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Guest Speakers


Throughout the school year we invite a number of guest speakers to come and address the girls on many different topics.  In 2015-2016, speakers have included:


The Athena Society

On 19 November 2015, the Athena Society met in the Library for a talk given by the Classics and Archaeology speaker, Professor Amy Smith from the University of Reading, and our own Mr Mitchell, on our namesake, the Greek goddess Athena, and Nationalism respectively. The erudite atmosphere in the room was intensified as the many attributes of one of the most famous figures of Greek mythology were explained and discussed, and we were all captivated as our speakers explored the links between their seemingly distant subjects, perhaps the most significant to us being the roles of women in both tangible society and fantastic mythos.

After an hour and a half of fascinating address, our speakers left us with a few challenging questions to discuss over a mouth-watering dinner. The lively conversation was kept up between mouthfuls, as we dived further into the depths of subjects such as feminism, tradition, fables and patriotism, and their interwoven connections with the topics of our talk. The evening was highly enjoyable socially and intellectually, as avenues of thought never explored before were opened to us, along with new ideas to mull over.


Professor Robert Winston – STEM Building opening on 16 January 2016

Prof Robert WinstonWe were delighted to welcome Professor Robert Winston to Heathfield to officially open the new STEM building.

Prior to cutting the ribbon and revealing the memorial plaque with the Head Jo Heywood, the world-renowned fertility expert spoke to a packed audience of girls, parents and staff about his work and thoughts on genetics. In particular, he singled out the outstanding work of female scientists.

Discussing the background to his work in embryology and how it started with a desire to help a young woman whose first child had died of a genetic disorder, he told the girls about the exemplary work of three women in his current team, saying:

‘They are typical of what you can do. Young women should not feel they are less able than young men. In many areas of science, there are more women than men and all of those three women have raised happy and healthy families alongside their work. I am not half as good a role model for you than any one of those women. What I find is that women work in wonderful collaboration and what we do collectively is very important.’ He added: ‘The young woman I was able to help in my early career went on to have healthy twins who I had tea with the other day – they are now young women. It was an amazing experience to be able to help and that is why science is so wonderful.’

Professor Winston warned that it was sometimes easy for scientists ‘to be seduced by a sense of their own infallibility’ and advised that girls considering science as a career should remember their responsibility was ‘always to the individual not to society’.

Touring around the STEM building, Professor Winston met and talked with the girls carrying out experiments and demonstrating their work. After the book signing, Professor Winston hosted a Q&A session in the library for a selection of girls on his life and career and gave his thoughts on recent advances in genetics.

Mrs Heywood said ‘It was a huge honour to have him here and for him to take so much time to talk to the girls, engage with them and answer their questions. I am sure he has inspired many of them to think about a career in the sciences.’


Founder’s Day, Friday 5 February 2016

Tracey EdwardsAfter a superb Founder’s Day celebration lunch, staff and students listened to our inspiring guest speaker, Tracy Edwards MBE. Tracy Edwards won international fame in 1989 as the skipper of the first all-female crew to sail around the world in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. The boat won two legs and came second overall in her class, which remains the best result for a British boat since 1977.

In 1990, Tracy was awarded Sportswoman of the Year and an MBE. She was the first woman to achieve acceptance by the British yachting community and paved the way for other women, notably Dawn Riley and Ellen MacArthur, to follow. Tracy spoke about her success and also the many challenges she faced including treacherous seas and broken masts.

Following her ground-breaking success with Maiden, Tracy set out to consolidate her position as one of the world’s top sailors by entering Trophy Jules Verne in 1998 with the Royal Sun Alliance boat, again with an all-female crew. Tracy and her crew broke seven world records during their two-year programme.

The girls asked Tracy lots of questions and were keen to hear more about her adventures at sea. They were clearly inspired and in awe of Tracy’s achievements and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.


History of Art Conference, Saturday 6 February 2016

On Saturday 6 February 2016, Heathfield held its first History of Art Conference. Hosting an impressive line-up of speakers: Dr Elizabeth Prettejohn, Professor of Art History at University of York; Dr Christina Payne, Professor of History of Art at Oxford Brookes, Dr Lara Pucci, Assistant Professor at Nottingham University and Dr Joanna Pawlik, Professor of Art History at Sussex University – the conference attracted Sixth Form pupils and staff from a wide selection of schools including Radley, Stowe, King’s Canterbury and Bryanston.

It was a great success, with each speaker providing an excellent example of what art history entails at university. One student was heard saying: ‘I thought I loved the Renaissance but that Futurist stuff was SO interesting!’

The topics were diverse and engaging, from the Pre-Raphaelites and Ruskin’s influences, to the aesthetics of nineteenth century sculpture, to German Expressionism, Futurism and Surrealism. The speakers challenged the audience with thought-provoking questions and each was passionate and stimulating.

Freya Henderson, studying History of Art in the LVI, presented on Francis Bacon who she will talk about in the regional heat of the ARTiculation competition on 1 March. She was fabulous and feedback from our guests said how cool and interesting it was and how much they really enjoyed it. Well done Freya!

Teachers and students who came from the other schools all chatted and exchanged ideas. The teachers even had a meeting to discuss the new specification with one of the examiners who is involved in writing the specification. We were so lucky! The conference broadened everyone’s knowledge and it was a most fulfilling and inspiring day.


Social Media talk to pupils, staff and parents, Friday 4 March 2016

Social media expert and former Daily Mail journalist Cathy Wood was at Heathfield to give a series of tailored talks on how to navigate social media and avoid its pitfalls.

Cathy gave separate talks to Forms V and VI, Forms III and IV, Forms I and II and also spoke to parents and any staff who were able to attend for a talk before the Exeat weekend.

Cathy explained that her passion was helping young people to avoid ‘making own goals’ on social media and helping them to understand how to protect themselves online and how their digital footprint could extend for years and affect their employment prospects and lives. She used examples from her work with athletes and football clubs and their young athletes and players to show how easy it was for them to make mistakes online which could affect their reputations.

She encouraged younger pupils to consider the consequences of what they shared online, to be extremely careful about protecting their identity with privacy settings and to aim to abide by a code of conduct online and consider how they would like to be treated themselves.

In all four talks, she showed pupils and parents how easy it was to find information online about the students and how important it therefore was to be vigilant.

Her over-riding message was that we need to help young children find a better way of feeling good about themselves than having several thousand followers on social media platforms because having lots of followers negated the privacy settings that were available and laid children open to danger.


Professor Lucy Küng – ‘From Jane Austen to BuzzFeed – How to build a career out of what interests you most’, Thursday 3 March 2016

Prof Lucy KungOn Thursday 3 March 2016, we were honoured to welcome Professor Lucy Kὒng, Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, to give a talk to the whole school.  Professor Kὒng is a consultant, adviser and academic, specialising in leadership, innovation and business model adaptations.  She is an expert on the impact of digital technology and has written several books on the subject, her latest being ‘Innovators in Digital News’.

Firstly, she gave us an insight into how her own career path had evolved.  From being a studious girl who relished reading and aspired to study at Oxford and become a barrister, she was incapacitated by illness for a year and told to forget university. Having always loved reading, Lucy was advised to go into publishing and she became a director within five years.  In order to gain expertise in finance, she spent a year studying for an MBA, which was followed by a period of immersion in rigorous academic studies, gaining her PhD as well as her Habilitation, at the University of St Gallen in Switzerland.  She has now come full circle and is a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.

Having outlined her own career, Professor Kὒng moved on to advise the girls on how best to decide on their future careers.  Firstly, find out what really interests you and follow your passion; build expertise in what you are good at and seek expert advice from mentors along the way. Be curious, probe, reflect, ask around, and drill down. Creativity is the combination of intrinsic motivation and expertise, whilst articulacy is of the utmost importance. Young people must realise that their career paths will be zig zag, rather than linear, therefore decisions made now will not entail commitment forever.

The girls were enthralled with Professor Kὒng’s presentation and the clarity of her advice on how ‘to follow one’s dream’ was positive, enlightening and truly inspirational.


Youth at Risk, Thursday 10 March 2016

Youth at Risk Ashley JohnstonHeathfield’s nominated school charity for 2015-16 is Youth at Risk and on Thursday 10 March 2016 we welcomed Ashley Johnston, who came to tell us about the work they do in delivering programmes in order to transform the lives of disruptive and excluded young people. The charity helps them to take responsibility for themselves and get them on the road towards becoming thriving, contributing members of society. Through intensive personal development courses, Youth at Risk’s tough love approach sets out to change the lives of disaffected young people, supporting them and enabling them to achieve their potential.

We are delighted to be supporting such a worthwhile charity and our charities prefects, Holly and Phoebe, are currently organising a Music Concert, to be held on 24 June, to raise funds for Youth at Risk. For more information go to www.youthatrisk.org.uk


Life after Heathfield talk, Thursday 28 April 2016

Julianne HicksHeathfield Old Girl Julianne Hicks inspired the senior girls with a realistic look at what they need to do to shine in their university and work applications.

Julianne, who was at Heathfield from 1996 to 2002, and went on to read Law at Durham University, hit the ground running, telling the girls they needed to put in the essential legwork to succeed right from the beginning. She also warned them that they should never lose perspective when things went wrong and make a mountain out of what would later seem like a molehill as they gained experience.

Crucially, she also encouraged them to nurture and value their female friendships and ‘Be in the sisterhood’ at university, work and in their lives ahead.

A trader since 2008 at Stemcor, Julianne roused the girls with her vibrant and enthusiastic talk which also urged them to make the most of their outstanding and privileged education and give something back to the world through charity work or volunteering, even if it was only for one week out of their lives.

She also advised girls on the practicalities of looking after their minds and bodies and respecting themselves to stay fit and healthy, as well as on tips for job applications and presenting themselves.


Forthcoming Speakers

22 September 2016 – ‘Beyond the panda – how and why should we conserve wildlife’ – a talk by Dr Joanna Bagniewska, a zoologist and science communicator from the University of Reading.

6 October 2016 – John Hoskison, a professional golfer and bestselling author, will give a talk to the Sixth Form on ‘Risks and Consequences’.