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.
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
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
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
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
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 P4C.com, giving you membership of both for a bargain rate. SAPERE is here: http://www.sapere.org.uk and P4C.com here: http://www.p4c.com
Sep 27, 7:49 PM
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 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
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
I’m a qualified primary teacher but spent the six years prior to becoming independent working with one of the most creative education teams in the country, made up of teachers, an educational psychologist and other professionals. We were given nine schools, from a children’s centre to a secondary, along with the time and freedom to develop an incredible range of projects.
The rest is written in legend, but you can find out more by clicking here. (www.clifton-partnership.org.uk)
Since becoming independent I’ve travelled the length and breadth of the country, leading INSET, presenting at conferences and working with teachers, parents, children, local authorities and a range of other organisations. Check the testimonials opposite for some feedback from real people attending courses that actually happened.
I also seem to have wandered into working with some fabulous people from a variety of organisations. I write resources for SAPERE, the charity that has done so much to promote P4C in the UK (www.sapere.org.uk). Their monthly bulletins for members are full of interesting stuff – including my resources! I’ve run many courses for SAPERE and I edited their most recent edition of the handbook to accompany their Level 1 courses. You’ll also find me at their annual conference on 24th November 2012, presenting workshops on working with P4C and parents.
Along with Lizzy Lewis, SAPERE’s Development Manager, I edited and contributed to ‘Philosophy for Children through the Secondary Curriculum’, a major piece of work that took up a major part of our lives and is available in all good bookshops and, inevitably, Amazon?(www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/1441196617/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1). There’s a review on there worth checking out, and it wasn’t written by me!
I’m also Project Manager for SAPERE’s wonderful ‘askit’ collaboration with Open Futures (www.openfutures.com). Open Futures is equally dedicated to promoting enquiry-based learning in schools and their website is definitely worth a look. Check out their termly newspaper, openit, (there’s a link on their home page) and you’ll get a flavour of what they’re about. You’ll also find articles by me in there, most recently on P4C & the Olympics and P4C in Literacy. If you become a member of Open Futures, you’ll also have access to lots of resources and the forums. You can ask me questions in there too, as I’m the Open Futures askit coordinator and I’m also responsible for training their schools in Birmingham and, as part of a team, training schools in other areas around the country.
Keep your eyes out too for ‘What’s the Big Idea?’, due out on CBeebies at some point probably in 2013, having occupied me day and night for a good part of 2011. It’s a ground-breaking animation series for 4-6 year-olds, taking a different philosophical concept each episode and exploring it much in the same way we might when facilitating enquiries in schools. The characters are based on the fabulous books by French philosopher Oscar Brenifier and illustrator Jacques Despres.
I’m education consultant for the show and, although it took me some time to work out 52 different concepts (yes, there are 52 episodes!) that might interest the young audience, and set out briefs & structures for each episode, it was a fascinating experience and I’m thoroughly enjoying seeing things evolve. Planet Nemo Animation, the creators, have sold the show all over the world and it was interesting to see how different cultures perceive some things differently and also how tiny nuances in the dialogue can make a big difference to the overall impact. I’ll update this site when I know more regarding transmission dates.
Planet Nemo/Skyline/Educar/Motion Magic © 2012
And finally – when not training in schools, running workshops, presenting at conferences, writing, travelling and being generally involved in the always wonderful, sometimes weird and occasionally wacky world of Philosophy for Children, you might find me otherwise engaged in a couple of other, rather tangential ways to pass the time. I’ll let you find out for yourselves
This is all stuff actual real people said after being on one of my courses:
Thoroughly enjoyed the course! So impressed with Nick –the course was so well planned and delivered.
Very nurturing and expert approach combined with a real passion has enthused all the staff.
Brilliantly delivered, thought provoking and informative.
Exemplary – brought out the best in everyone with a lovely manner.
Excellent, calm, humorous delivery.
Superb, exciting, interesting, inspiring. Not a dull moment, very engaging.
Relaxed style but very thorough and professional.
Excellent presentational style & interpersonal skills.
Exceptionally good Inspirational to observe!
Very high level of expertise leading to high levels of confidence for participants.