Spotlight On: The Hale Lecture Series at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park
Kristina Lewis, assistant head (teaching and learning) at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park, reflects on the success of the school’s student-led lecture series, which features numerous high-profile speakers.
Launched in September 2022 and named after Baroness Lady Hale, the first female president of the UK Supreme Court, the Hale Lecture Series is a student-led, interactive interview programme featuring high-profile speakers. The series runs throughout the academic year, with one lecture every half term. So far, we’ve welcomed Baroness Lady Hale; political activist and author, Gina Martin; Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, co-founder of Stemettes; and Dr Hannah Dawson, a feminist author, Cambridge academic and FHS alumna. We also have an amazing line-up for the rest of the year, including Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS.
Although schools up and down the country regularly welcome visiting speakers as part of a school-wide lecture series, what’s unique about the Hale Lectures is that our pupils orchestrate, plan and organise the events from start to finish; welcoming, interviewing, and offering a vote of thanks to each guest. In collaboration with our partner schools - St Marylebone School, King Solomon Academy, and All Saints Catholic School - pupils lead the conversations and Q&A with our guest speakers, breaking away from the traditional format of an extended lecture. It’s a far more personal, warm, and conversational approach to ensure everyone is actively engaged rather than sitting passively in the audience. It also generates larger audiences as the event is as much about the speaker as it is about the students on stage. There’s no doubt that pupils will always turn out to support each other when in action!
Organising this style of lecture series is no easy feat, however. Our students spend many hours researching the visiting speaker to ensure they’re fully knowledgeable about their areas of interest and expertise. Following extensive independent research, a group of students will meet to discuss, draft and formulate questions of their choosing. This usually takes time as the questions are framed within a wider context. For instance, when interviewing Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, one of our Year 11 interviewers drew upon a specific story from Dr Imafidon’s latest book before asking a question about society’s ‘quick fix mentality’ and whether it inhibits people’s creativity and problem-solving skills. Our pupils demonstrate flair and curiosity through their well-researched and thought-provoking questions.
“Although I have always been interested in feminism and women’s rights, hearing Dr. Hannah Dawson speak and address the problems women have faced, from centuries ago to today, was for me, like an awakening. Her rich wealth of knowledge was reciprocated in her engaging and captivating speech where I have learnt many things; I am excited to apply my newfound knowledge to the feminism component in my Politics A-level.” - Year 12 student.
The Hale Lectures develop pupils’ confidence and other essential interpersonal skills such as research, public speaking, and making informed and sensitive conversation. They also build invaluable leadership skills; acting as inspirational and supportive figures for their peers and for younger year groups, who are encouraged to participate interactively. Our partnership schools are fully engaged with the lecture series and it’s delightful to see their pupils turning up in large numbers. We circulate posters each term which include a QR code so that pupils can register their interest and receive further information about the event. Whilst our partner school teachers often join the lectures with their pupils in Years 7-11, it’s also great to see sixth formers from our partner schools turn up on their own accord, and often they’re the last out the door because of their many excellent questions!
“I love signing up to The Hale Lectures at FHS. I’ve been to all four so far this year. My favourite has got to be hearing from Baroness Lady Brenda Hale and getting her to sign my copy of ‘Spider Woman’. I’m excited to attend more in the future. Thanks for the opportunity.” - Year 10 student.
To continue to strengthen our relationships with our partner schools, the next Hale Lecture with Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS, will involve a mixture of Francis Holland School and St Marylebone School pupils leading the conversations and Q&A. This will involve collaborating through the research, planning, design and execution of the event in a meaningful and sustained way. I’m very much looking forward to it!
Gina Martin in conversation with students
Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon signing books
Baroness Lady Brenda Hale with pupils
Dr Hannah Dawson speaking on International Women's Day