Why have assemblies?

Melisha Trotman, Principal, Primary School

School assemblies have taken place in schools all over the world for many years. Most assemblies have one thing in common – they are a place and time where students and teachers come together for a shared purpose. That purpose is usually to provide an opportunity for people of all ages to consider spiritual and moral issues, to develop community spirit and reinforce positive attitudes.

I feel that a well-planned and engaging school assembly is as important as a well-planned and engaging academic lesson. It enables young and old to pause, reflect and to think deeply about themselves, their world and beyond. I’d say that’s a very important slot in the school day as it prompts learning of the highest order. Furthermore, it might be one of the only times in a busy timetable, in which we are all encouraged to stop, be still and reflect – a valuable skill in this day and age.

An assembly that is simply a series of notices and admin is a missed opportunity. When delivered successfully, it can help build a strong sense of community and develop a sense of identity as it has the potential to nurture a positive school ethos that stresses care for the self, others and the pursuit of all forms of excellence. Assemblies powerfully nurture the development of intrapersonal intelligence and can be the hallmark of a strong school – this is who we are; this is what we stand for.

When I deliver an assembly, I strive to invite the students to consider their inner capabilities, their positive worth, their place in the community and their purpose for the week, and I do it from the touchstone of positive values. I then give them time to share what is important to them to help them see that they are valued by the whole school community.

It is important to me that my assembly also has an enriching quality. I accomplish this by associating the theme with meaningful experiences of the children to make the assembly relevant and real to them. Telling inspiring stories enable students and staff to make connections with their own attitudes and behaviour. Also, relating my own personal experience to the theme of the assembly and drawing in other members of staff to comment is enriching.

I also set high expectations in terms of appropriate student learning behaviour and attitude which cannot be emphasised enough as students model themselves on behaviour which is sincere and authentic. Reinforcing the concept of the school as a community and referring to positive examples of good work also helps create a culture of success and high student self-esteem.

For staff too, the assembly is important for spiritual nourishment and reflection. I spend time working out appropriate stories and how I am going to deliver my messages, which ensure that the adults are also impacted positively.

I feel fortunate to be working in a school in which assemblies are regularly held regardless of whether we are online or onsite.