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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 February 2008, 14:26 GMT
Five-year-olds taught philosophy
Students from Gallions Primary School
Students are encouraged to ask 'what is art', 'what is music'
Five-year-old children are being asked to ponder on philosophical questions about life, death and God in an east London state school.

Gallions Primary School in Warsall, Beckton, started the Philosophy for Children course in 2004 for pupils from reception age upwards.

Schoolteachers have been trained in the course and they say their pupils' behaviour has improved.

Recently the school launched a DVD which showcases the course's impact.

The community school has pupils from multi-racial and multi-lingual backgrounds mirroring the area's diversity.

Head teacher Paul Jackson said: "Nearly all the children who came to our school did so because they had failed at their previous schools. They, and their parents, were disillusioned with the concept of education."

But a marked change was seen since the introduction of the P4C course, said teacher Lisa Naylor.

Gallions Primary School
Philosophy's changed my lifestyle
Nawal, 10-year-old student

She said initially with her Year 4 class she faced a lot of disruption and many spent "several days a week in a Pupil Support Unit for behavioural issues".

"Within a few months, my class's ability to listen and respond appropriately improved almost beyond belief. [They were] able to challenge each other's ideas in an assertive and non-aggressive way.

"Original thoughts began to be expressed more in the sessions and the children began to demonstrate judgements based on reason."

Nawal, aged 10, said: "Philosophy's changed my lifestyle. Now I know that I can listen to other people's opinions, and I can say what I believe."

Children also showed a marked improvement in English Reading and Writing, the school said.

Dr Michael Hand, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education at University of London said: "A systematic review of this research in 2004 concluded that 'children can gain significantly in measurable terms both academically and socially' from P4C programmes.

"No subject more effectively improves the clarity and rigour of their [the children's] thinking."

The DVD Thinking Allowed is a step-by-step guide demonstrating the effectiveness of the course on children.

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