Some of my best assemblies have been about Jasper, a dreadfully naughty boy I invented eight or nine years ago to focus children's attention on the results of bad behaviour. Our school is in an area with a lot of behaviour problems, and I needed a way of helping children consider their actions without constantly pointing the finger. Jasper was the answer.
I use him only in emergencies. Once or twice a year is enough; if I brought him out more often he'd lose his effectiveness. As it is, whenever I start to talk about Jasper, the children are immediately attentive. He really is awful - bad in the classroom, hurting and kicking people in the playground, the Big I Am: "Nobody can touch me or hurt me!" I try to make the story show how his behaviour affects other people, and also how it affects him. You see, Jasper doesn't want to be like that really: he's tough on the outside, but inside he feels bad about it, and he has nightmares about the bad things he does. He doesn't seem concerned - he's Mr Tough, wolfing his tea, not cleaning his teeth, jumping into bed - but he worries and wakes up in the night realising what he's done, with the bedclothes tangled round him.
The children really seem to take it on board. After a Jasper assembly I notice they're more friendly and considerate to each other, and better behaved in the corridors and playground. It also often helps with specific behaviour situations - through thinking about Jasper they can consider their own and others' behaviour and try to solve problems for themselves.
One recent Jasper story was about playing in the street. Children round here often play outside after school without supervision, and I heard there were a lot of "chicken" games going on. So I had Jasper out there, playing football, not caring less, jumping in front of cars, that sort of thing. But then he heard that his friend had been injured by a car while playing chicken. He went to visit him in the hospital and realised that it had all happened because of his own example, and he felt awful.
I'm not sure where I got the name Jasper from. It's good because it's unusual and children latch on and remember it, and it's also a name that would stand out round here. Of course, if a child called Jasper ever came to the school that would have to be the end of him. In the meantime, though, he's on hand whenever something dire happens. I think, "Oh right, good old Jasper - out of the box you come!" Georgina Turvey is headteacher of Ranworth First School, Norwich