Evaluation of philosophy for children: An effectiveness trial

Pippa Lord, Afrah Dirie, Kelly Kettlewell and Ben Styles

03 March 2021

Philosophy for Children (P4C) aims to improve pupils’ and teachers’ capability to think in a caring, collaborative, creative and critical way (‘the 4Cs’) in order to support pupils’ personal, social and educational development. The whole-school approach includes staff training, and weekly sessions for pupils, which are gradually embedded into the school curriculum. Sessions involve enquiry-based discussions on concepts such as ‘truth’, ‘fairness’ or ‘bullying’. The programme is provided to UK schools by The Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE).

The publication is available on the www.educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk website.

This effectiveness randomised controlled trial, commissioned by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), involved 75 intervention schools and 123 control schools. It evaluated the impact of P4C on Y6 pupils’ reading, maths, and social and communication skills, with the main focus on pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). A process evaluation explored participants’ views and experiences.

Key Findings

  • P4C did not appear to make a difference to children’s attainment: there was no evidence that P4C had an impact on pupils’ reading or maths outcomes – either for the whole cohort or for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • There was no evidence of impact on children’s social and communication skills, as measured by the pupil survey.
  • However, teachers’ feedback on P4C was very positive – they felt that pupils’ level of respect for others’ opinions and ability to express their views clearly had improved. Teachers and pupils found P4C enjoyable and engaging, and felt it was particularly beneficial for EAL pupils, those who lacked confidence and SEN pupils.

The full report discusses these findings further, including an appraisal of the theory of change and instruments used, and fields such as metacognitive, character education and managing whole school change.

Sponsor Details

Education Endowment Foundation