Intervention details

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Philosophy for Children

Moderate for Primary reading
Moderate for Primary maths
UK Evaluated in the UK

Intervention description

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an educational approach which aims to develop children’s critical thinking, reasoning and meta-cognitive skills through philosophical discussion. Often beginning with a story or other prompt, a P4C lesson then involves the children discussing certain questions raised by the text (often these questions will be chosen by the children). The teacher’s role is to foster an atmosphere where all opinions are respected, but also to encourage children to question assumptions, develop and articulate reasons for their opinions, and analyse the concepts involved. P4C is used across the age spectrum, with some teachers even implementing it at Foundation Stage, though obviously the approach and level of discussion must be tailored to the appropriate level for that age group.

Staffing requirements

The approach can be used in timetabled P4C lessons and/or across other curriculum subjects.

Professional development/training

Training is available through SAPERE, who maintain a list of registered trainers and run a system of accreditation for teachers wishing to start using P4C in the classroom.

Evidence Summary

The Education Endowment Foundation ran a project in 2013 investigating the effectiveness of Philosophy for Children, which found that it had a positive impact on maths and reading in KS2. This is significant in that the intervention was not explicitly focused on improving KS2 outcomes, yet it lifted attainment in reading and maths. The study found a mean effect size of +0.12 in primary reading, +0.03 in primary writing, +0.10 in primary maths.

Moderate for Primary reading
No. of studies 1
No. of students 1,529
Average effect size +0.12
Moderate for Primary maths
No. of studies 1
No. of students 1,529
Average effect size +0.10
No impact for Primary writing
No. of studies 1
No. of students 1,529
Average effect size +0.03

Key research

This Education Endowment Foundation evaluation found that the intervention had the biggest positive impact on Key Stage 2 results among disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for free school meals).

The Education Endowment Foundation are now running a further project testing the intervention in more schools and over a longer timeframe, to provide a more robust estimate of the impact. The evaluation should be available in spring 2021.

Key stages

  • Early Years
  • Key Stage 1
  • Key Stage 2
  • Key Stage 3
  • Key Stage 4
  • Post 16


Around £16 per pupil per year

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