Philosophy for Children

Primary interest

It was amazing to see the children interacting with each other in a profoundly respectful way and discussing concepts and philosophising. It will surely have a huge impact on their understanding and inferring in reading, in reasoning in their writing, topic and maths. –Year 5 Teacher

RISC are running a two-day course for teachers and facilitators who want to learn more about Philosophy for Children (P4C), an approach which they can use in their work with children and young people. P4C is about about enabling four key types of thinking: collaborative, caring, critical and creative.

Community agreement

Ruth England, Education Officer at RISC, explained that the Philosophy for Children methodology is about ‘giving children time to think through ideas, explore their own opinions, and, importantly, to understand that it is ok to change their mind’.

Sessions offer a space for enquiry and for disagreeing with others respectfully: groups signs up to a community agreement at the start. The approach is also young person led. Ruth explains that the facilitator’s role is to encourage equal discussion, with everyone sitting in a circle and talking to each other, rather than addressing answers to the teacher – ‘this can be a difficult shift for everyone!’.

The group then explores a stimulus, such as a book or object, creates their own philosophical questions, and develops their thinking and reasoning through dialogue. The facilitator’s role is to move the discussion to more open questions, which allow for complexity and diverse thinking. ‘The P4C approach is really for all ages’, says Ruth, ‘and can also be powerful in community settings because it offers a safe space and a participant-led framework for discussion’.

SAPERE, the national charity which supports Philosophy for Children, has a wealth of information and resources on their website, including the results of independent research into its benefits for literacy, numeracy, communication and teamwork.

RISC run the courses for teachers and facilitators as part of their commitment to Oxfam’s Global Citizenship framework which encourages young people to develop the knowledge, skills and values they need to engage with the world and take active roles in their communities. As the world tries to find ways to tackle climate crisis and a host of complex problems, the P4C approach develops skills such as critical and creative thinking, empathy, self-awareness and reflection, communication, and ability to manage complexity and uncertainty. ‘Daily, weekly or fortnightly sessions can really have an impact and feed into all other aspects of learning’, says Ruth.

Further information
Other Philosophy for Children resources