A new report, published by the Education Endowment Foundation, has shown that children taking part in a trial of Philosophy for Children (P4C) made approximately two additional months’ progress in reading and maths.
The authors, from Durham University, conducted an evaluation of the programme from January to December 2013 in 48 English schools. A total of 3,159 pupils in Years 4 and 5 took part in the trial, of which 1,550 were in a treatment group and 1,609 in a control group. Teachers were trained in P4C and pupils received, on average, one period of P4C per week.
P4C is centred on nurturing philosophical enquiry. The aim is to help children to become more willing and able to question, reason, construct arguments, and collaborate with others. It is intended to lead to improved self-confidence, as well as cognitive improvement and academic attainment. Pupils participate in group dialogues focused on philosophical issues. These are prompted by a stimulus (eg, a story or video) and are based around a concept such as ‘truth’, ‘fairness’, or ‘bullying’.
The evaluation found evidence that P4C had a positive impact on pupils’ Key Stage 2 (KS2) progress in reading and maths. Gains in KS2 were greater in all subjects for pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM). However, results on the Cognitive Abilities Test (a different outcome measure not explicitly focused on attainment) showed mixed results. Pupils who started the programme in Year 5 showed a positive impact, but those who started in Year 4 showed no evidence of benefit.