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  • Writer's pictureGina Parker (Mullarkey)

Whole School Philosophy for Children: Paul Stockley

I know Paul Stockley as a Philosophy for Children (P4C) trainer, trustee at Society for Advancing Philosophical Enquiry and Reflection in Education (SAPERE) and headteacher at SAPERE P4C Gold Award School, Bradway Primary in Sheffield. I had the pleasure of visiting Bradway to deliver whole staff training using their wonderful outdoor area to add P4C in the Outdoors to the schools offering. Paul will be moving onto new ventures very soon, so in Paul's blog we hear about some top tips for P4C and also about creative art based P4C to keep an eye out for in the future.

I’ve been a headteacher at Bradway Primary School in Sheffield for 21 years and have been a teacher for 34 years. Plenty has changed in the education sector during that time and my job doesn’t resemble the one I started off doing, but I still very much enjoy what I do most of the time. Bradway has been a SAPERE Gold School since 2020, and P4C continues to be at the heart of the school curriculum, culture and values. I am currently a SAPERE Level One trainer and a Trustee on SAPERE board of Trustees.

After starting off working as a teacher in The Isle Of Man in 1989, I worked in London and Argentina before I moved to Bradway Primary in 2001, where I soon became a Headteacher.

All through my career I have found myself questioning the education system and whether it is really fit for purpose; that is until I discovered P4C and realised that here was a brilliant way to provide children with those skills missing from the curriculum that they really need to become successful members of society. It hasn’t been easy, and many challenges remain, but as a school leader I haven’t looked back and we continue to grow through our P4C.

P4C at Bradway has evolved over the years from being almost entirely enquiry based, to also being about teachers and pupils discovering philosophy in all subjects and in the world around them and using the curriculum to explore concepts and ideas deeply using techniques from P4C. The impact of P4C on non curricular school activities is also considerable and it is a delight to be sitting in a school council meeting for example and then to hear the language of P4C and the 4C's being exemplified in the children's behaviour and language.

One of my favourite enquiries is on the concept of music, (or art). As a warm up I like using a stimulus that is ambiguous such as one long note on the trumpet, and then using opinion corners to tease out whether participants agree with the statement 'this is music'. The ensuing market place activity is fascinating as participants try to justify their view, and it is always exciting to see people change their minds. Interestingly, I often find adults on my Level One courses are exploring their views on this subject in detail for the first time in their lives.

I also like enquiries where there is a big 'reveal' part way through, for example having a stimulus which is exploring opinions about different art works displayed around the room, before surprising everyone by revealing that some were created by animals or by natural processes and then trying to decide if it is still art.

As a facilitator I particularly value the technique of pausing the dialogue in the philosophy circle and then giving everyone an opportunity to move around and share their thoughts so far. This is inclusive as well as being a chance to stretch your legs!

Links to follow and learn more about P4C at Bradway Primary School.

However, I am very soon going to be leaving the education sector to begin a new career as a sculptor, painter and musician. Some people call finishing work at my age ‘retirement’, but I see it more as a new start, a fresh beginning, and a chance to express another side of my personality which has been less of a feature in my teaching career. I am planning to use my P4C training and skills in my new work and, as well as many other activities, I hope to spend some of my time leading practical workshops where we explore the philosophy of art through the process of creating sculpture.

For those of you who may be interested in seeing what I’m going to be doing, below are all the links to my various sculpture and music social media accounts and websites.

For those of you who can make it, I look forward to communicating with you during the Chat P4C session on the 5th July.

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