Opening up a space for students to think and talk: how Manorfield Primary School is using P4C to support children at home and as they return to the classroom

 ‘Although it felt strange at first, sitting two metres apart, the enquiry opened up a space for pupils to discuss how they are feeling about returning to school and to talk about the time they have experienced away from school.’ 
Nicole Saunders, P4C Lead and Year 3 teacher 

Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets, east London, is an outstanding school serving one of the most economically and socially disadvantaged communities in the UK. It has been a SAPERE P4C Gold Award school since 2016. The school has remained open to some 20 vulnerable and key worker children from Manorfield and other schools in the Poplar Partnership, and opened up to nursery and reception on 1 June, and Year 1 and Year 6 on 8 June. Alongside supporting children in the classroom and at home, staff have also been fundraising for and delivering 900 bags of food to local families each week.

Manorfield staff are working hard to keep P4C at the heart of their school during the Covid-19 crisis, and have thought creatively about how P4C can happen at a distance. Using the #ThinkingThursday hashtag, teachers post P4C stimuli and questions online to keep dialogue going at home. Staff have facilitated P4C enquiries over Zoom with mixed age groups, allowing children to connect with each other and engage in dialogue from a distance. And Year 6 pupils have come together, via Zoom, with staff and students from Manorfield's secondary partnership school Langdon Park to take part in P4C thinking games and share questions and thoughts about the transition to secondary school.

A tweet from @P4CManorfield: 'Our #ThinkingThursday stimulus is a piece of artwork by @charliemackesy. What do you think the future world is like? Can one person change the world?' The image is a Charlie Mackesy drawing of two children and child's hand in the hand of an adult.

Manorfield is sharing P4C activities on its social media channels 

When the school opened to more children from nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 in early June, teachers felt strongly that it was important to give students time and space to share their thoughts and concerns as soon as they returned. As Nicole Saunders, P4C Lead and Year 3 Teacher (and a SAPERE trainer), explains: ‘Having regular P4C enquiries for pupils returning to school offers a safe space for them to discuss issues or worries they may have heard about at home but were not able to make meaning of.'

 A Manorfield parent enthused: ‘My little boy, Sam, was over the moon following his first P4C Zoom enquiry. He told me that he can't wait for the next session. As parents, we can provide games, fitness and fun but our children are craving interaction with their mates and being able to see familiar faces. I can't praise enough how well this was all handled and how he seems to be filled with renewed energy.’  

On their first day back, P4C time was set aside to allow nursery children to talk about the importance of getting rid of germs, using objects as stimuli. Children in other year groups took part in a community of enquiry using the Covid-19 agree-disagree line from SAPERE’s free online library of P4C resources.

Nicole explains: ‘Although it felt strange at first, sitting two metres apart, the enquiry opened up a space for pupils to discuss how they are feeling about returning to school and to talk about the time they have experienced away from school.’  

She added: ‘It was also really important for us to talk about any misconceptions which might have been worrying the pupils about returning to school or their health in general. My group ended up discussing the question ‘Should leaders make decisions on facts or feelings?’ and we had a big discussion about the impact of the news.’


'I think the government should make decisions based on facts and feelings, depending on certain situations, for example during the current Covid-19 outbreak the government have been making decisions based on facts, using lockdown to control the outbreak and saving lives...Sometimes feelings are used to make decisions too. Recently another situation has been taking place in our lives, Black Lives Matter. There has been a lot of protest against racist police brutality sweeping across the US and the UK. This has been a problem for black people for a long time. I think the government will make decisions based on this situation too, as feelings are strong on this issue.'
Maryam, Year 3


Nicole emphasises: ‘At Manorfield the values of P4C are embedded in everything that we do and P4C is continuing to play an integral role in our school ethos, culture and curriculum as we welcome more of our students back to class.'

Manorfield teachers have been sharing P4C stimuli, such as this reading of the popular P4C stimulus choice The Giving Tree, online

More information

P4C at Manorfield
@P4CManorfield on Twitter
Manorfield on YouTube, including P4C story stimuli