Should I or shouldn't I?

I've been thinking for a while as to whether I should take the plunge and write a regular blog.  Those who now me know that I've got plenty to say but I tend to reserve this for times when I'm in schools, leading training or working with organisations such as Sapere or Open Futures.   Those who know me also know that the life I lead, with its various tangents, is busy enough without having to add something else.

That said, I do think it's important to reflect and maybe such a medium is the place to do it?  I wonder, and will keep wondering for a while.  What I wouldn't want my blog to be is a series of ramblings, criticisms or calls to arms.  I am on a mission, it's true (and thankfully I'm not alone in this), to encourage schools, educators and policy-makers to give time in an often overcrowded curriculum for reflection.  This reflection could come at any point, whether it be through approaches such as Philosophy for Children or askit or through a whole range of other opportunities.  I strongly believe too that this reflection time should include not only personal reflection but also community reflection, in which pupils are given opportunities to enter into dialogue with their peers on things that mean something to them and to develop into good, some might say philosophical, thinkers.

That'll do for now.  I feel the same way a politician must feel in the current climate - setting out a manifesto in the hope others will follow!  I am in a way, although I'd be the first to admit that it's me following a whole army of like-minded predecessors and contemporaries.  I'm happily signing up to fight for this army!

Mar 17, 12:20 PM

Reflections...What's the Big Idea?

It's been a while since I wrote in here. Maybe because I was persuaded to engage in some kind of social media and chose Twitter, maybe because things have been so busy or maybe because I just forgot. 

It's been a whirlwind year up to now though. Some great stuff with Open Futures, similarly exciting things happening with the EEF P4C project and of course, the broadcasting of the project that took up most of a year for me, the wonderful CBeebies show 'What's the Big Idea?'  I've recently heard that it's top of the rankings in France and zooming up CBeebies' iplayer ratings. DVDs are currently being published in France and will be over here at some point, maybe for schools too, and it'll be appearing in various countries around the world at some point. 
As well as all this, I've been really lucky to visit lots of fabulous schools around the country, with lots more planned. I'll mention some of them in another blog post soon but there us a general picture emerging - that a commitment to philosophical enquiry results in, quite simply, transformation. I heard that repeatedly last Thursday at the Open Futures conference in Loughborough, when school after school presented their journey over the last two years and showed the difference that philosophical enquiry has made to their schools. Add to that the impact I'm seeing on standards - 6.5 levels of progress at Coleridge Primary in Rotherham, for example - and it's easy to see why P4C is growing in popularity. 
I'm really enjoying lots of work with parents too. More on that soon as I commit myself to writing more often in here. Maybe no-one will read it but reflection is good for the soul anyway! 

Jun 22, 7:14 PM

A term and a half...

...and the end is still some way off!  I've been a fairly regular visitor to Birmingham and London this term, which started with only the prospect of two days at home, but I've really enjoyed the schools I've been in.  I've also had the opportunity to do lots of sessions with children, observed by teachers, and they've all been brilliant in different ways.  The North of England Education Conference was interesting, with Robert Winston the highlight.  I'm looking forward to meeting Daren Oxley, the new COO of Open Futures, in February and to working at the 'Outstanding and Beyond' conference in March (click here).  
You can find an article I did on P4C and healthy eating in the next issue of openit (click here) and I've put more resources in the Sapere bulletin on their website (click here).

Once things settle down I'll put some more detailed reminiscences in here.  At least the snow's gone but it was interesting while it lasted!

Feb 2, 1:29 AM

SAPERE annual conference

I'm just on the train back from the SAPERE annual conference in London.  It was a great day, really well organised, great workshops and all kicked off brilliantly in typical Will Ord fashion.  One of the most satisfying things, particularly for the organising team, must have been the range of people in attendance - trainers, teachers, trustees, people coming to find out more about P4C and even some parents.  I was a bit unsure whether I was being unfair dragging the parents from Coleridge there to support my workshop on working with parents but they were a brilliant addition to the day and everyone really appreciated them being there.  Thankfully, the parents enjoyed it too, despite the early start! 
I'm going to put all the great ideas that everyone contributed in my workshop onto the SAPERE and Philosophy for Schools website, so keep your eye out for that.

Nov 24, 5:01 PM

Busy times...

I don't seem to have stopped lately, especially with schools taking different weeks for half term this year.  The SAPERE`conference is coming up - 24th November - and I've just bought six lots of train tickets as there's a delegation going from Coleridge Primary in Rotherham.  Nice to be in touch with the BBC again and I'm looking forward to working with the writer Steve Middleton on combining P4C & creative writing.  More on that when we know more ourselves!  SAPERE bulletin resources going well and nice comments about those from some kind folk.  It's coming up to animal time too as we get them ready for winter.  Goat hoof trimming and worming first!  Really looking forward too to visiting Birmingham again, with Highters Heath soon and also exciting times for Benson and Foundry as we begin to really embed things there too, with Level 2 and Open Futures.
Lots of work, lots of fun & a privilege to be involved with so many great people!  More detail as things happen. 

Nov 9, 9:02 PM

Tower Hill values

Tracey Smith used to be at Bladon Primary, in a small village in Oxfordshire, and had built up a fabulous school, with grounds to die for and children to die twice for.  I trained the school to Level 1 and worked with the children, who immediately took to P4C, but then Tracey made the brave leap into a much more challenging school, Tower Hill in Witney. 
I visited them in early October to introduce P4C to the wonderful staff there and had a great time.  Everyone was so commited to the ideals of the approach and a whole-school Level 1 course is now booked, which I'm really looking forward to.  
It was interesting to see how values education is fundamental to what they do at Tower Hill and this is something I'm seeing so much more of lately.  Both George Eliot in Westminster and Highters Heath in Birmimgham have values education equally at their core.  I really like the notion that we do have rights but that we also have responsibilities too.  Neil Hawkes and his Values-Based Education organisation (here)has done much to bring this to the fore in schools and P4C is a perfect way to explore this with children. 
Check out this article here on Tracey's school and values education.  Interestingly, Witney is David Cameron's constituency and he recently visited the school.  Tracey extended the same invitation to Michael Gove but as yet I don't think he's taken her up on it!

Oct 29, 2:26 PM

Coleridge parents

I'm taking a group of parents down to London on 24th November for the SAPERE conference.  I'm doing a workshop there on working with parents, which has nicely coincided with the project at Coleridge, where we're working with parents and their children in an attempt to raise standards in Literacy - amonsgt many other things.  The parents are really looking forward to going but are a bit nervous about telling conference delegates what they think of it.  Well, they will be nervous when I tell them that's what they'll be doing!  Find out more about the conference here
I've always found that parents love P4C, both as participants and the fact that their children's school is adopting the approach.  If you use it in your school, have a go with parents.  If you already have, let me know how you got on and I'll happily mention you at the conference.

Oct 23, 4:52 PM

East End Back Passages...

I had the great honour of working with the legendary Alan Gilbey last year and here's his latest offering.  I can't get to the launch but it'd be a sin to miss it if you're around and free.  See London as you've never seen it before!

Oct 11, 10:07 PM

Exposed in California

Here's another article about WTBI from California.  I met Kay when I did a presentation to the BBC at their new HQ in Salford.  A great day and lovely people!
Animation World Network

Oct 11, 5:56 PM

Word is getting out!

It looks like What's the Big Idea is beginning to get around!  Here's an article in Animation Magazine, in California.  Unfortunately, I didn't get called over personally to be interviewed, but the passport's at the ready!
Animation Magazine article

Oct 11, 5:50 PM

Good old Texas...

I love this article from the Washington Post, about the proposals to ban critical thinking in schools in Texas.  Have a read yourself.  I find the comment that developing higher order thinking skills is aimed at 'behavior modification' particulary evocative!  Here's the article - Texas GOP rejects 'critical thinking skills'. Really

Oct 11, 11:38 AM

Experts agree - philosophy for schools!

This 2008 article, in Guardian Education, tells us why it's so important to include philosophy in schools.  I'll let you read it, as you'll have already worked out I need no convincing!  Teach children philosophy, experts urge

Oct 4, 11:41 PM

The rainbow

I took this picture of a rainbow a while ago.  Actually, I seem to have taken a few over the last year, maybe it's been a good year for them!  They do tend to make me think about the beauty of nature when I see them though, and how Man has little to compare with such spectacles. I've conducted many really interesting enquiries with children on a variety of topics to do with the natural world.  It's quite interesting seeing the different ideas folk have about what constitues 'nature' and 'natural'!

Sep 27, 8:10 PM

SAPERE resources

A bumper set of resources for this month's SAPERE bulletin, from 'Touching the Void' to 'Thought Experiments'.  Check out too the new membership deal between SAPERE and, giving you membership of both for a bargain rate.  SAPERE is here: and here:

Sep 27, 7:49 PM

George Eliot

I was back in George Eliot, in Westminster, earlier in September.  I was last there to run three days with their Year 5 classes, combining P4C and Drama, and I had a fabulous time.  The children and staff were marvellous and really entered into the spirit of the imaginary communities we created.  We also held two sessions with parents, both of which far surpassed our expectations in terms of turnout.  It's always a pleasure to visit this school, which is very committed to P4C. 
Their are lots of exciting things happening at George Eliot, with a recent outstanding Ofsted inspection and a move to their brand new school planned for January.   I'll report sometime maybe on their 'rights respectiing school' work too, which I found fascinatiing. 

Sep 26, 2:33 PM

Coleridge Primary

Coleridge Primary is about to embark on a major P4C project for the whole of the 2012/13 academic year.  I'll be working with identified cohorts and their teachers for a day every other week with a view to increasing attainment in Literacy.  I'm in utter admiration for the school as they've had a tough time results-wise, serving an area of very high social and economic deprivation and with a high degree of pupil mobility, yet they've invested in P4C as they think that will best serve the needs of their pupils. 
Good for you, Jane White, the headteacher, for not battening down the hatches and teaching Literacy and Numeracy all day, every day!  Plenty more to come about Coleridge in future updates.

Sep 26, 2:10 PM

Highters Heath

I visited Highters Heath in Birmingham in September and had a great time meeting everyone there.  They've been using P4C for some time now but decided to get all staff as fully trained as possible.  I'm back there again soon and am really looking forward to supporting their quest in giving their children the best of everything.  More news to follow!

Sep 26, 1:59 PM

An historical setting...

I think St Clement Danes, in Covent Garden, is the oldest school I've ever visited, at over 300 years old, and what a great school it is too.  They're really proud of their heritage and I'm sure P4C will go down well there, with both staff and children.  There aren't many schools that hold their performances on the stage of the Royal Opera House.  I helped get funding for my first school to build their own theatre, as we used drama as a means to engage the fairly challegning children there, but eye teeth come to mind when the Royal Opera House is mentioned!

Sep 26, 11:58 AM


Hopefully you’ll find the answer to everything you need to know in here but if not, you’ll at least be able to get hold of me through my contact page.

Philosophy for Schools is all about encouraging young people to think, through the approach of Philosophy for Children (P4C).  But then, we’re all thinking all the time, surely? 

Just try this experiment. Find a really quiet place, make yourself comfortable, close your eyes, count to ten and try not to think for a whole minute.  Did you manage it?  Or did you find yourself thinking all kinds of things? 

So – is there ever a time when you’re not thinking? 

What about when you sleep – do you stop thinking then?  And if you do think you stop thinking when you’re asleep, then what are dreams?  Ah, I hear you say, you don’t dream all night, so maybe you’re not thinking in the in-between bits.  But our brain is still working, surely?  So does this ‘working’ that our brain does count as thinking?  Or is ‘thinking’ something different, and if so, in what way?

I guess, if you’ve got this far, that you’re thinking about thinking, which is just what Philosophy for Schools encourages children to do.  When we really think about something, we’re trying to make sense of it, and isn’t that really what education should be all about?  We have a big, wide world that’s changing faster than ever, so how can we possibly give our children all the knowledge they’ll need by the time they’ve left education?  What we can do, though, is give them the tools to think better when they’re faced with new and possibly challenging situations.

Thankfully, this has well-documented benefits across the whole curriculum.  Children who engage in regular philosophical enquiry, for example, often do better generally.  When it’s done within subject areas however, it becomes a very powerful way to promote understanding.  You can find out more here.

This approach also encourages quieter children to engage, as the class develops as a community of enquiry.  Those identified as less able find that they can hold their own with even the brightest of their peers; the ‘quiet coasters’ come out of their shell; high quality dialogue facilitated in a caring and collaborative atmosphere challenges everyone appropriately and relationships improve as children listen to each other and agree and disagree respectfully.

This isn’t only the confine of older children either - I’ve had great times using P4C with children from Nursery right through to Secondary.

Check out the link at the top of the page for ‘Socrates for Six Year Olds’, especially the part that shows the young children after 5 months of regular philosophical enquiry – incredible!

 Contact me if you’d like to find out more about the transformational potential of Philosophy for Children.’




It helps you look deeper into stories and ask better questions. 

It makes you understand more and helps you socially.

When you read a book in philosophy class you realise there’s more in the book than you thought.

It helps you become less shy and gets you talking to those you might not talk to.
Ben (a new boy in the class)

It helps you think about things you wouldn’t normally think about in life. You realise in philosophy that there are more things to think about.

It reveals your opinions to others.

Socrates  for  6  Year  Olds

Check out the wonderful BBC documentary ‘Socrates for 6 Year Olds’  here for a glimpse into why Matthew Lipman came about to develop P4C and to see some 6 year olds in action – quite amazing!




Here’s Django and Eric.  Now, Django is a llama, and Eric is a cat, but how do we know that?  I’m sure you knew Eric was a cat before I told you, but how did you know that?  Is it because you’ve experienced other, similar animals to Eric and you’re associating the qualities of all the other cats you’ve seen to him, thereby concluding that he’s a cat?  If so, what is it about a cat that makes it a cat?  And is there anything exclusively cat-specific about all cats that differentiates them from any other kind of animal?  For example, if I showed you a picture of a cat and a dog, could you tell me the difference between them?  Or doesn’t it matter, so long as you just know there’s a difference?

What about Django?  Did you know he was a llama before I told you?  Have you ever met a llama in real life?  Or are you just trusting me to tell you the truth?  (He is a llama, by the way – honest!).

We’re dealing here primarily with the question of ‘how do we know what we know?’ which is one of the fundamental areas of philosophy – epistemology.  Thankfully, even the combined force of every great thinker since Plato hasn’t given us a definitive answer, which makes me feel better about my feeble mental fumblings, but it does serve to show that there are some things that are central to our lives that aren’t so clear cut when we think about them. Exploration of concepts such as this provide us with wonderful opportunities to get our children working
together to make more sense of the world they live in. 

And what do you think Django thinks Eric is?  A cat?  Or a different kind of llama?  Maybe I’ll ask him one day…