Regular philosophical discussions in class can raise attainment levels among primary school children and are particularly beneficial for disadvantaged youngsters.
Pupils participating in discussions on topics such as truth, fairness and knowledge saw their progress in maths and reading improve by an average of two months, according to new research.
Those from disadvantaged backgrounds saw their reading skills improve by four months, their maths results by three months and their writing ability by two months.
The results were obtained from a study carried out with the participation of 3,159 pupils across 48 schools in the UK, backed by funding from the Education Endowment Foundation.
According to the teachers who took part in the trial, the Philosophy for Children programme also had a positive impact on pupils' confidence, patience and self-esteem.
Educators were given two days of professional training before the year-long programme began and received regular support to help them deliver the lessons.
Typical lessons involve pupils sitting together in a circle with the teacher. Pupils are shown a video clip, image or newspaper article with a philosophical dimension to stimulate their interest.
A short period of silence follows before pupils form pairs or small groups to generate questions that interest them. A question with philosophical potential is chosen by the group to stimulate class discussion. This is followed by activities aimed at developing children's skills in reasoning and their understanding of concepts.
As Philosophy for Children only costs around £30 per pupil, it could be effective way for schools to spend their pupil premium and improve outcomes, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Lead researcher Professor Stephen Gorard, from the School of Education at Durham University, said: "Evidence like this is extremely important in identifying what works and what doesn't, and to help headteachers decide how to spend their pupil premium funding for most benefit to their pupils."
Posted by Alan Douglas