Philosophy for Children

P4C was founded by Professor Matthew Lipman about 40 years ago. It is now practised across the world –including Canada, The Philippines, France, China and Hawaii. Children learn how to create their own philosophical questions.

In P4C the teacher takes on the role of a facilitator to help students with their questioning, thinking and reasoning. The teacher supports the process to enable the children to learn to speak and listen to each other in the dialogue.

Philosophy for Children at Manley Park Primary School

We have been practising Philosophy for Children at our school since 2010. We believe that this structured, participatory method greatly develops the thinking, communication and social skills of our students. Visitors to Manley Park frequently comment on how articulate our children are – we think that this is closely related to the fact that Philosophy for Children is part of our curriculum from Nursery to Year 6.

To ensure we have high quality P4C at MPPS we have decided to prioritise staff training in this key area. Our intention is that all of our teachers are Level One trained, and, in addition several teachers go on to Level Two training. P4C AND ENGLISH AT MPPS

This year we have been researching the benefits P4C can bring to the teaching and learning of

English. We have been delighted to see the impact and we will continue to prioritise P4C as a key approach in English. Here are some of the positive outcomes of our pathfinder project:

  • P4C provides content for writing – ideas, examples, opinions, deeper understanding Talking about it first means you have time to listen and form your ideas. If we didn’t have P4C, we wouldn’t have examples to write down. It helps us feel confident to write. (Pupil)

  • P4C can motivate children to write It makes me want to write so people’s lifestyles change. It makes us want to write posters and letters to the council. (Pupil)

  • P4C motivates children to dig deeper into a text and develops reasoning

  • P4C develops empathy for characters/people/living things

  • P4C deepens understanding of big concepts e.g. survival, beauty, difference

  • P4C develops the ability to formulate and categorise questions

  • P4C provides an opportunity to hear new vocabulary and different ways of phrasing/using words. I am proud of myself for using powerful language like, ‘We can state with confidence.’ (Pupil)

  • P4C can motivate us to use our Emotional Intelligence – to act differently (this links to our Manley Park EI curriculum)


The children love P4C.  They (and I!) really look forward to our weekly enquiries. P4C has helped to give our children the confidence to articulate their thinking and know that the ideas they contribute will be valued by adults and their peers. (Early Years)

They are passionate about the topics we discuss. They have started to show real emotion about real world issues and some of them feel as though they can change the world. (KS1)

The children have become more confident speakers and their creative, critical and collaborative thinking has improved. P4C language is used across the subjects. (Lower KS2)

Their confidence has grown, with all the children now able to speak in a clear audible voice. (Lower KS2)

My class have become more focused and are getting better at active listening due to P4C, as well as showing more patience towards each other. (Lower KS2)

Most notably, and most impressively, it has enabled us as a school to address high-level, otherwise controversial topics with the children in a safe, open place with no judgement of people’s opinions or questions. (Upper KS2)

For more information about P4C: 

Topsy Page, April 2018

A sample of questions that the children across the year groups discussed are below:

Why do people keep buying things?

Should countries exist?

Is it better to try to please everybody or to be a little bit selfish?

Is it ever okay to mistreat animals? - Jed age 7 in Year 3 decided after listening to some other contributions, that he had changed his mind about animals being treated equally as humans – he would refine this to argue that in some situations such as food and ‘hurt’ they should, but in others e.g. being able to drive a car they probably shouldn’t.

What does P4C result in?

Children who:

·      Are good listeners

·      Are confident speakers

·      Have empathy and respect for others

·      Challenge and question

·      Give evidence and reasons

·      Are creative, caring, collaborative and critical thinkers

Teachers who:

·      Know and understand their pupils more

·      Value reasoning and push for evidence

·      Are skilled facilitators of learning

What is special about P4C?

It’s meaningful for the participants – they set the agenda

It’s democratic – everyone’s opinions are valued

It’s collaborative – everyone tries to build and move the thinking forward “Its most significant evidence of success is a participant’s self correction of previous beliefs, feelings, or values” (Gregory 2014)

The children have all been discussing various topics and have been asking and discussing the following questions:


Would you rather have one big present or lots of little presents?

Would you rather it was always Summer or always Winter?

Would you rather have friends or shiny scales? (after reading Rainbow Fish)


Should we let a dinosaur come to MPPS?

Year 1 

Is it okay to treat people unfairly?

Is it okay to be different?

Should we always eat healthy food?

Is it okay to have different feelings?

Should we always be equal?

Is it ever okay not to share?

Should we always share?

Year 2

Is it ever okay to treat animals badly?

Would you rather feel sorry for yourself or someone else?

Is it ever fair to shout at someone?

Is it ever okay to be selfish to people who have been selfish to you?

Is it okay to celebrate in different ways?

Is it okay to want to be like someone else?

Year 3 

Is it ever ok to treat people differently because of the way they look?

Year 4

Should we treat animals the same way we treat humans?

What is a coward?

Do you have to be in a dangerous situation to be brave?

Year 5

Is it better to be home schooled or go to a local primary?

Is it normal that people are mean to other people sometimes?

What is more important: questions or answers?

Year 6

Should children be able to choose what they learn at school?

Do we do acts of kindness for our own benefit or others’?

Extract from a Y5 Enquiry - Below are some questions that the children were reflecting on  and some of their answers including the end challenge:

Is it normal that people are mean to other people sometimes?

It isn’t normal to have a perfect world.

If everyone was perfect, what would we do?

The world would be safer but more boring.

It would be safer not boring. It would be nicer!

The children were challenged to end the enquiry by giving a final comment in less than 5 words:

Adil - Keep the world as it is.

Rory - Don’t doubt.

Rayhaan - Could the world be much better?

Usmaan - Be positive.

Krishna - Don’t judge.

Awais – Have a peaceful life.

Ali – Use your actions positively.

Lana – Is the world an amazing place.