'Films to Feminism': Guest speaker sparks debate with Year 10 and 12 students

On Monday 14th May, a group of students were given an opportunity to hear words of inspiration from guest speaker Pamela Dow who visited the school thanks to the work of a UK charity.

Launched in 2011, the Speakers for Schools charity helps to inspire young people and broaden their horizons by facilitating access to the insights and experiences of some of the country’s highest achieving individuals.

Pamela, a former civil servant who grew up in East Yorkshire, was chosen by the charity to visit the school where she shared her life and career experiences with Year 10 and 12 students.  

Despite living and working in London for many years, Pamela still has a real affinity with rural East Yorkshire. She spoke warmly about her time growing up in the county and her continuing fondness of the area as a whole.

For the students, hearing first-hand about the varied and successful life experiences of someone from the same geographical background as theirs was invaluable in proving that rural isolation should not be a barrier to aspirations. 

Pamela attended Driffield School in the 1990s before securing a place at the University of Oxford from where she graduated with an MA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

She began her career as a consultant and lobbyist in the private sector before taking on roles in the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice where she enjoyed a long and influential career at the highest levels of education and justice reform.

Pamela currently leads public service reform for Catch22 – a social business delivering better education, welfare and justice services across England and Wales.

Working with eleven students in Year 10, Pamela spoke passionately about reading and the books that ‘made her’ – the influences involved and how stories can be used as inspiration for shaping lives and careers.

Leaving each student with the gift of a book for inspiration, Pamela also stressed the importance of individuals becoming the authors of their own life journeys – a really positive message for ambition and future achievement.

At lunchtime, she met with three Year 12 students for a working lunch where they discussed everything from films to feminism.

After lunch, the Year 12 students joined forces with the girls in Year 10 to prepare arguments for and against being a feminist. These arguments were discussed at length and led to an interesting debate. 

Acting Deputy Headteacher Beci Pindar commented: 'Experiences such are these, where our students have the opportunity to listen and engage with visitors about ambitions, issues that will affect them and different careers they could consider, are vital in helping them to achieve more.

It was lovely to observe our students asking questions and sharing their points of view on a range of topics relevant to their lives.

I am grateful to Pamela for her taking the time to visit us and I know our students were very interested to hear about the wealth of experience she has had in the civil service and beyond.'

Pamela commented: 'It was great to spend time with the Year 10 and 12 students at Withernsea High School and talk about everything from books and films to feminism. I’ve had some amazing opportunities since growing up in the East Riding and it’s lovely to be able to come back and share them with students from the same county who will one day go on to create their own opportunities.'

Student feedback was equally as positive, with Year 10 student Leah Mullet saying: ‘Hearing Pamela speak about her life and career has really made me think about my future and made me definitely want to achieve the best I can.’

Ellie Watling-Precious added: ‘Listening to Pamela has made me have a clearer idea of what I want to do when I’m older and I really enjoyed learning about her life and career’.