Ignite Programme

Our programme of visiting speakers sparks the imagination; kick starts curiosity and challenges perceptions. From conservationists and journalists to film makers and musicians, our Ignite Programme speakers come from all careers and all corners of the world, offering children unrivalled insight into some of the world’s most fascinating people, careers and challenges.

2021-2022 Programme

Clare Balding Returns

We welcome Clare Balding to WHS on the 30th September for the second time, the first being in 2016 when she introduced her first ever children's book 'The Racehorse Who Wouldn't Gallop'. One of the main characters - Percy the Palamino - was based on the Shetland pony Storm ridden by then pupil and now Housian Martha McGowan who also bears an uncanny resemblance to the heroine of the story Charlie Bass!

We can't wait to hear Clare talk about her inspiration for 'Fall Off, Get Back On, Keep Going: 10 ways to be at the top of your game!', her recent coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and her career as an author, TV and radio presenter and journalist.

Clare's first question to the children in 2016 was 'who has fallen off a horse?' We wonder what she will ask us first this time?

Emmanuel Jal

We were delighted to welcome Emmanuel Jal to School to give a truly inspirational Ignite Talk to Year 7 and 8 pupils and staff.

He spoke about his life’s journey from his start as a child soldier in Sudan to becoming an acclaimed recording artist and peace ambassador.

Emmanuel encouraged the children to think about what they want to be/achieve in the future, to follow their dreams, to maintain a positive attitude, to dust themselves down from failure and not to worry about what other people think and say.

Pupils and staff loved hearing about his charity Jalgua, dancing to Emmanuel’s music and being able to ask him lots of questions, notably Q: Who is your hero? A: Anyone who inspires me at that moment in time, Q: Have you met anyone famous? A: Will.i.am, Angelina Jolie and President Clinton amongst many others, and (very importantly) Q: Which football team to you support? A: Chelsea when I lived in London.

We thank Emmanuel for sharing his story with us, for inspiring us to reach our individual goals and for bringing such positive energy to the Forum on a Wednesday morning

2020-2021 Programme

The 2020-2021 ignite speaker platform continued from strength to strength, with another fantastic line-up of speakers, talking both in School and virtually via Google Meet, enthusing about their lives, careers and adventures.

Clarissa Ward Frontline Reporter

Clarissa Ward, CNN's Chief International Correspondent and aunt of Thalia (Year 8) and Lucia (Year 6), gave the first Ignite talk of the summer term  from isolation in an hotel room in Greece on route home from covering the covid pandemic in India.

Clarissa told the children that she was completing her final year at Yale University when the 9/11 bombings occurred. From that moment onwards, she wanted to become an investigative journalist and television presenter.

For more than 15 years Clarissa has reported from the frontline across the world from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen to Ukraine, Georgia and Iran. She was formerly with CBS News, based in London, and before that was a Moscow-based news correspondent for ABC News. She has won five Emmy awards, graduated with a Distinction from Yale, is fluent in French and Italian, conversational in Russian, Arabic and Spanish and knows basic Mandarin Chinese and is author of ‘On All Fronts’.

Clarissa reinforced the importance of listening, understanding both sides of a story, putting yourself out of your comfort zone and the skill sets needed by a journalist.

Lawrence D'Silva, Presenter, Filmmaker & Natural World Specialist

Housian (1996-2002), Presenter, Filmmaker and Natural World specialist Lawrence D'Silva gave an Ignite talk to the children and spoke about his career from working as a safari guide in southern Africa and on renewable energy projects in the UK to presenting on the BBC's One Show.

Nature has always been his passion and he has worked on a new BBC studios documentary on biodiversity loss, presented by Sir David Attenborough. He made his first wildlife documentary at the age of 13 on an ancient camcorder. Lawrtence's skills in factual film were developed via the Journalism School at City University, London. 

Mr Martin’s Navy Career

Seligman’s ‘Sail Away’ creative curriculum topic was brought to life by Mr Martin who, before entering education, was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and served for 12 years in HM Ships Campbeltown, Invincible, Liverpool, Hurworth, Nottingham, Severn, Clyde and Dragon, and latterly as the Captain of Archer for 12 and a bit years.

He talked about why ships and the Navy are still important and discussed the similarities in navigational techniques now and 100s of years ago. The children were fascinated and loved seeing Mr Martin’s naval memorabilia.

Gemma Lawton's Sea Cadet Experiences

Gemma Lewton, who works part-time at WHS in the Catering Department as a student member of Staff, came to talk to Years 3 and 4 about her experiences with the local Sea Cadets inline with their ‘Sail Away’ creative curriculum topic.

The children loved trying on Gemma’s uniform and hearing all about her experiences.