BHA School Speakers Programme FAQs

What is the BHA School Speakers Programme?

The BHA School Speakers programme supports trained volunteers to work with teachers in schools and help them increase students’ understanding of Humanism. This is a nationwide service that is offered and administered by the BHA.

Why do we need volunteers to speak about Humanism in schools?

The 2011 census found 31% of children in England and Wales and 39% in Scotland declared they have no religion. To therefore ensure Religious Education is inclusive and relevant to the lives of all young people, the Religious Education council of England and Wales recommends that Humanism be taught in schools as an example of a ‘non-religious worldview’. Children without religion deserve guidance on ways to discover truth, meaning and happiness in their lives, and how to judge what is right and wrong. If the goals of RE include fostering social cohesion and respect for others, then it is vital that it offers humanist perspectives. Despite this, many schools do not teach Humanism or other non-religious perspectives in RE. Many teachers are either unaware of Humanism or do not feel they have the required depth of knowledge to teach it. This is where BHA trained school speakers can make a real difference to children’s education.

Do schools pay for the BHA school speaker visit?

No. This is a free service and school volunteers do not ask schools for payments. We do accept donations if offered and volunteers can ask the school to cover the cost of their travel expenses. If the school is unable to do this, the volunteer can claim back their travel expenses from the BHA by sending in a completed expense claim form with receipts attached.

Does the BHA provide school speaker training?

Yes. We have developed a School Speaker Training Course with an accompanying School Speaker Handbook which aims to prepare volunteers for their role in helping young people learn about humanist beliefs and values as part of the current school curriculum.

For those who are new to volunteering, the course will increase their knowledge of how schools work and their confidence to be able to go into a primary or a secondary school as a BHA speaker. For those who have experience of volunteering already, the course will provide an opportunity for them to share their expertise and to gain more ideas for how they can work with teachers to enrich the learning experience for students. The training will, through discussion and activity, answer questions such as: 
    • What might I be expected to do?
    • What does it look like in practice?
    • What resources are available to help me?
    • How do I respect the range of religion and belief backgrounds of pupils and teachers?
    • How can I best work with teachers to enrich learning for pupils? 
Can someone become a BHA school speaker if they have not completed the BHA’s School Speakers Training Course?

No. The BHA guarantees to schools that they will get a volunteer trained to a certain standard and therefore needs to ensure consistency in the standards of delivery by all volunteers who represent the BHA. The BHA appreciates that some BHA Partner Groups have been working directly with local schools before the project was set up and have developed good relationships with their local schools. We hope these groups and the BHA can work together to streamline the processes so that we are offering a professional and high quality service.

What are the “Code of Practice” and “Terms and Conditions”?

Some schools may hesitate to invite a humanist volunteer because of concerns about proselytization, “strident atheism” or objections from religious parents. The aim of the Code of Practice is to allay any such concerns and so increase the probability of schools seeking humanist speakers. All school speakers commit to following the Code of Practice.

The Terms and Conditions are to ensure that the school is aware of its responsibilities towards the volunteers. They also bolster the professional image we are seeking to promote.

Is there a process for schools to request a school speaker?

Yes. The mechanism that has been set up for teachers to request a BHA school speaker is an online form which they can complete on the Humanism for Schools website.

If local relationships allow arrangements to be made more directly, it is still the expectation that the school will complete the online form, to enable the BHA to properly monitor what is happening across the country and collect data to help us improve the service.

Before submitting the online form, teachers can read the Code of Practice. They can also read the Terms and Conditions which they are asked to accept before submitting the form.

What happens once the school has submitted the online request form?

If the teacher has not included the name of a school speaker in the form who they wish to work with, the BHA School Speakers Coordinator searches the database of trained school volunteers to find one who is based near the school. Once a speaker has been found and agreed to deliver the session, the school and speaker will be matched by an introductory email. It is then the school speaker’s responsibility to get in touch with the school to discuss the content of the session and agree on a date.

What does the school speaker need to do after the session has taken place?

Speakers email the School Speakers Coordinator to inform them when the session took place and provide the name of the school contact. This information is needed so that the Coordinator can ‘close’ the request on the database and send an evaluation form to the school.

If the school contacts the volunteer directly in the future to request another session (repeat booking), the speaker makes arrangements directly with the school but also emails the School Speakers Coordinator to inform them of when the session took place and provide the name of the school contact. This information is needed so the Coordinator can add a record of the session to the database. It is also needed for statistical monitoring purposes (e.g. the number of sessions delivered over the year), and to gain data that can be used to further promote the service and build its reputation.

Do school speakers have access to resources?

Yes. Speakers can download teaching resources from Humanism for Schools, including lesson plans, worksheets, and videos. Further resources can be found in the School Speakers Area which can be accessed from the Groups Hub. These include session planning templates, evaluation templates, top tips, example presentations, and activities. They can also share their own materials and any good suggestions which other volunteers may benefit from.

Is there a method by which school speakers can communicate with each other? 

Yes. Speakers can discuss initiatives and ideas via the online School Speakers Facebook Group. 

What will the BHA do to ensure high standards of delivery?

All school speakers must have been trained by the BHA and have signed up to the BHA’s school speakers code of practice. The accreditation of speakers will be reviewed in 2016 to ensure school speakers are demonstrating the required standards and competencies. The BHA aims to introduce a system of shadowing and mentoring for new speakers and offer CPD to existing speakers.

When are the next BHA school speakers courses taking place? 

Future training courses will be held in regions where there is a gap in capacity. You can find out about upcoming training courses here.

Can I register my interest to join the BHA School Speakers Programme?

Yes. You can register your interest to be trained as a BHA school speaker by completing the Train as a School Speaker form on the BHA website. Your details will be kept on file and you will be notified when there are plans to run a course in your region.

What is the BHA doing to promote the School Volunteer Programme to schools?

The BHA will be carrying out intensive promotion of the programme to coincide with the relaunch of their education website in 2016. This will include direct email to RE teachers, adverts in the teaching press, and promotion at teaching conferences and exhibitions.


School speakers can also help to promote the School Speakers Programme. Further advice can be found in the School Speakers Handbook.

How do local humanist groups and the School Speakers Programme fit together?

A number of local humanist groups already have well-developed arrangements for providing school speakers, and it is hoped that these speakers will become BHA School Speakers. That way, they and the local group will benefit from the branding, quality assurance and promotional support the BHA's programme provides, and the programme as a whole will benefit from their experience. This is already happening in a number of areas.

However, there are areas where either there is no local group or the local group does not have well-developed school volunteer arrangements. The BHA School Speakers Programme is therefore structured around training and supporting individual volunteers so that we can service all areas, even if there is not an active local group.

Local groups are encouraged to establish constructive relationships with schools, Local Authorities, SACREs, and interfaith groups which can provide a platform for developing the BHA School Speakers Programme locally.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Please contact our Head of Education, Luke Donnellan, directly on luke@humanism.org.uk or 020 7324 3070. He will be happy to discuss any questions you may have about how the School Speakers Programme operates as well as any suggestions you may have on how to improve the programme or how the BHA can work positively in partnership with Partner groups.
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