Insights and Inspiration: Exploring the impact of guest speakers in schools

Dr Elnaz Kashefpakdel, Christian Percy, Nick Chambers and Jordan Rehill

With support of Ashley Hodges and Max Haskins

Read the report here

Teachers teach because they care about young people and the futures they will have. Their passion is an investment in potential. Guest speakers are one key lever among many that schools use to inspire young people about possible futures and what it might take to reach them, as well as broaden students’ horizons to see the world outside of their classroom and local community.

In this study, we’ve conducted primary research with schools across our networks to create three new UK datasets. Such schools have typically engaged with or shown interest in services to bring employers into their practice. Collectively, these datasets contribute to our understanding of why teachers who invite guest speakers keep doing it, how they deliver talks, and the impact this can have on young people.  These datasets consist of:

  • A survey with 327 staff from 303 state schools and colleges in our networks plus 6 follow-up interviews • A survey with 858 state school students from around 50 schools and colleges in our networks • Interviews with 14 high-performing independent schools, supported by desk research

Our research strongly supported the important contribution of guest speakers to modern education, with key findings including:

  • The vast majority of young people are positive about the benefits from talks. Across nine different aspects we asked about, a range from 77% to 91% of young people said the talks had helped, spanning attitudes and motivation, careers understanding and self-belief.
  •  Young people were particularly positive about the talks having helped them understand that everyone had to overcome setbacks (88% saying that they helped; 51% saying they helped a lot). • Attitudes and motivation improved most for students who had been to more talks. For “Free School Meal” (FSM)1 students , there is a particularly strong association with selfefficacy (32% higher odds of self-efficacy with each extra talk) and being confident that “people like me” can be successful (30% higher odds of being confident with each extra talk).
  •  A programme of talks can also reduce the number of students feeling their background holds them back, from a significant minority to barely a handful. Students who could not recall any talks were five times more likely to believe that their background held them back in achieving their ambitions compared to those who could recall eight or more talks.
  • With FSM students typically benefitting more than non-FSM students, we can position talks as one tool for closing the privilege gap in society – invest in guest speakers throughout, and particularly in schools with higher disadvantage.