YEARS 7-11

Aims of the Philosophy Curriculum

  • Encourage WSS boys to be reflective, thoughtful, enquiring. Sceptical without being cynical. Open-minded without being credulous.
  • Develop in boys a skill for questioning and understand that truth is a journey or a process rather than a fixed end point.
  • Enable boys to put moral and other intuitions about their world into words and also to test and interrogate those assumptions and preconceptions.
  • Ensure boys appreciate that truth is often contingent rather than fixed and, in particular, contingent on the strength of arguments which can be marshalled in their favour.
  • Boys learn to distinguish between an argument and its proponent, attacking the one whilst respecting the other.
  • To discern the difference between wisdom and knowledge.
  • Consider different points of view and evaluate them fairly. In argument to be consistent and to argue coherently; to be alert to incoherence and inconsistency in others’ arguments.
  • Develop a suite of philosophical skills, such as using analogy, thought-experiments, counter-examples etc which will permit boys to develop and defend a point of view and interrogate that of others.
  • Above all else, to develop a hunger for the truth and the critical thinking and argumentative skills to pursue it.


  • Justice
  • Violence
  • Taboo
  • Fairness + Society
  • Power and the individual
  • Identity
  • Aesthetics
  • Thinking critically


Standard 5(1)(a)(i): enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Philosophy involves scrutiny of attitudes which have not previously been interrogated. Through reflecting on their presuppositions and changing their opinions in the light of reasoned debate pupils arrive at greater self-knowledge.  Self-esteem and self-confidence are bolstered through class debate in which teachers encourage pupils to interrogate argumentative positions rather than the people who advance them.

Standard 5(1)(a)(ii): enable pupils to distinguish right from wrong and to respect the civil and criminal law.

  • Much of the Philosophy curriculum is focused on questions of morality which fine-tune pupils’ ability to distinguish right from wrong and provide them with the means of explaining their moral position. While pupils are encouraged to adopt a nuanced position in respect of the difference between law and morality, the central value of law to a well-functioning society is always an argument presented to them.

Standard 5(1)(a)(iii): encourage pupils to accept responsibility for their behaviour, show initiative and understand how they can contribute positively to the lives of those living and working in the locality in which the school is situated and to society more widely

  • Considerations of morality inevitably encourage pupils to see themselves as moral agents. By developing the boys’ understanding of the moral frameworks they make decisions within, Philosophy encourages them to take ownership of their actions.  By inviting them to consider their moral duty to others, Philosophy lessons potentially encourage boys to contribute positively to the lives of people with whom they live.

Standard 5(1)(a)(v): assist pupils to acquire an appreciation of and respect for their own and other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony between different cultural traditions

  • Discussion in Philosophy lessons involves contribution from boys keen to let others know about how the world is seen by people who come from their own faith traditions. Class debate about moral and other issues has been enriched on a regular basis by boys from Hindu, Christian and Muslim backgrounds.  Class debate takes place in a non-judgemental atmosphere marked by tolerance (although this does not mean pupils do not feel free to ask probing and challenging questions about positions they see as problematic) of differing perspectives.  Study of the western tradition of Philosophy enriches boys’ understanding of their own culture as Europeans and the study of individual Philosophers such as Mill and Bentham helps reinforce their appreciation of the Anglo-Saxon Philosophical tradition.

Standard 5(1)(a)(vi): encourage pupils to respect the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.

  • The participation in Philosophy lessons is, in itself, an expression of individual liberty in as far as boys are free to advance any argument, to adopt any philosophical perspective on the topic to hand.  Respect  the person arguing (or arguing from a faith perspective) is an essential element in class debate in Philosophy.  Boys are encouraged to take the ball rather than the man in argument.  Arguments can be attacked but not the person advancing them.  It is accepted that people are free to think a certain way, to express certain opinions even if they are in conflict with one’s own.  The corollary of that acceptance is that it is perfectly right that the opinions and thoughts are there to be examined critically.

Standard 5(1)(b) – [the proprietor] precludes the promotion of partisan political views in the teaching of any subject in the school.  Standard 5(1)(c) – [the proprietor] takes such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that where political issues are brought to the attention of pupils— (i) while they are in attendance at the school; (ii) while they are taking part in extra-curricular activities which are provided or organised by or on behalf of the school; or (iii) in the promotion at the school, including through the distribution of promotional material, of extra-curricular activities taking place at the school or elsewhere; they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.

  • Inevitably, teaching Philosophy involves being non-partisan. It is essential that the teacher is the ‘guide on the side’ and not the ‘sage on the stage’ when taking the lesson.  Pupils must not feel inhibited by what they perceive as the authoritative position of the teacher.  It is always the case that materials in Philosophy develop pupils’ appreciation of moral complexity and the broad array of moral positions which people adopt in realtion to a topic at hand.