Assemblies bring a school community together and offer the perfect platform to deliver key messages. Over the course of the academic year their content will be diverse, varied and, at times, challenging. They often need to convey important notices, celebrate successes and are a great opportunity to commemorate key events.
For a whole school assembly to engage its very wide and varied audience, it is vital that its content and structure is not in any way formulaic or simply a regurgitation of a generic plan. Sometimes the theme can be far from palatable, as in our community life, from time to time, we have to confront sad news, but the collective support felt by shared reflection can be powerful and important to harness. The message, whatever it is, needs to be delivered with passion and with a genuine belief.
Often scheduled first thing in the morning, assemblies are usually a great opportunity to use uplifting and thought-provoking themes to set the tone for the day. It is also one of the rare moments when the whole school is together, so it is a great time to re-engage everyone with the community values and also generate shared experiences and common understanding.
The start of a new year is an opportune time to get everyone motived towards new goals – this year I started the term by reflecting on some of the points from the Queen’s Christmas Day message. She drew inspiration from ‘ordinary heroes’ and highlighted that inspirational people, ‘don’t have to save lives or win medals’; her focus was on how small actions make a big difference.
I expanded on this theme by reflecting on the work of Wall Street Executive turned self-help guru, Caroline Arnold, in her book, Small Move, Big Change. In it she explains the benefits of making ‘micro-resolutions’, a concept I found appealing and appropriate and one that I utilised to encourage everyone to keep trying to make small, achievable changes over the coming term to improve their lives and our community way of life. The take-home message was how small, positive actions can add up to something much bigger than we could ever imagine.
However, other times I feel a more humorous approach is required to inspire everyone. Enthused by the great motivational talks of Andy Cope from The Art of Brilliance, I have also shared Sponge Bob’s song, Thank Gosh its Monday; once those relentlessly cheerful tunes had filled the hall there was little scope for any ‘mood hoovers’ to not enjoy ‘Positivity Monday’!
My final assemblies’ advice would be not to hesitate to harness the voice of each and every person around the school. Not only does it add variety to the topics and tone of voice, but also, and most importantly, you discover amazing things about the people in your community. For example, one of my sixth form pupils asked to share the videos she had made whilst working towards her helicopter pilot’s license and it would be an understatement to say that she reached out and encouraged everyone in the room to fly high; she left us in awe!