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


Paradoxically, the huge collection of interesting and useful stuff I’ve collected over the years causes me a problem in deciding what to put here, so here’s the plan.  I’ll recommend some good stuff in this section but I’ll keep adding new bits via the news page and occasionally updating this page.  If you’re looking for something specific though, just email me and I’ll do my best to help.  
For the background to P4C, the impact it has, upcoming events, resources (for members) and much more.  
A treasure trove of P4C-based resources and the opportunity to contribute yourself – with financial rewards!  Well worth joining. 
For schools wishing to adopt an enquiry-based learning approach. There are four strands – askit, growit, cookit and filmit – with hands-on learning linked to the whole curriculum. 
Robert Fisher’s site.  He’s written books which have accompanied me whenever I’m working, including Teaching Thinking, Games for Thinking and Stories for Thinking.  There are lots of really interesting articles here too, all on the subject of teaching thinking and creativity. 
Tom Wartenberg’s wonderful site, with detailed discussion plans for almost 130 children’s books and advice on philosophy for children.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.  A really valuable site for anyone wanting to explore particular concepts that they think might arise in their enquiries with children.
A huge collection of video & audio clips, all searchable by keywords, topics and subjects.  A brilliant place to find some really interesting and engaging stimuli for enquiry.  
If you’d like to experience philosophical enquiry for yourself, have a look at the PiPS website and see if there’s a venue near you.  If not, why not start one?  Things sometimes seem much clearer over a pint of real ale or a glass of wine!



A few resources

These are a few of the resources I’ve written for SAPERE, to give you an idea of what’s in the members section of the SAPERE website.  


 All you need is love
Are we too safe?
Circus Panda
Elephant art



Here’s a picture to
make you think

Yes, you’ve recognised the animal as a llama after reading about Django and Eric on the home page, although Jelly Roll, pictured here, looks very different in some respects.  Let’s not go down the avenue again of how you know it’s a llama though, as there are other interesting things to think about.  For example, who do you think is in charge in this picture?  Or is anyone in charge?  Jelly Roll is certainly much bigger and stronger than the little six year old, but it seems she has Jelly Roll on a lead and he appears quite happy for this to happen.

Questions you might like to explore could be:

  • What makes ‘human animals’ different from ‘animal animals’?
  • Is it right that humans should train animals?
  • What’s the difference between training a seal to do tricks in a zoo and training a seal to save lives at sea?
  • Do humans have the right to do what they like to animals?  The planet?
  • Is a human any more advanced than a worm?

I’m sure if you show this picture to children, they’ll come up with some interesting questions too.  Why not try it, then try and work out what’s ‘behind’ their questions?  Are they just information-seeking questions or are there some ‘big ideas’ or concepts that lie within them?  Once you start thinking about this, you’re beginning to scratch the surface of philosophical enquiry! 

Download this as a pdf

Books I’d recommend


Philosophy for Children through the Secondary Curriculum (Nick Chandley & Lizzy Lewis, Continuum 2012, ISBN 1441196617)


Teaching Thinking (Robert Fisher, Continuum 2003, ISBN 0826468055)
A really good book that explores the teaching of thinking through philosophical discussion.  I love how each chapter begins with a quotation from a distinguished scholar, followed by a supporting one from school children.


Thinking in Education (Matthew Lipman, Cambridge University Press 2003) 
Sadly, Matthew Lipman died in December 2010 but left us with a legacy for the future.  He’s written many books but this one, for me, is the one I keep coming back to.   


But Why? (Sara Stanley & Steve Bowkett 2004, Network Educational Press, ISBN 1855391724)
Sara’s an Early Years specialist and although this book is a great guide to P4C throughout the primary school, it’s an invaluable companion for EYFS & KS1 teachers.


P4C Pocketbook (Barry Hymer & Roger Sutcliffe, Teachers’ Pocketbooks 2012, ISBN 190661041X)
Two of the biggest influences in my P4C career, Barry & Roger have written a great little guide to P4C in the classroom.


The Philosophy of Childhood (Gareth B. Matthews, Harvard University Press 1994, ISBN0674 )
If you’re serious about using philosophical enquiry with children, this is pretty much essential reading.  We can all recognise a child when we see one, but what actually is a child?  See, now you’re thinking about it, you’ll have to buy the book to find out more!


Games for Thinking (Robert Fisher, Nash Pollock 1997, ISBN 189825513X)
An invaluable resource for games and activities the encourage children to think.  Great for starters to P4C sessions.


Story books

Just a few, as there’s a huge pool of wonderful picture books to choose from, but these are all tried and tested by me.


I Want To Be (Tony Ross)
The story of Little Princess and her search for how she should be now it’s time to grow up.  

Tadpole’s Promise (Jeanne Willis & Tony Ross)
The story of a love affair between a tadpole and a butterfly and how difficult it is sometimes to keep a promise.

John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat
(Jenny Wagner & Ron Brooks) 
A P4C staple that explores relationships, jealousy and means/ends, amongst many other things.

The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein)
A beautiful story of a boy and a tree that keeps giving.  A fabulous stimulus for enquiry.


Window (Jeannie Baker) 
A series of Jeannie’s wonderful collages that shows the changing view from one child’s window as he grows up.

Michael (Tony Bradman & Tony Ross)  
The cover says ‘Being different isn’t always easy…’ but it seems to come naturally to Michael!

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge (Mem Fox & Julie Vivas)  
Wilfred has a friend in the old people’s home who has lost her memory and so he embarks on a touching exploration to help retrieve it for her.

Le livre des grands contraires philosophiques (Oscar Brenifier & Jacques Despres)
In French, a stunningly illustrated collection of different viewpoints on a range of philosophical concepts, such as time, eternity, infinity and mind/body.