Education Endowment Foundation:Philosophy for Children

Philosophy for Children

Implementation cost
Evidence strength
Impact (months)
Independent Evaluator
Durham University
Durham University logo
Helping children become more willing and able to question, reason, construct arguments, and collaborate with others
Pupils: 3159 Schools: 40 Grant: £272,000
Key Stage: 1 Duration: 2 year(s) Type of Trial: Efficacy Trial
Completed Feb 2014

This page covers the first (efficacy) trial of Philosophy for Children, which tested whether it could work in schools under best possible conditions. To read about the second (effectiveness) trial – testing a scalable model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools – click here.

Philosophy for Children involves group discussions about ethical or philosophical topics, such as fairness and truth. The discussions are designed to encourage children to ask questions, construct arguments and engage in reasoned debate

Philosophy for Children has now been adopted by schools in over 60 countries as a way of developing children’s higher order thinking skills. The EEF funded this project to find out whether the approach could improve attainment for pupils in English primary schools.

Year 4 and 5 pupils doing Philosophy for Children made about two months’ additional progress in Key Stage 2 maths and reading compared with other pupils

These results have moderate security, and further evaluation is needed before we can be confident that they could be replicated in other schools. The EEF is therefore funding further testing of the approach in other schools.

  1. There is evidence that P4C had a positive impact on Key Stage 2 attainment. Overall, pupils using the approach made approximately two additional months’ progress in reading and maths.
  2. Results suggest that P4C had the biggest positive impact on Key Stage 2 results among disadvantaged pupils (those eligible for free school meals).
  3. Analyses of the Cognitive Abilities Test (a different outcome measure not explicitly focused on attainment) found a smaller positive impact. Moreover, in terms of this outcome it appears that disadvantaged students reaped fewer benefits from P4C than other pupils. It is unclear from the evaluation why there are these differences between the two outcomes.
  4. Teachers reported that the overall success of the intervention depended on incorporating P4C into the timetable on a regular basis. Otherwise there was a risk that the programme would be crowded out.
  5. Teachers and pupils generally reported that P4C had a positive influence on the wider outcomes such as pupils’ confidence to speak, listening skills, and self-esteem. These and other broader outcomes are the focus of a separate evaluation by the University of Durham.
ImpactThe size of the difference between pupils in this trial and other pupils
SecurityHow confident are we in this result?
Months' progress
Months' progress
Months' progress
Maths (FSM)
Months' progress
Reading (FSM)
Months' progress
Writing (FSM)
Months' progress