Rathfern Primary

Philosophical approach

Philosophical approach

The Philosophy Foundation

“Learning how to do philosophy belongs to a young person’s education just as much as learning how to play a musical instrument or learning how to solve maths problems.”
Professor Simon Glendinning, LSE

The Philosophy Foundation’s (TPF) mission is to bring understanding, wisdom and flourishing to the heart of education for children and adults. They do this primarily by facilitating philosophical enquiry in schools, as well as in learning communities and in the workplace. TPF’s overall aim is to equip beneficiaries to participate more fully in society.

TPF believe that:

  • Reasoning skills developed through philosophical enquiry are an indispensable foundation of all aspects of learning.
  • Philosophy, like maths, music or physical education, is intrinsically worth doing and intrinsically engaging.

 Run by trained philosophers

All TPF specialist philosophy teachers hold a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and are trained and supported to work in the different settings where they conduct their enquiries, from primary schools to businesses and prisons.

The teachers at Rathfern join every philosophy session and implement the thinking and questioning skills they observe in their own teaching.

Research and impact

The Institute of Education carried out research into TPF’s  work from September 2012-December 2013. Participating classes were compared with control classes that were very similar in terms of the number of children with SEND and EAL and those on free school meals. The most significant findings were as follows.

  • A term of philosophy improves the reading ability of children on Free School Meals and girls. The reading tests used primarily assesses understanding, but also inhibitory control and the ability to distinguish relevance.
  • All 8 headteachers would highly recommend The Philosophy Foundation to others. All re-booked TPF for the following year.
  • Teachers consistently reported improved verbal reasoning and higher-order thinking, as well as better speaking and listening skills, confidence, concentration and behaviour.
  • Teachers also said pupils showed greater respect, empathy and tolerance of the opinions of others.
  • Boys (86%) enjoyed the philosophy sessions, girls (81%).
  • 83% of the children who had philosophy (250 took part in the research) wanted more of it - both in written feedback and focus groups.
  • 60% of parents questioned said they felt their child had become more articulate and able to put across their point of view more clearly.

“The Philosophy Foundation teachers are all dedicated professionals; they worked beyond their contracted hours, were all highly reflective and thought carefully about their practice.” 

Dr Jon Swain, Qualitative Researcher, IOE


Research Partner

In Autumn 2018 Rathfern collaborated with TPF, King’s College London and other schools in SE London to measure the progress of children’s critical thinking and metacognitive skills during philosophy. The data showed that normal philosophy sessions improve critical thinking and metacognitive skills by 26%, and that a new addition to TPF’s method increases children’s abilities to use these skills successfully by 63%. You can read about the research in a paper by co-CEO’s Emma Worley MBE VRA and Peter Worley VRA published in Childhood and Philosophy (vol 15. 2019).


What's Happening

Rathfern Primary School

Rathfern Road, Catford, London SE6 4NL

T: 020 8690 3759   |   F: 020 8314 0932