First Word on Assemblies

Do assemblies really matter? The thought struck me following a conversation with a recent interview candidate. They had noticed that assemblies at the school were more than simply an opportunity to pass on notices. ‘How unusual,’ was their comment.

In fact many schools still maintain assemblies as something more than a way to carry out the administration of the school. If education is to be about something more than the mere passing of examinations, the coming together of the school community has a vital contribution to make to this process. Within Lawrence Sheriff we no longer have some of the traditional elements of assemblies, such as the singing of hymns, but it would be a mistake to think that assemblies have become an ‘outdated’ part of school life.

Parents sometimes ask me if assemblies at the school are explicitly Christian in their character. I find that all speakers respect the broad mix of backgrounds and beliefs that makes up the school community. Assemblies are not there as an opportunity to put forward a particular set of religious ideas. However, they do play a crucial role in fostering questioning and debate about fundamental issues to do with life. If we are not encouraging our students to think about such issues then in a very real sense we are failing them. Despite the clear belief of some government ministers to the contrary, education is not all about base line targets and achieving higher results for league tables.

I am very proud of the fact that the school still goes to considerable lengths to provide our students with ‘food for thought’. We have a daily ‘Thoughts for the Day’ programme that supports our assembly structure and provides a focal point for discussion during form tutor time. Our assembly programme also gives an opportunity for students to contribute. We have just completed a very successful Year 9/10 debating competition and students are now engaged in a house drama competition during our Friday main assembly slot. Assemblies provide opportunities for students both to listen but also to contribute and to learn by taking part in our discussion of a range of ideas, views and opinions.

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