Considering the point

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
VALUES FOR TODAY. By Chris Wright. Heinemann pound;17.50

ACTIVE READINGS FOR ASSEMBLIES. By Peter Norton. Heinemann pound;16.99

ROUND THE YEAR: 99 Stories for the Primary School Assembly. By Jeanne L Jackson. Leopard Learning pound;15

ASSEMBLY CHAINS: Assemblies with Christian Themes for the Primary School. By Diane Walker. Lion Children's Books pound;17

In the eternal cycle of alarm-school-home-work-bed, we may sometimes agree with that anonymous Jewish cynic, Ecclesiastes, who said "I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun". Were teachers in view when he said "even at night their minds do not rest"? Sometimes we and our pupils ask Ecclesiastes' favourite question: What's the point?

Worship and secular reflection have in common that they provide an opportunity to think about spiritual and personal values and what "the point" might be. In collective worship, it is not the quantity of words that count, but their quality, and the atmosphere created in the tutor group or hall - or not. It is also, as in music, the silent spaces between the words or notes that impact on the whole event.

Chris Wright briefly introduces values education and the need to promote both moral development and emotional and moral intelligence. Readings and reflections follow for 90 short acts of collective worship - the one I tried lasted five minutes - which might be used at secondary tuor group level.

Peter Norton's introduction to Active Reading for Assemblies discusses SMSC, citizenship, and assemblies, but not collective worship. He draws on the Bible, Aesop, famous people and charities for 55 secondary assemblies. The conclusions at the end of each interactive "assembly" are moral rather than spiritual, with follow-up PSHE tasks for the classroom.

Jeanne Jackson's primary collection Round the Year consists of 99 well-told, broadly Christian stories with short prayers to follow. Hymn or song suggestions are not included, as she thinks that schools have their own favourites. The danger here is that the story and prayer might be read verbatim by busy teachers and any old piece of music added.

Diane Walker talks about assemblies containing an act of worship. She addresses well the sensitive issue of pupil integrity when prayers are used. Assembly Chains' ring-bound format of 77 "assemblies", each with introduction, core material and prayerreflection, keeps a good balance between supplying enough material without scripting the words of the event. I did not agree with her that the Bible is like a cookery book, providing guidance in recipe-like detail, but it brought me back to the view of the preacher Ecclesiastes, that there is "a time to keep silence and a time to speak". In collective worship as well as staff meetings this is very true.

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