A new qualification in philosophy for GCSE and pre-GCSE level students launched yesterday. Developed in partnership between Cranleigh School and the New College for the Humanities, the School Certificate in Philosophy has been trialled by Lower Fifth pupils this year. It will be nationally available from September.

Pupils taking the course explore all aspects of philosophical enquiry, with specific topics on gender relationships, what it means to be a man or a woman, whether the earth has rights, whether machines can think and what the point of school is. A free online programme of resources including guidance videos and stimulus material has been created to enable all schools to participate.

Over 200 schools have already registered their interest in the School Certificate, which will be independently assessed by a new examination board set up by New College for the Humanities.

Cranleigh is trailblazing philosophical ways of thinking in schools, using philosophical enquiry to enable children to develop as confident, independent thinkers, equipped with the strength of character to flourish in a rapidly-changing world dominated by political and social complexity.

Dr John Taylor, Director of Learning, Teaching and Innovation, led the partnership for Cranleigh. He said: “It is clear that successive Education departments are not allocating sufficient resources to the thinking and creative curriculums. Pupils at all schools should have the same access to liberal arts and humanities, not just Classics and PPE accessible to the privileged few. This approach was the only way we could bring Philosophy to a wide group of interested pupils.”

Exploration of opportunities to develop School Certificates in subjects which have fallen from favour, such as History of Art, is at an early phase of development.

Dr Taylor added: “The early years of secondary education provide an ideal time for curricular enrichment, and subjects such as History of Art have tremendous potential to enrich and stimulate students, giving them access to wider perspectives and ways of learning than those captured by the subset of topics that currently forms the mainstream curriculum.”

The School Certificate in Philosophy course has been piloted this year at Cranleigh and Warwick School. It is anticipated that more than 1000 students will have completed the course by 2021.