Philosophy for Children (re-grant)

Philosophy for Children (P4C) is an approach to teaching and learning, in which children take part in philosophical enquiry. It aims to enhance thinking and communication skills, boost confidence, self-esteem and improve behaviour. P4C encourages teachers and pupils to think in a caring, collaborative, creative and critical way (the 4C’s of P4C). P4C aims to help children become more thoughtful, reflective and reasonable individuals.

Philosophy for Children (re-grant)


Testing a philosophy programme that aims to develop children’s social skills and cognitive ability, and improve the quality of teachers’ talk

Evidence Strength
Impact (months)
add close

Key Stage 2

Key stage


Cross curriculum


EEF Summary

The EEF Toolkit highlights the benefits of programmes and approaches that support metacognition and character education. P4C aligns with these areas of the toolkit, such as character education’s emphasis of working well with others with different opinions. A previous efficacy trial funded by the EEF showed that children taking part in P4C made an additional two months’ progress in reading and maths compared to pupils receiving ‘business-as-usual’ classroom teaching. The EEF subsequently funded this effectiveness trial to test the impact of the project with more schools.

The trial aimed to measure the impact of P4C, implemented as whole school approach, on reading for pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM), on reading and maths for all pupils, and on pupils’ social and communication skills. Schools within the P4C programme engaged in training and support to deliver and develop the P4C approach initially through weekly sessions which are gradually embedded across the curriculum, classroom practice and whole school ethos. Moving progressively from Bronze Level to Gold Level guided by the school P4C Lead who is supported directly by a SAPERE trainer. This study, delivered at larger scale than the previous trial, found that Free School Meal (FSM) eligible pupils participating in P4C made, on average, no additional progress on reading (the primary outcome), compared to children not receiving the programme. The study also found no evidence of impact on reading or maths for all pupils (secondary attainment outcomes). This is our best estimate of impact, which has a very high security rating: 5 out of 5 on the EEF padlock scale. Social and communication skills were considered non-attainment outcomes and measured through the use of two single items of a pupil survey: ‘I am good at explaining my ideas to other people’ and ‘I can work with someone who has different opinions’. This study found that pupils taking part in P4C made, on average, no significant improvements in character related skills, compared to children in the control group. This may be due to the fact that single items may not be suitable for capturing complex character and metacognitive outcomes.

A teachers’ survey and follow up interviews with teaching staff, however, showed a more positive result: teachers who took part in P4C reported feeling that the programme had a positive impact on pupils’ social, thinking and communication skills, and found it particularly helpful for children who were less self-confident. Considering this positive evidence, the evaluators suggest that there may still be a benefit in evaluating the effects of P4C on non-cognitive outcomes, perhaps using other measures that capture the complexity of changes in character and metacognitive skills. However, due to this trial's finding of no impact of the programme on attainment outcomes, the EEF has no plans for a further trial of P4C.

The study results do not show any negative effects on pupil outcomes, suggesting that class time can be directed towards this activity without reducing reading or maths outcomes. Schools wishing to implement P4C for reasons other than academic attainment should therefore not be discouraged from doing so.

Research Results

KS2 (Y6) Reading, FSM

Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

KS2 (Y6) Reading, whole cohort

Months' Progress
Evidence Strength

Were the schools in the trial similar to my school?

There were 198 schools involved in the trial (75 intervention and 123 control schools).

Schools with at least 25% FSM recorded in the 2015 annual school census were included in the trial.

At the beginning of the trial he majority of schools had good or outstanding Ofsted rating, with a smaller proportion of schools requiring improvement or inadequate (respectively 13.3% in the intervention group and 12.2% in the control group).

Could I implement this in my school?

72 intervention schools received (foundation and advanced) training and support over two years from accredited freelance trainers from SAPERE, a package called Going for Gold (59 schools received the full training; 9 received partial training, 7 received no training as withdrew at the beginning).

Schools are supported in developing and embedding effective whole school P4C practice over three years through the Going for Gold programme outlining progressive steps from Bronze, Silver and Gold.

The teachers’ survey and follow-up interviews with teaching staff confirmed the importance of the stability and commitment of the school senior leadership team and of having a trained P4C lead to champion P4C in the school.

The intervention is provided to UK schools by SAPERE. Online CPD is also offered internationally.



Delivered by


Whole School

Participant group


2 Years

Intervention length

How much will it cost?

The average cost of SAPERE’s P4C Going for Gold programme is £13.50 per pupil per year when averaged over three years. This estimate is based on the delivery of the intervention across all pupils in an average sized primary school of 282 pupils (Department for Education, 2019) with schools signing up for the full package of training and support from SAPERE.



Cost per pupil



No. of Teachers/TAs


7 Days

Training time per staff member

Evaluation info





Key Stage

Key Stage 2

Start date

October 2016

End date

November 2021

Type of trial

Effectiveness Trial

Evaluation Conclusions

  1. There is no evidence that P4C had an impact on reading outcomes on average for KS2 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds (i.e. FSM eligible pupils). This result has a high security rating.

  2. Similarly, there is no evidence that P4C had an impact on reading attainment at KS2 for the whole cohort of Year 6 pupils. There is also no evidence that P4C had an impact on attainment in maths for KS2 pupils – either for the whole cohort, or for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

  3. Whilst teacher feedback on P4C was positive - 96% of intervention teachers felt that pupils had improved their level of respect for others’ opinions, and 93% felt that pupils had improved their ability to express their views clearly; there was no evidence of impact on children’s social and communication skills, as measured by the pupil survey.

  4. Of the 75 intervention schools, after two years from commencement, a substantial minority (35 of 75 schools) were not implementing P4C at the expected level. Of these, six did not implement P4C at all due to other priorities and/or senior leader turnover. The evaluation suggests that it takes time for teachers to become confident with, use and embed the P4C approach and this could have impacted the outcomes.

  5. Where schools were implementing P4C, teachers and pupils found it enjoyable, engaging and that it encouraged pupils to share opinions in a non-judgmental way, finding it particularly beneficial for EAL pupils, those who lacked confidence or SEN pupils. Teachers and P4C leads felt that the training and ongoing support was high-quality and that it had enabled them to facilitate P4C sessions effectively in their school. Important factors for sustaining and embedding implementation included: starting with sessions based on standalone topics before incorporating cross-curricular work into sessions; and senior staff support, particularly around understanding and valuing the P4C approach.

  1. Updated: 3rd March, 2021

    Printable project summary

    1 MB pdf - EEF-philosophy-for-children-effectiveness-trial.pdf

  2. Updated: 2nd March, 2021


    3 MB pdf

  3. Updated: 8th March, 2017

    Project Protocol

    512 KB pdf - Regrant-_Philosophy_for_children.pdf

  4. Updated: 7th November, 2017

    Statistical Analysis Plan

    256 KB pdf - Regrant-_P4C_SAP.pdf

  5. Updated: 26th October, 2018

    Evaluation Protocol (Amended)

    849 KB pdf - Philosophy_for_Children_-_Evaluation_protocol_(amended).pdf

  6. Updated: 15th May, 2019

    Statistical analysis plan (amended)

    204 KB pdf - EEPS_Statistical_Analysis_Plan_AMENDED_20190509.pdf

  7. Updated: 16th May, 2019

    Evaluation protocol (amended 2)

    364 KB pdf - EEPS_trial_protocol_AMENDED_(2).pdf

Full project description

Philosophy for Children (P4C), (a whole-school programme with levels differentiated as Bronze, Silver and Gold based on school-level engagement) aims to improve pupils’ and teachers’ capability to think in a caring, collaborative, creative and critical way (‘the 4Cs’) in order to support pupils’ personal, social and educational development. The programme is provided to UK schools by The Society for the Advancement of Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE).

P4C comprises whole-school training and support made available to teaching staff as well as to the school P4C lead. Students take part in weekly one-hour sessions, which are gradually embedded in the school curriculum and approach as the school progresses towards Gold level integration. Sessions are enquiry-based; prompted by a stimulus (for example, a story or a video), pupils participate in group discussions based around a concept such as ‘truth’, ‘fairness’ or ‘bullying’.

This effectiveness two-arm cluster randomised controlled trial saw 75 schools invited to receive the intervention, whilst 123 schools acted as a control group. The trial evaluated the impact of P4C on Y6 pupils’ reading, maths, and social and communication skills, with its primary focus on pupils eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). Additional mixed method research sought to assess compliance and fidelity over the course of the intervention, measured by reference to the achievement of SAPERE’s Bronze, Silver and Gold Award scheme. The trial started in October 2016 with programme delivery from September 2017 to July 2019.