Hymns for him: Nigel McQuoid, vice-principal of Emmanuel College, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, talks to Alan Combes about school assembly.
We are a city technology college funded by Christian philanthropists, and we have 1,250 students aged 11-19 (evenly split between boys and girls). We cover most of Gateshead, the northern tip of County Durham and some of Central Newcastle; 67 per cent of our pupils live in inner-city areas.
HOW IS ASSEMBLY ORGANISED?
Every morning eace student can take part in an act of worship. Mondays is a whole-school assembly; Tuesdays and Thursdays is Years 7, 8 and 9. Wednesdays and Fridays is Years 10 to 13. When not in assembly, students are involved in tutor group prayers.
WHO TAKES ASSEMBLY?
On Mondays it's the principal, John Burn, or myself. The rest are taken by members of staff. Every tutor group will write and perform one assembly a year on a given theme, by taking passages from the Bible, such as the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments or looking at the heroes of the Old Testament.
DO YOU USE VISITING SPEAKERS?
Yes, local ministers, but they do not represent their churches. We also use charity workers, and to this end we get involved every year in Operation Christmas Child and the shoe-box appeal. After focusing on the plight of children in the former Eastern Bloc, we get as many students as possible to bring in a shoebox full of toys and gifts. Last year we managed 1,000.
ARE THEREANY SPECIALFEATURES?
While city technology colleges normally get their "flavour" from the businesses that invest in them, our founders were Christians who wanted us instead to provide an education on Biblical Christian principles. During Years 7 to 11 children are taken through the Bible two mornings a week. We want to make sure that they leave the school knowing the main characters, incidents and chronology.
HOW DOES ASSEMBLY REFLECT THE SCHOOL'S ETHOS?
Take away assembly and you would take away the heart of the school. It's what gives us our corporate identity. Our academic success is not simply down to hard work - it's a product of our approach. Education is finding out "Who am I?" and touching the Almighty. So many schools want to get rid of assembly. At Emmanuel, each day begins with a consideration of "my place in front of God".
It was a Year 7 tutor assembly. Their tutor, an art teacher, looked at the story of Noah as an historical event. A group wrote a synopsis and planned a presentation. Other pupils recorded backing tracks so that five members of the group could sing specially written songs. The biblical account was then enacted in costume, with the more reserved students playing animals. As the flood came, a boy with a large fishtail came on as an on-the-spot news reporter. At the close, the group used stained fabrics to produce a rainbow. Finally, they related the biblical story to the students' everyday lives.