Assembly point - Kick back to the swinging Sixties

5th June 2009 at 01:00
To be young and British in the Sixties was to be at the cutting edge of culture. That decade has just been revived at Cannes film festival, so the time is ripe to examine its legacy

The British film We Want Sex, which tells the story of women campaigning for sexual equality (the title is from their banner, meant to read "We want sex equality") at the Ford Dagenham plant in the Sixties, wowed audiences at the Cannes Film Festival. This could lead in to an assembly on the Sixties.

Ask a pupil to introduce the topic, based on what they have been learning. Get them to explain that for many people, the Sixties was a decade of fun. Britain led the world in fashion, design and pop music, and that period is often called the Swinging Sixties.

After the drab post-war years of the Forties and Fifties, it was a much happier decade. Play some songs and get pupils dancing. The country was prosperous and families had more money and leisure. For most of the Sixties, there was plenty of work. In some areas people were recruited from abroad because of a shortage of workers. You could show the arrival of Commonwealth immigrants, who brought different food, clothes, music and religion to the UK. Can pupils see any parallels today?

Many people were able to buy a home for the first time. However, in 1965, there were more than 3 million people in slum housing. You could show pictures of tower blocks to illustrate this. The Government and local councils built many new homes, including high-rise flats, as a quick solution. However, children had nowhere to play. Ask pupils how this would make them feel.

Many schools were built in the Sixties to accommodate the children of the post-war baby boom. The new buildings were a big improvement on the old, cramped schools. Ask someone to explain the meaning of the baby boom.

By the mid-Sixties, the UK had become a fashion centre. Boutiques sprang up and Carnaby Street and the Kings Road in London became trendy places to be. Show some pictures of Mary Quant clothes, explaining her role in some of the iconic fashions of the era.

Another landmark was The Beatles' debut television performance in 1962. Find volunteers to be John, Paul, Ringo and George and adopt fake Liverpool accents. Explain the term Beatlemania.

The Sixties was also a good decade for sport. Ask pupils why 1966 is such a famous year. Footballers could act out England beating West Germany 4-2 in the World Cup.

To finish, ask pupils to come up in pairs and talk about their post-war history research projects. This should provide an entertaining insight into a decade long before the pupils were born.

To view a script for this assembly, visit

Related content:

Sixties Assembly


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