Philosophical Enquiry in Alternative Provision

Why Philosophical Enquiry?

Put simply, philosophical enquiry helps children and teachers learn and teach more effectively. 

The Philosophy for Children (P4C) pedagogy, devised by Prof. Matthew Lipman, uses philosophical enquiry and facilitation to strengthen teaching, learning and assessment and has been proven to increase children’s cognitive levels, particularly in maths and reading, as well as many other wider abilities – significantly, problem solving, collaborating with each other, thinking critically and caring about the quality of our interactions and relationships with others. 

The 2015 EEF Efficacy trial carried out by Durham University showed that pupils made between 2-4 months progress in reading, maths and writing as well as pupils confidence to speak, listening skills and self-esteem.  People working in Alternative Provision know that when all these factors are working then a child’s emotional well-being is strengthened which is essential for any child to make the progress relevant to them.

Philosophical Enquiry in Alternative Provision Permanent Education CIC
Rebecca Gough, our dedicated AP trainer.

P4C and Alternative Provision

Rebecca has extensive experience working with a number of Alternative settings: Behavioural Units, Hospital Schools and SEN Schools to incorporate P4C into their curriculum and whole school ethos. She explains that, 

‘In an AP setting the mainstream P4C structures do not apply – every school I work with is different so it is vital that every support package is different. I am extremely flexible and make sure that I am led by the school who ultimately knows the children best.’

Reasonable children

Current work by Rebecca with a Hospital school in London has been to support children who need to ask soul searching questions about their illness or prognosis. Philosophical enquiry techniques and activities have helped them come to terms with their thoughts, and future plans and to understand how to reason with aspects of life and death which are out of our control.

In another school, a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), a lot of our work recently has been to help the young people enquire and question the concepts of community and belonging. Many children who have grown up in unstable settings or gang communities need the chance to learn how to accept views other than their own and resolve problems without the use of violence or extremism. Philosophical enquiry is the way to do this work!’

Putting children at the centre of their learning and their futures

Don’t just take our word for it!

I first became aware of P4C about 18 months ago when I attended a training course where Rebecca had a workshop slot. It was incredibly inspiring and reminded me of exactly why I got into teaching in the first place. It was also clear that the P4C principles mapped perfectly onto our values as a Nurture school and I could see huge potential within our setting. Our vision is to become a Thinking Skills school just as much as we are a Nurture school – indeed the two approaches are inextricably interlinked. The thing that resonates with me most when it comes to P4C is this idea of “reasonableness”. That is such an invaluable life skill and it is something that many of our learners and their families struggle with. It leads to increased isolation, conflict, anxiety  and erects huge barriers to learning. If we can develop our young people’s ability to be reasonable members of their communities their lives will be infinitely more positive and productive.

Kate Emptage, Pathway Leader, Southgate School

‘The impact of philosophical questioning at our hospital school has been immense. The impact on our children and their ability to learn is life changing. For example, one of our pupils is a Year Four boy with both physical and mental health needs whose parent had allowed him to drop out of education and was insisting that there was a significant learning need. During a three week admission we were able to use socratic questioning and philosophical facilitation techniques, taught to us by Rebecca, which transformed this child’s self esteem and engagement with education. When I met them some months later in clinic, the child was happily back in school with a desire to learn’

Anne Patrick, Hospital School Team Leader

If you work in Alternative Provision then

let’s work together!

Rebecca will work with you to develop a model that is right for you. She will work directly with your teachers and leadership team so they can incorporate philosophical enquiry and high level facilitation into their existing practice. This model allows schools to have the skills, experience and ownership to continue and benefit from P4C without long term external support. This package can take the form of inset training courses, staff meetings, individual mentoring, co-teaching, observation, joint lesson planning and curriculum development.

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