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Philosophy for Children

Philosophy For Children (P4C) is not about teaching traditional philosophy to children. Instead, it is a teaching approach that focuses on developing essential thinking skills and the ability to question and reason. P4C encourages students to take charge of their learning by leading their own inquiries.

Research has shown that P4C significantly enhances cognitive abilities, including general thinking and reasoning skills that result in higher levels of achievement across all subjects. Additionally, P4C has demonstrated significant success in boosting motivation by improving levels of understanding, confidence, and student ownership of learning. Another benefit of P4C is that it helps students develop learning-to-learn skills, through its emphasis on questioning, reflection, and “thinking out loud” approach.


At Grimley and Holt Primary School, we prioritize helping our pupils become effective, critical, and creative thinkers who take responsibility for their own learning while being a part of a caring and collaborative environment.

We achieve this by providing inquiry-based activities and Philosophy for Children (P4C), where students are encouraged to ask questions, find answers through discussion, and develop the ability to recognize differences and explore them constructively. P4C helps strengthen children’s understanding, speaking, and listening skills. We aim to create an environment where children feel free to explore ideas and ask questions in all areas of school life. Philosophy can be used in all subjects across the curriculum.

We hope the information provided here will assist you in applying some of these ideas at home!

Key Principles of P4C

The key practice that starts and drives the whole thinking process is enquiry (interpreted as going beyond information to seek understanding). The key practice that results in significant changes of thought and action is reflection.

These aims and processes can be made more explicit if the teacher asks appropriate questions. These can range from a general invitation (such as: Can anyone respond to that?) to more specific calls that require a considered response. There are ten key elements the teacher can introduce to elicit a considered response:

  1. Questions (What don’t we understand here? What questions do we have about this?)
  2. Hypotheses (Does anyone have any alternative suggestions or explanations?)
  3. Reasons (What reasons are there for doing that? What evidence is there for believing this?)
  4. Examples (Can anyone think of an example of this? Can someone think of a counter- example?)
  5. Distinctions (Can we make a distinction here? Can anyone give a definition?)
  6. Connections (Is anyone able to build on that idea? or Can someone link that with another idea?)
  7. Implications (What assumptions lie behind this? What consequences does it lead to?)
  8. Intentions (Is that what was really meant? Is that what we’re really saying?)
  9. Criteria (What makes that an example of X? What are the things that really count here?)
  10. Consistency (Does that conclusion follow? Are these principles/beliefs consistent?)

Thinking skills and Philosophical Enquiry at Grimley and Holt

Developing thinking skills is crucial to applying our critical faculties to any idea, particularly creative and critical thinking. But having these skills alone is worthless if we lack the willingness or good sense to use them. Therefore, it’s essential to help children develop a general disposition to think better.

Our goals are to offer practical ways to develop thinking, questioning, and communication skills, enabling children and young people to become effective, critical, and creative thinkers who take responsibility for their learning. We aim to create a compassionate classroom where children can learn to listen and respect one another, make connections between personal concerns such as love, growing up, friendship, and more general philosophical issues such as change, personal identity, free will, space, time, and truth.

We want to encourage children to challenge and explore the beliefs and values of others, develop their own perspectives, and engage in moments of quiet reflection. We also aim to teach children to think clearly, make responsible and deliberate judgments, and base their decisions and actions on reasons. By setting high expectations of their ability to think critically and creatively, we want to encourage children to be more thoughtful, develop morally and socially, and enhance the quality of learning and achievement.

To achieve these goals, we use Philosophy for Children (P4C) as a teaching and learning tool to deliver many aspects of the curriculum, encouraging a cross-curricular approach and careful planning to make explicit links where possible. We also use P4C to deliver the Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) curriculum. Assessment of P4C mainly occurs through observation, and our expectation is to develop higher levels of self-esteem, greater independence, and improved behavior by fostering caring attitudes towards peers and boosting intellectual confidence.

What does a P4C session look like?

Philosophy for Children, or P4C, involves several key elements to promote deep thinking and discussion among children. The process begins with a warm-up activity, which can be anything from guessing games to “would you rather” questions. Next, a stimulus is introduced, which can include stories, pictures, music, or any other medium that inspires thought. The children then create their own questions, which can range from ones with clear answers to those that are open-ended. Once the questions are generated, the children vote on which one they want to discuss. During the discussion, the facilitator guides the children in questioning, reasoning, defining, speculating, testing for truth, expanding ideas, and summarizing. The session ends with a final thoughts phase, where children are given the opportunity to share their views and feedback. Success criteria for P4C include asking good questions, providing evidence for arguments, clarifying concepts, generating alternative viewpoints, testing for truth, expanding ideas, and summarizing key points.

How P4C supports the Mantle of the Expert and reinforces the national curriculum?

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is the ideal tool to stimulate thinking skills.

P4C improves children’s critical, creative and rigorous thinking. It helps to develop higher order thinking skills, improve communication and helps children learn to co-operate with others. Children learn to reflect before speaking so that they are accurate in what they really want to say. All this has huge benefits for the National Curriculum and encourages independent, critical thought when adopting the Mantle of the Expert.

In Mathematics, for example, children are required to discuss their work and explain why an answer is correct. And as they progress they need to begin to explain their thinking and to give examples. In Science, children are required to respond to suggestions and put forward their own ideas about how to find the answer to a question. In English, pupils talk and listen confidently in different contexts, exploring and communicating ideas. Although many teachers and pupils value p4c in part because there is no ‘literacy barrier’ to participation, not using the written channel in p4c might be wasting a golden opportunity to allow writing and thinking to enrich each other.


These approaches encourage the ability to learn collaboratively, concentrate, think beyond the obvious, evaluate and form their own opinions – all vital transferable skills. Children are increasingly able to take ownership of their skills and learning, forming a valuable part of, or leading, a team.


The skills that children acquire in P4C improve access to MoE topics. Each commission begins with P4C sessions to elicit previous knowledge and skills, and the planning required to achieve a desired outcome. For instance, in a recent MoE topic focused on the Ancient Egyptians, children had to apply a wide range of subject specific skills informed by the pedagogical approach that P4C inspires:

Skills sequence and Overview

An enquiry based approach to open up children's learning through the exploration of ideas. ·

Skills and Overview

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