Deborah Rodgers, head of under-16s, tells Alan Combes about assembly at the Royal School for the Deaf in Cheshire
A registered charity with independent non-maintained status, it provides education for deaf children and young people who have additional andor complex needs. It has 86 pupils aged between 5 and 21 years, most are resident during the week.
HOW IS ASSEMBLY ORGANISED?
It's both daily (class groups) and termly (under 16s, whole school). Daily assembly is class-based and uses rituals such as the drawing of curtains, lighting candles. Collective worship is termly, taken on a class rota. This may range from a "drama production" to the distribution and appreciation of natural objects of awe and wonder. Rich textures, aromatic oils or sound light effects are used to reflect the assembly's theme.
WHO TAKES ASSEMBLY?
Class-based assembly is usually pupil-led. Termly assembly and presentation of awards is by the head of department, but involves pupils and teachers.
DO YOU USE OUTSIDE SPEAKERS?
Termly assembly is open to parents, visitors and governors. Multi-disciplinary agencies and specialists involved with students also take part, for example Halle musicians from the Manchester-based orchestra.
ANY SPECIAL FEATURES?
Lengthier assemblies are delivered by our more able students with the less able joining assembly for shorter periods. Each is child-centred and is about celebrating pupils' work and achievement.
HOW DOES ASSEMBLY REFLECT THE SCHOOL'S ETHOS?
It enhances our sense of community, recognises and respects individual demonstrations and creates an environment sensitive to the needs and experiences of our pupils.
BEST RECENT ASSEMBLY?
The first of autumn 1997 was particularly poignant. One student gave a signed performance of "Candle in the Wind", with musical accompaniment from the rest of the group, assisted by two Halle musicians. To help pupils focus, a projector enlarged a photograph of Diana, Princess of Wales, and several of our pupils who had died in recent years. This was an attempt to help students understand that these people had died, not simply moved house or gone to another school. It provided time for reflection, celebrating the lives of those no longer with us. It was an opportunity to say goodbye.