookings for next term can be found here.

Bridget Headlam

P4C at Alverstoke CE Junior School, a SAPERE Gold Award School

Alverstoke Church of England Junior School Profile

Alverstoke Church of England Junior School in Gosport, Hampshire is a larger than average junior school. It is set in a small village setting within a large town. The large majority of children are from a white British heritage. The number of children with learning difficulties and/or disabilities is below the national average, as is the number of children who are eligible for the Pupil Premium. It is ‘Outstanding’ in personal development, behaviour and welfare alongside leadership and management with an overall grading of ‘Good’ as judged by Ofsted in their latest inspection (March 2017) and was deemed to be ’Outstanding’ in their SIAMS (church) inspection in February 2016. In their recent Ofsted report, the inspector commented on children’s ability to ‘communicate sensitively and thoughtfully with others about important issues and values’ which the school identified as a strength through the teaching of P4C.

Importance of P4C

The school has embraced a whole school approach to P4C and sees it as the ‘golden thread’ which runs through the entire curriculum and underpins the ethos of the school.

P4C was introduced a number of years ago by SAPERE trainer, Alison Allsopp. Alison has been fully supported by the school’s headteacher and together they have ensured that the investment in P4C, in terms of time and resources, has been effective and sustained. All teachers in the school are SAPERE Level 1 trained with the headteacher and other senior leaders trained to SAPERE Level 2. When recruiting new staff, an interest and knowledge of P4C is ‘desirable’.

The school has encouraged children to be critical thinkers; confident in questioning and taking an active interest in the world around them. Behaviour in the school is deemed to be ‘outstanding’, although the school is aware that some learners can be passive, conforming to expectations and therefore lacking self-challenge. Through P4C, children are encouraged to challenge their own views and thinking (and those of others) and to reflect deeply and spiritually.

Alverstoke takes an active role in SAPERE’s International Community of Enquiry and have had teaching colleagues visit from Shanghai to share good P4C practice. The school achieved the SAPERE Gold award in June 2016 and works with the University of Wincester, a SAPERE partner, where students specialise in P4C.

Alverstoke involves parents in the pedagogy behind P4C. The P4C Leader hosts an enquiry based session with new Year 3 parents at the beginning of each academic year, which explains why they practise P4C in the school and shows parents what an enquiry looks like. The most recent enquiries are updated on the school website so that children have the option to discuss the chosen question from their enquiry in class at home should they wish to.

Impact of P4C on Learning

Alverstoke now sees children who are critical thinker and thrive on challenging both themselves and others. The school’s Key Stage 2 tests are well above the national average in all subjects and teachers value the impact P4C has had on learning and attainment in every year group, but particularly with English and RE.

The Views of the School: 

Graham Cutter, Headteacher: P4C encourages our pupils to develop an open-minded, critical approach to thinking. It enables them to articulate their ideas with great depth and gives them the tools to respond thoughtfully to the thoughts of others. 

Alice Gardner, Class Teacher: P4C allows children to fully discuss and express themselves across the whole curriculum. Subjects such as English, RE and Science enable children to apply the skills developed through P4C enquiries; through discussion and questioning, children engage in learning deeply.

Elise Gower, TA and Governor: Children’s self-esteem and confidence in their learning has increased greatly and this is because P4C empowers them, allows them to question whilst learning, gaining more knowledge along the way.

Year 3 pupil: P4C helps me to learn from others and understand that it is okay to disagree sometimes.

Year 4 pupil: Through P4C, we can discuss and build on the ideas of others which helps us to learn more about other people’s views.

Year 5 pupil: I like that in P4C we can explore different matters from around the world. It has helped me personally with problem solving in Maths as I now think more deeply about the ways in which a problem could be solved.

Year 6 pupil: P4C quite simply allows us to build on our deeper thinking skills. We reflect regularly on what we have learnt and how we can apply this knowledge and understanding to the world around us.

The Golden Thread

P4C is at the heart of the school’s curriculum; each unit involves an enquiry linked with concepts to enable children to broaden their understanding and deepen their thinking. Alverstoke is a Church of England school and revised the school’s Christian values in September 2015 , as this was felt to be important to children’s learning. The school also has Foundations of Learning which are closely linked with the 4Cs of P4C. Teachers have found that through this intertwined approach to teaching, children can identify how P4C is central to all learning.

Children’s Philosophical Questions

When planning a P4C enquiry, teachers at Alverstoke are mindful of how their enquiry links with the Christian values, Foundations of Learning and aspects of spiritually. Below are some examples of questions from each year group:

Year 3: Is it important to tell the truth?

Year 4: Are we born with courage?

Year 5: Is God real?

Year 6: Is death a bad thing?

P4C in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Catherine Lawrence, Windhill21, Hertfordshire

At Windhill21, P4C lessons are accessed once a week within our Early Years setting. These lessons are planned for based on the needs and interests of the children, but are also designed to be flexible. Here are just some examples of a few different sessions I have run with my Reception class.

Focusing on the needs of the children

As a class teacher, I wanted to bring up the subject of bravery, as there were a number of children struggling to find their voice at this time. As a starter activity, children had to decide which animals they thought might be brave and which they thought were more cowardly. They placed their ideas on a scale in the middle of the carpet, from most brave to least brave. We then watched a video depicting a story called The Lion Inside by Rachel Bright. Children discussed the story and many changed their minds. Discussion turned to thinking about what it meant to be brave for them as individuals. Children also questioned whether you can ‘look’ brave, or be brave all the time, sharing ideas such as “I don’t think bravery looks like anything, I think it’s inside you“. Following this, children were invited to draw a picture of ‘Bravery’ during their CIP. Many children chose to draw a brave animal or a situation that required bravery, like climbing to the top of play equipment. This session was successful in getting children to question themselves and each other, and throughout the week children were keen to tell me about their experiences of daily bravery!

Creating a ‘hook’

The clock from Hickory Dickory Dock was left broken yesterday afternoon, as it appears someone has taken the number 1 off the face. As the clock couldn’t strike 1, the poor little mouse has not been able to climb down all night.

Following this news bulletin, children looked for evidence to try and solve this “whodunit” mystery! After concluding that it must have been Humpty Dumpty (as egg shell was found at the scene), children had to decide what would be a suitable punishment. Suggestions were quite severe before one child suggested that Humpty might have done it by accident. This enquiry went on to explore the reasons behind the crime, whether saying sorry is enough, or even whether or not the mouse might decide Humpty’s fate. This enquiry was engaging, fuelled with enthusiasm and held invaluable learning opportunities.

Building upon a stimulus throughout the week

During one of our weekly Forest school sessions, I showed the children a little house I had made for my brand new pet spider. This followed on from reading the story, Argh Spiderby Lydia Monks. Initially, many of the children were horrified that I had a spider as a pet; it was very hard to believe for some! However, after posing the question “well what is a pet then?” the children eagerly came up with their own criteria for what classes as a pet. Some children were open minded at the prospect of an eight legged friend (“as long as it was in a cage”), whilst others disagreed, saying that pets had to be cuddly. This sparked a follow up activity later in child initiated play (CIP), where children had to sort pictures of animals into a Venn diagram made using large hoops on the floor. For children that were able to read, I provided additional cards that had descriptive words (such as ‘fluffy’ and ‘slimy’) that children could add to the diagram. This is an example of how I use an original stimulus and delve deeper using different activities and environments.

Comment from Nick Chandley, SAPERE Trainer: Catherine, it’s so lovely to see you exploring P4C so creatively with your class, also bringing in elements of the recent Level 2 courses you attended. I remember other participants on the courses being really interested in such things as ‘playful ponder’ so it’s equally lovely to see that you’ve taken the time to write up some of your sessions to share with others. I really like too how you quite naturally turn playful activities into something substantive to discuss. Keep us all posted with progress!

Using Playful Ponders to enhance philosophical discussions within child initiated play (CIP)

Catherine Lawrence, Windhill21, Hertfordshire

As a reception class teacher, I have been using P4C to enhance children’s communication and social skills, which are areas in need of support in our setting. On top of whole class sessions, I have developed a P4C area in my classroom which is designed to encourage such skill development during Child Initiated Play (CIP). It is equipped with an audio-recorded question, a linked stimulus displayed, and voice recorders / sticky notes to encourage children to record their thoughts and develop their literacy as well. Children can then peg their written thoughts or voice recordings on an umbrella displayed above.

The children use ‘talking point recordable buttons’ which is a simple technology for young children to use. ‘Talk-time recordable postcards’ are used by some children to record their first thoughts, if they do not feel confident to write. I like using these, as an adult can scribe on the front of the card using a dry wipe pen, to encourage peers and visitors to press the button to hear what the children have to say.

The umbrella display is not only visually inviting for the children, but at child height, it encourages children to be independent in displaying their thoughts. Being suspended above an island unit also allows children to face one another and access the area from many sides, further encouraging communication and social development.

Since developing this area in June of 2016, it has proven to be a very valuable tool to allow children to carry on philosophical discussions into their choosing time. It has also helped me to collect CIP evidence of speaking, listening, writing and peer interactions. Most importantly, the children enjoy using the area, as it seems to provide as alternative ‘way in’ to philosophical discussions. Group discussions with a teacher may be intimidating for some children but this provision allows individuals, pairs and small groups to have their say. One child, when asked why he enjoys using the P4C area, replied

I like pressing the button, and I like telling my answer because then you can press it and hear it – and it can be different but that’s ok.