The Year 6 leavers' assembly is a rite of passage, and something we want our children to have happy memories of when they look back at their time with us. It is inevitably emotionally charged, but we try hard to make sure that it’s a celebration and an opportunity to reflect on the best parts of the last seven years as part of our school, rather than a time when lots of children end up dissolving into tears. We invite parents to join us, too, and we want to make sure that they can hold it together as well.
Our leavers' assemblies follow a similar pattern each year, which means that the children know what to expect and we don’t have to start from scratch at this busy time of the year. This also means we can learn from the mistakes we’ve made in the past.
This is what we do:
1. Ask staff to share memories
We ask our Year 6 teachers to talk for a few minutes about their class, and to share their favourite happy memories of the children. This usually gets a few laughs and makes sure the children are smiling, especially when the highlights of the residential visit are shared.
2. Sing a familiar song
Our children are brilliant singers, and I love being at the front of the hall listening to them. When I asked some of our current Year 6 children what they wanted to have in their leavers’ assembly, they all said they didn’t mind what we did as long as they had the chance to sing our school song, which a group of children wrote a few years ago with some professional musicians. We sing this whenever we get together with our partner infant school, and also when we want to make any event a bit special. Singing something shared and unique to our school is clearly very important to them.
3. Revive the school play
As in many schools, we put on an end-of-year production with our Year 6 children. As part of our leavers' assembly, the children sing one of their favourite songs from the show. This year they’ll be sharing Make Your Own Kind of Music, which they all enjoy and also spreads an important message. This means that they get another chance to sing to it us, and we don’t need them to learn another new song.
4. Avoid tearjerkers
We used to get some children to read poems or short readings about school days. We
stopped this after Allan Ahlberg’s Goodbye, Old School had a particularly emotional effect on the Year 6 boy who tried to read it out. Instead, we now share a short inspiring story based on something currently in the news.
5. Give them something to take away
We end the assembly with awards for various achievements, and then the children go back to their classes to enjoy the rest of their final day. Their parents are given a leaflet to take away containing the words of the songs and a copy of the message we’re giving to the children. The positive feedback we get suggests that we get the balance just about right.
Roy Souter is headteacher at Stoke Hill Junior School in Exeter