The school's achievement manager was introducing the concept of buddying. We'd recently brought it in to settle the Year 7s as quickly as possible. It also provides an opportunity for some older pupils to take responsibility and help others. We even had Year 8 pupils volunteering to buddy the new intakes, as they had been difficult characters who had reformed their ways.
This assembly can be as basic as you like, or have time for, but it does call for something to eat (we opted for cereal) and two spoons on sticks. Also, four willing children are required - those who like the chosen cereal are most useful. If you have more time, an inspirational soundtrack such as the Rocky theme tune could be added.
First, we picked two pupils and gave them a bowl of cereal and a spoon on a stick about a meter long. They were given 10 seconds to try to eat as much cereal as possible (using only the long spoon) - which was almost impossible. Then we picked two Year 11 pupils and two Year 7 pupils and put them into pairs comprising of one Year 11 pupil and one Year 7 pupil.
Each pair was given the same spoon on the end of a metre stick and a bowl of cereal. The pupils were then asked to find a way of eating the cereal.
One team was particularly quick off the mark and figured out that if one person held the spoon, the other could eat with relative ease. They even managed to swap the spoon and let the other person have a go at the cereal. The whole school was shouting with encouragement and the exercise illustrated the concept of working together.
The second team was quick to catch on, once the pupils saw the success of the first team. They too grasped the idea that one person should hold the spoon, while the other holds the bowl and gets to eat. Of course, the exercise is still a little messy, with some cereal ending up on the floor. You should warn the caretaker or cleaner prior to the assembly.
But what's important and what becomes apparent is that by working as part of a team, the task was infinitely easier.
The assembly finished with the school buddies being pointed out and their roles explained. The achievement manager made it clear that anyone could be a buddy and how they should go about trying to help others, whether a buddy or in everyday life.
The assembly had a real impact, with pupils talking about it, and the concept of working together, for a least a week. Buddies are now widely used in a number of settings, including the classroom and playground.
Victoria Burns teaches at Hornby High School in Lancaster.