Becoming a humanist school speaker: interview with Caroline Wallace

13 July, 2023

This week we announced that our humanist school speaker programme has reached 250,000 children across the UK since 2016. To celebrate this incredible milestone and achievement for inclusive education, we caught up with humanist school speaker Caroline Wallace to find out more about what it is like to train as a humanist school speaker, supporting teachers to promote a better understanding of humanism in the classroom.


What motivated you to become a humanist school speaker?

As my children have moved through the school system, I have heard a lot about (amongst other things) what they were learning in their Religious Education (RE) lessons. They never seemed to be taught much about humanism which was disappointing. When I joined Humanists UK and found out that it had a school speaker programme, I thought this was an ideal opportunity to get involved at a practical level, and help to bring some balance to RE lessons by talking about humanism in schools.

Why is it important for children to learn about humanism in school?

I believe that learning about humanism in school is vital for young people so they are aware about the wide diversity of religious beliefs and world views in the UK and abroad. The British Social Attitudes survey has found that 52% of Britons are non-religious, but this fact is not really reflected in public life, where religious viewpoints are given a high profile and non-religious worldviews are under-represented. Young people with non-religious beliefs could even mistakenly believe that they are a fringe group. I think building awareness of the diversity of worldviews will ensure young people are equipped to understand and participate fully (and tolerantly) in British society as adults.

What do you, personally, bring to being a school speaker?

I am very enthusiastic about my school speaking, and as I tend to have good availability – I like to try to say yes to most opportunities that come up. I have a long-standing interest in education having been the Chief Executive of a learned society and a school governor.

What was training with Humanists UK like? How did it prepare you?

I thought the training was thorough, rigorous, well-structured, and professional. There were plenty of opportunities to talk through how to approach a school visit and any anxieties, and good signposting of the impressive resources that are available on the Humanists UK school speaker website. I felt well prepared to start doing the school visits while also conscious that there would be a learning curve and that there would always be support available to me from Humanists UK.

Could you describe your first school visit and how you felt?

I was invited to speak to a Key Stage 2 class (7-11 year olds) in a rural primary school. As it was my first visit, I had some trepidation but the children were engaged, very curious about what I was saying and highly interactive. Looking back, I think the positive reception meant that I got a bit over-enthusiastic and ‘ad-libbed’ a bit too much for the age group. I have since learnt that it is important to stick to my plan for the particular age group concerned, regardless of the interesting areas into which some of the questions might be leading!

What do you most enjoy about being a school speaker?

The wonderful questions that I am asked by the students, which keep me on my toes and make me explain myself clearly. I had one particularly memorable (and very warm!) afternoon speaking to 180 students at once in a primary school hall. It worked much better than I thought it would and I left the school with a strong sense of the scale of the impact I had had.

What resonates with you most about the humanist approach to life?

This is the one life we have so we should make the most of it. We should help others to make the most of their lives too. Reason and evidence show us the way.



If you are interested in booking a visit from a humanist school speaker to your school, then go to Understanding Humanism.

If you are interested in becoming a humanist school visitor then you can find out more information about our upcoming training courses here and in our application pack. Visiting schools to talk about your beliefs and values is a great way to raise awareness and understanding of the humanist approach to life in a way that supports mutual understanding and social cohesion and enables young people to consider their own personal worldview. Many school visitors find it an enormously rewarding experience.

For further comment or information, please contact Director of Understanding Humanism Luke Donnellan at or phone 020 7324 3070.

Visit the Understanding Humanism website.

What is humanism?

Humanism is a non-religious worldview. Humanists believe that this life is the only life we have, that the universe is a natural phenomenon with no supernatural side, and that we can live ethical, meaningful, and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. They trust the scientific method when trying to understand how the universe works, make their ethical decisions based on a concern for the welfare of human beings and other sentient animals, and seek to make a positive contribution towards building a better society.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 110,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Understanding Humanism is Humanists UK’s education service. It aims to introduce young people to humanism as a non-religious approach to life which can be studied as an example of a ‘non-religious worldview’. It provides teachers with the resources necessary to teach accurate, high-quality lessons about humanism, and assists them with the development of their own subject knowledge. The Understanding Humanism website offers information and activities, as well as free school speakers who can work with teachers to broaden students’ understanding. Visit Understanding Humanism at