Assembly points;Secondary;Interview;Sally Howell

3rd April 1998 at 01:00
One hundred and sixteen children are housed in a purpose-built school, further education college and nursery. Boarders and administration staff live in an elegant mansion on the site. We have 69 pupils in the secondary section, 10 in reception and 37 in primary.


At secondary level we have whole-school assembly every day. This explores a series of religious and moral topics.


Usually one senior staff member reads or tells a story with a hymn and prayer, but children are often involved in question and answer work during the service. They also participate through their own performance or through form assemblies, such as recounting the week's news. Our pupils really enjoy drama, but it obviously presents problems for those who are totally blind, particularly if it is not well presented. There have to be good sound effects and a good clear use of voice and differentation between voice to compensate for not seeing. Primary children take part by thanking visitors - this includes sending Braille letters or tactile pictures they make.


We use speakers from many denominations, as well as Franciscan brothers, the Salvation Army and a local Christian author of children's books. We consider it very important that our pupils become aware of others' needs, so we invite speakers from charities we have supported - schools for blind pupils in Bosnia and Thailand, Romanian children and others.


The important thing is that pupils are given the opportunity to share their achievements, including music and progress in all areas of development. Very shortly pupil involvement will be increased by the abandonment of two whole-school assemblies in favour of "Circle Time" - a structured 20-minute form period.


We aim to provide the opportunity for quiet reflection and thought, as well as developing our pupils' awareness of the world at large.


Although speakers worry about what to say instead of "see", "look" or "watch", they can usually adapt their ideas to another sense. For example, one talked about sharing a cake, which some pupils got the chance to sample and later share. Another spoke about seeds, growth and new life, with each child receiving an acorn.

Each child is given a smooth pebble to feel in one assembly, which illustrates that we are all different but also have things in common. Recently there was a chance to handle the bishop's crozier and examine the carvings.

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