£1m to test promising philosophy programme in 200 primary schools

A low-cost philosophy programme that was found to improve the reading and maths skills of primary school pupils will be tested on a large scale in English primary schools, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) announced today.

In SAPERE’s Philosophy 4 Children (P4C) sessions, teacher use a stimulus like a short video clip or story to prompt structured discussions around topics like truth, knowledge and fairness. The aim of P4C is to help children to become more willing and able to ask questions, construct arguments, and engage in reasoned discussion.

An earlier and smaller EEF-funded randomised trial of P4C found it had a positive impact on primary school pupils’ maths and reading attainment by two additional months over the course of a year. Low-income pupils benefited even more, with their maths results improving by three months and their writing ability by two months.

The new EEF grant of £1.2m will allow the programmeto be tested in 200 English primary schools and with 9,000 Year 4 and 5 pupils. The independent evaluation will find out if the intervention can produce similarly good results when delivered across many different schools.

The EEF has announced funding for five new randomised controlled trials today, all designed to find out the impact of different teaching and learning programmes on pupil attainment. The new grants will fund evaluations of:

  • The British Science Association’s CREST Awards promote a ‘hands-on’ approach to science by supporting pupils to run their own research projects in a range of settings, including at science enrichment clubs. The EEF grant will fund an evaluation of the after-school clubs running CREST Silver Awards in 200 schools and with 2,000 11 – 14 year olds taking part. The aim will be to find out if taking a CREST Silver Award improves science results.
  • A parental engagement approach in the Early Years that aims to boost literacy and language skills in three and four year olds. In Peeple’s Learning Together programme, parents and children attend one-hour sessions designed to equip parents with the skills and confidence to support their child’s learning at home. 150 nursery settings will take part in the trial.
  • Digital Feedback in Primary Maths, a programme developed by St Margaret’s CE Primary and Kyra Teaching School Alliance that aims to improve teachers’ feedback to pupils by training teachers to record videos of themselves explaining problems, instead of written comments. The aim is to make teachers’ feedback more specific and relevant; by being able to replay the teacher’s comments, it is hoped that pupils will find it easier to understand and respond to the feedback. The trial will involve 3,000 year 4 and 5 pupils in 60 schools.
  • The Maximising the Impact of Teaching Assistants (MITA) project aims to improve schools’ deployment of teaching assistants and their impact. The innovative approach brings together the UCL Institute of Education’s MITA programme for school leaders with training for teachers and teaching assistants developed by the University of East London, and on-going school-based support via the London Leadership Strategy. This trial will involve 100 primary schools.
  • Reciprocal Reading, a structured approach to teaching developed by FFT Literacy to improve reading comprehension. Teachers support pupils to guide group discussions using four strategies: questioning, clarifying, summarising and predicting. The EEF-funded trial will test this approach in 100 primary schools to find out if it improves reading ability.

Also announced today is an update to the terms of the EEF grant to the University of Oxford to evaluate Teensleep. After assessing the feasibility of implementing later school start times across a large number of schools, the grant has been changed to fund a pilot trial of a sleep education programme designed to promote better sleeping habits in teenagers.

The EEF is recruiting schools to take part in all of today’s new trials. The results will be available for free and used to inform the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit and its Early Years companion, an accessible summary of international educational research.

Sir Peter Lampl, Founder and Chairman of the Sutton Trust and Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation said today: