School assembly – what is the point?

Posted on 1st Feb 2016 in Which School?, School News

Titus Mills, Headmaster of Walhampton Prep School, argues the case for the defence...

School assemblies come in all shapes and all sizes. They are as varied as our school uniforms. Over the years, in many different schools, I have lead assemblies in chapels, playgrounds, sports halls, classrooms and dining rooms (with the odd pea or carrot occasionally strewn around the floor.) They’ve consisted of small groups of children, a whole year group or the entire school. But whatever their shape or size, all assemblies have one thing in common. They’re a coming together of pupils and teachers in one place for a shared purpose. That purpose, the guidance states, is “to provide the opportunity for young people to consider spiritual and moral issues, to develop community spirit and reinforce positive attitudes”.

No academic lesson is more important than a well-planned and engaging school assembly. That assembly may focus on an overtly religious theme, a generic moral message, or simply a thought for the day. Either way, it will enable young and old to pause, to reflect and to think deeply about themselves, their world and beyond. That’s a pretty important slot in the school day. That prompts learning of the highest order. Furthermore it might be the only time, in a relentlessly busy timetable, in which we are encouraged to stop and be still; a useful discipline in this day and age.

It is a missed opportunity if an assembly is simply reduced to a series of notices and admin. Whether part of a faith school, or not, assemblies provide a fantastic opportunity to build a strong sense of community. They help reinforce a school’s ethos, its values and its mission statement. They help develop identity - so often the hallmark of a strong school. This is who we are. This is what we stand for. When I deliver an assembly, I am talking as much to the staff, as I am to the children. We’re all in this together. We all belong to something with a common purpose. Let’s be clear about that.

I feel fortunate to be working in a school in which assemblies are held in a small but beautiful chapel. (No more carrots on dining room floors.) In any normal week, our chapel hosts four assemblies, either starting the school day or concluding it. There are all sorts of pressures on our timetable which might make us reduce this number - strong academic reasons to get the children into Maths or English lessons more promptly. But four assemblies each week is not too many; if anything it is too few. No other period in the school timetable prompts such learning, such reflection or such a strong sense of community.

For more information about Walhampton Prep School, 
visit their School Search profile.