Humanist school visitors speak to a quarter of a million pupils

Humanists UK’s school visitors have now made over 2,500 school visits, speaking to over 250,000 young people, since the programme was relaunched in 2016. This includes 500 schools and 50,000 pupils visited in 2022 alone. Delivering assemblies, classroom talks, and workshops across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, our volunteers have provided students with an opportunity to ‘go beyond the textbook’ and ask their own questions about what it means to have a humanist approach to life today.

Since Humanists UK relaunched its Understanding Humanism school visitors programme in 2016, the number of requests for visits from humanists has skyrocketed. Despite difficulties caused by the pandemic, where school visitors turned to remote visits to support teachers during the national lockdown, the service faced a resurgence in demand for in-person visits after schools reopened, and is now consistently higher than ever before.

The service is hugely popular. Feedback from schools has been consistently extremely positive: last year school visits received an average rating from teachers of 4.9 out of 5.

‘You gave the children a fantastic insight into the practices and philosophy behind humanism. The children were captivated from start to finish and were delighted that you could answer their questions. Thank you for speaking so confidently and eloquently. It was a pleasure to have you here and we hope to see you again next year!’

Tom Anstiss, KS2 teacher and year leader

‘The overall experience was excellent. From the initial email which was responded to quickly, to setting up a local speaker who contacted me immediately, to setting up a visit with ease, and finally the talk itself which was relevant, engaging and thought provoking. Thank you very much and I look forward to working with you again in future!’

Aimee Horsley, KS5 teacher

‘Thank you for coming in to talk to us. I found it very interesting to learn about because I had never heard of humanism before. The lesson was different to our normal ethics lessons and I liked being able to ask questions and hear your opinion.’

Alice, Year 7 student

Humanists UK’s school visitors undertake a highly regarded training course before they are able to visit a school, making sure they are aware of how to appropriately handle questions and conversations around beliefs and values. With demand on the rise, Humanists UK is on the lookout for more interested people to train and support this valuable service to schools. School visitors describe the personally rewarding experience of talking with young people.

‘The energy from the students is infectious. They love having a visitor and really appreciate you being there – it’s hard not to just be bouncing away afterwards. The questions they ask can really make me think about my beliefs which is always a good thing to check in with.’

Lottie Holmes, school speaker

‘A genuinely wonderful experience in every way. Friendly atmosphere and teachers, splendidly well-behaved children, really intelligent spontaneous questions from children who were all forthcoming and attentive.’

Kevin Malone, school speaker

This achievement represents the ever-increasing recognition by teachers of the need to provide students in schools with a broad and inclusive understanding of both religious and non-religious worldviews. It accompanies a rise in demand for Humanists UK’s Understanding Humanism education resources to support teaching about humanism and requests for teacher training.

Director of Understanding Humanism Luke Donnellan commented:

‘Quarter of a million students is a fantastic milestone to reach. Our school visitors should be enormously proud of all their hard work and of the positive feedback we get from teachers following a visit. The rising demand for visits to schools demonstrates the increasing understanding that all young people deserve an education about religion and worldviews that is inclusive of humanism.

‘If any teachers out there would like to arrange a visit then please go to the Understanding Humanism website and get in touch. If anyone is interested in becoming a school visitor, we’d also be delighted to hear from you.’