Assembly points

6th February 1998 at 00:00
Second master David Sharp talks to Alan Combes about how Oundle School, Peterborough, tackles assembly


869 boarders, mixed for past seven years, 29 per cent girls. Day students have a separate assembly. Ages 11 to 18.


On Mondays and Wednesdays, the school goes in two halves to Chapel and that assembly consists of an address and a hymn. On Tuesday there is a whole-school assembly for Year 10 and upwards. On Thursday there is an assembly for 11 to 14s, which includes collective worship. Boarders have house prayers in the evening; Friday and Saturday is singing practice in preparation for Sunday's service that all boarders attend.


Generally, it is taken by the headteacher or myself. Outside speakers are usually from charities we have supported and they outline how money the school raised has been used. Teachers pass on information to senior management if pupils have something positive to offer in assembly. The sixth form will meet as a group, sometimes with its own guest speakers.


The format is a prayer, notices and an address. The address is usually about an issue of the day, say the power of the press, the evil of bullying or blood sports, the morality of various courses of action. The younger assembly group would have the same issues but presented in a different way. For example, I brought in my own dog when we did something on vegetarianism to illustrate our attitudes to animals: just because you eat meat, does not mean you cannot like animals. Often these issues might be taken up in our internal newspaper. Our boarders rarely see television and we feel they miss out on seeing issues debated. To some extent, we try to compensate in assembly.


Apart from joining in acts of collective worship, we try to help pupils to be critical and individualistic. "This is an opinion," we say to pupils. "You don't have to accept it, but we do want you to think about it."


Sometimes students take sermons during assembly and these are particularly impressive occasions. Recently a 17-year-old boy spoke movingly about a young friend of his who had been hit and killed by a car. He spoke of his difficulty with the grieving process and tied it in with occasions of national bereavement, such as the death of Princess Diana. Another of our students went to work on an inner-city project in Brixton, south London, and gave an effective talk about getting involved with younger children at the Dick Sheppard youth centre.

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