Education: speakers for schools - year 6 to year 13
Please see the testimonials page for feedback we have received from schools.
We offer speakers for primary year 6 to sixth form and beyond - and we don't charge for our services.
Every young person has the right to make a free and informed choice about what to believe. "Free" means without outside pressure and "informed" means being made aware of the widest possible range of alternatives - a task that good RE lessons can help with. Being exposed almost exclusively to a single religious or non-religious world view, or to theism without the balancing atheism, does not enable young people to make a free and informed choice.
"A non-theist world view, for example, Humanism" is in the Agreed Syllabus for RE at all key stages in Derby and Derbyshire schools and we can provide speakers to give talks from primary year 6 to secondary year 13.
Each year we speak to thousands of pupils in the City and County (and beyond) - as part of RE, P4C or, for older students, as part of General Studies or Philosophy and Ethics.
We know that many teachers feel unsure or uncomfortable about teaching RE, especially since it is usually only one lesson a week and the only one required by law.We understand the pressures on classroom teachers and we are very happy to do our bit to support them.
Some of us are teachers or ex-teachers and those of us who go into schools have been on the British Humanist Association (BHA) "Volunteers for schools" training programme.
Most schools have a nominated person who leads RE teaching - that may be a subject specialist, a "co-ordinator", a "lead" or a head of department. We are happy to help such teachers with in-service training so their colleagues can become familiar with the humanist view of life, why we can be "good without god" and how we can answer "the big questions of life" without recourse to gods or religions.
We are also invited to speak to many College and University groups: debating societies, Christian Unions, Muslim Associations and Atheist Humanist groups. We are well travelled: from Oxford and Cambridge to Birmingham, Durham, Leeds. Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester, Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Bristol.
We have also contributed to publications aimed at primary and secondary level, for example, "Opening up community" by Fiona Moss, published by RE Today and the article "Happiness for Humanists" in RE Today magazine, Autumn 2013.
How we work with schools
What we offer and what we cover
We prefer to speak to single classes because it allows interaction and questioning but we can speak to a whole year group if required. We are happy to tailor our talks to any specific topics the classes are covering at the time.
We don't offer the "worship" part of assemblies because:
- They are too short to give a fair presentation of our views.
- They usually involve a large number of pupils of different ages which makes interaction and questioning impossible.
- We support good RE but we oppose legally defined worship: "an act of reverence or veneration paid to a divine being or power."
We are very well informed about a wide range of topics and we are happy to talk about any aspect of belief, including:
- "Why I don't believe in a god" - a personal view.
- Non-theist answers to "The Big Questions of life."
- Any/all of the classic arguments for/against the existence of gods: ontological, cosmological, teleological, utility, miracles, personal experience, problem of evil etc.
- Moral values without religion - "good without god".
- Personal views on key moral and ethical questions such as : sexuality, abortion, dignified death, drugs, social and economic inequality, materialist consumerism, world poverty, environmental issues, the role of "aid".
- Respect - should we respect individuals and/or "sincerely held beliefs"?
- Offence - do people have the right not to be offended? Are there limits to freedom of speech and expression?
- The psychology and sociology of religion.
However, to fully understand Atheist Humanism young people need to be informed about three things:
- Why we don't believe in a god.
- What we do believe in.
- How we view religion.
Our general talk, "Atheist Humanism", is pitched at different levels from upper primary to sixth form and usually covers:
- The meaning of key words relating to belief: "god", "theist", "atheist", "theocracy", "secular", "spiritual", "sceptic".
- Occam's Razor: "the simplest explanation is usually the best - the one which makes the fewest assumptions and requires the fewest new ideas."
- How do we know if something is true or not?
- How do we know if something is right or wrong, good or bad?
- Answering the big questions of life without god or religion: creation, death and the purpose of life.
- Can you be a good person without god and religion?
- What is a Humanist?
- Humanists and schools: worship, RE and religious schools.
- Humanists and a secular society.
- Humanists and science.
- A few atheists.
- Respecting people for what they do - not for what they say or claim to believe. Too many people say one thing and do another.
- The importance of keeping an open mind, of questioning, of investigating, of challenging existing ideas.
We often speak to sixth forms as part of General Studies or A level Philosophy - particularly metaphysics and ethics. One school provided the following brief which we were happy to follow:
"As part of the Philosophy of Religion at A level please cover your line on the classic arguments about god and then challenge the students from a non-theist point of view."
For older students, including colleges and uiversities, we can cover a much wider range of subjects - in fact, any question or subject under the sun - including our favourite: "why do some people need god and religion while others don't?"
We put a lot of trust in the professional skills of teachers, and in the intellectual and critical abilities of young people, and we know that they welcome discussion of ideas that challenge previously accepted views.
We leave it to teachers to put what we say into the broad context of RE and we leave it to young people to study further and decide for themselves what they believe.
We cannot provide speakers from a faith position but we do believe that young people have the right to hear all sides of the god/religion/belief debate. We are happy to talk about our beliefs but we can't provide balance - that is up to teachers and speakers with other beliefs.
We welcome any opportunity to debate ideas surrounding religion and belief - particularly the "why" of religious belief. The "what" of religious belief is easy, the "why" is somewhat harder.