Richard Gore is a freelance P4C trainer working across Greater Manchester. He runs a weekly philosophy session at the Booth Centre in central Manchester for people experiencing homelessness.
For the past two years Richard has been leading the Building Resilience to Enquiry project which focuses on how the use of P4C can be used to build understanding and critical thinking about extremism and terrorism. Richard has a background in teaching in both primary and secondary schools as well as working for Oldham LEA with a focus on promoting ethnic minority achievement and community cohesion.
In both my Level 2A and 2B Philosophy for Children training I had the pleasure of being trained by Richard Gore. For anyone wanting to explore extremism in their P4C sessions or looking for a P4C scheme of work exploring extremism, Richard is your go to guy. I recently interviewed Richard.
In your training session introductions you talk about “roots and routes”. Could you give us a bit of background on this and also on your own journey to P4C
I like to share some very basic information about myself at the beginning of a training course so that participants know a little bit about me. I also like to do this in a way that is true to our practice in philosophy of exploring words and meaning. One simple way we do this is through the game of same and different and I really like to get participants to think about how these two words differ and yet also may have ways in which they have things in common.
My roots are very much in the north of England having been brought up near Bradford. Then through studying French and Spanish at university my route took me to France and Spain and Argentina before returning back to my roots for a year in Bradford. I then taught in Cambridge for 8 years before coming back again to my roots in the North to work in Oldham. It was in Oldham that I discovered Philosophy for Children and, over time, took a lead role in developing a schools and communities project. I immediately took to it as it is so great at doing some of things that I think education should all be about. Like providing opportunities for learners to engage with each other in high-quality dialogue to explore some of the biggest issues of life!
How did you first become involved in your projects relating to P4C and extremism?
Like so many other people I was really troubled by the attack on the Manchester arena in May 2017. It somehow was more personal as it was here in Manchester where I live and where I'm bringing up my children. I wanted to make a positive response to the event and the obvious way of doing this was to see how we could use the P4C methodology of dialogue and enquiry to develop understanding of why these things happen and how we can best respond to them. I put together a partnership group of P4C lead practitioners in schools in greater Manchester as well as p4c trainers from the North West. Following a period of research we began to develop and trial a range of activities suitable for Upper Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3.
How is the project going? What have been the main findings so far?
Following the development of the resource over the academic year 2017/2018 we involved over 35 schools nationally in piloting the resource over the autumn term 2018. The response was overwhelmingly positive from teachers and pupils. Teachers observed that combining the P4C methodology with the complex and thought-provoking activities we have developed allowed them to tackle these issues with confidence in the classroom. Pupils were really engaged in the activities and felt that they had really explored some key issues relating to extremism and terrorism and would definitely recommend the use of the resource in other schools with other students.
Your resource, “Using P4C to build understanding and critical thinking in relation to Extremism” covers both historical and very current events, such as the Manchester bombings. Why do you feel it is important to look at very historical events such as the activities of the Suffragettes when examining current extremism?
This is a really important question. We felt it was really important that pupils had an understanding that terrorism is not new and is not unique to our country. It seemed really important that there was an understanding that many different kinds of groups of people representing different religious or political views have taken part in terrorist activity. We also felt it was important that pupils had this understanding before we began to explore the recent events.
We then felt more able to consider in parallel the attack on the Manchester arena and the attack on Jo Cox MP that took place in South Yorkshire some months previously. We were able to explore the common factors that led to the radicalisation of the two men who carried out the attacks. It was really fascinating and rewarding researching the lives of Salman Abedi and Thomas Maier and to see the remarkable parallels between the factors that that led them to carry out their attacks.
Do you think that P4C could hold the key to helping teens avoid radicalisation?
There is no one single answer to help teens avoid radicalisation. However, I am certain that the resource we have developed with P4C as the core pedagogy, can play a major part. We are now working hard to grow the project to other schools and other areas of the country.
Your work using Philosophy for Children activities as part of The Oldham Dialogue and Enquiry Project was referenced in the DfE paper “Teaching Approaches That Help to Build Resilience to Extremism Among Young People”. Do you think we will see a day when P4C will be further embraced and recommended by the DfE as an approach to be used across the curriculum? How could P4C benefit the different areas of the Secondary National Curriculum?
As you know we have had an extensive research and training project funded by the Education Endowment Fund with a specific focus on coming to a judgement as to whether p4c improves attainment and other educational outcomes at the end of primary school. This could be the breakthrough that is needed to arrive at a situation where the DFE endorses philosophy for children and recommends its use nationally. Establishing P4C practice in secondary schools has always been a challenge, however there is now an increased emphasis in the secondary curriculum on developing reasoning and higher level skills of critical thinking. This also provides a great opportunity.
What is the most useful advice or tip you have picked up during your time as a P4C trainer and facilitator?
I remember a quote from Professor Robert Fisher that I sometimes use on Level 1 training courses that says children do not lack the ability to think they just need to be provided with the opportunities. The wonderful thing about Philosophy for Children is that the children themselves really take to it like ducks to water! So, let's make sure we give them the opportunity to develop questioning, deeper thinking and enquiry across the curriculum and across their school life! It could be the best educational gift that we give them!
If you would like to read the full overview of the Building Resilience to Enquiry project which focuses on how the use of P4C can be used to build understanding and critical thinking about extremism and terrorism then please click on the link within this sentence.
For some more background the following video clip shows the project in action. In it you will see a group of Year 6 children at St Annes Primary School in Manchester taking part in the activity 'The Diversity of Terrorism' as well as teachers from Cheetham Primary School in Manchester talking briefly about the experience of taking part in the project and the positive outcomes for their Year 6 pupils.
The Diversity of Terrorism Video
Many thanks to Richard for being the first interview in my new “Inspirational Interviews” section on Magical Mess.
Miss Magical Mess is a pre-school teacher and P4C Level 2B facilitator. After a shaky start as a P4C facilitator (P4C with 3 year olds... are you kidding?) Miss Magical Mess created her own approach to P4C and enquiry model and is now a big fan.