SCHOOL assembly can be the one time in the day when children have the opportunity to stop and think, the Revd Ronni Lamont has been reminding teachers, clergy, and practitioners in country-wide workshops on effective leadership of assemblies.
Being legal — “broadly Christian” — truthful, creative, and innovative can present something of a challenge, especially to teachers with no faith background; but there is plenty of help to be had, and the fruits are abundant, Mrs Lamont says. A former teacher and now Faith and Nurture adviser for the diocese of Canterbury, she was editor of SPCK’s popular school-assemblies web resource for seven years.
The opportunity to provide “sacred space” was much prized by participants at the workshop at St John’s, Nottingham. “Children have said that it’s the one space in which teachers couldn’t get at them,” one said. Others deemed an assembly to be “a place where you can sing without being talented”; “a place to ask the big questions”; “a place to deal with stuff”.
One participant had never forgotten the impact of a simple visual demonstration, showing the impossibility of getting toothpaste back in a tube, to emphasise that words, once they had left the mouth, could not be taken back.
“There is now so much that schools are expected to teach children that is not in the curriculum — much of it driven by the politics of the day,” Mrs Lamont said, citing the current emphasis on teaching “values”. “In an assembly, you do non-directed learning. Everyone comes together to remember that we are a community, and that we need to care for one another, and to celebrate — it’s a place like no other to celebrate.”
Gathering, engaging, responding, and sending out — participants reflected on assemblies as places where children can develop a memory of Bible stories; where, through times of reflection, music, images, silence, and space, they can develop their spirituality, their sense of “the other”; and where tragedies or world events can be marked as something of concern to all.
“It’s like a family meal, when everyone sits down together,” Mrs Lamont suggests. “If you don’t do it, you get out of touch.”
The workshops were organised through the SPCK school-assemblies website, and funded by the Goldsmiths’ Company, St Peter’s Saltley Trust, and St Christopher’s Educational Trust.