My best assembly - Homing in on the basics

5th September 2008 at 01:00

It's the autumn term, everyone's fresh and challenges can be brought before the assembled masses. It's the ideal time to capitalise on the new energy that comes with the nervous arrival of the Year 7s and the newly invigorated Year 10s.

Sue Middleton, one of our deputy heads, wanted to raise an appeal through an assembly that would be school-wide and interesting to all year groups. She wanted it to be local, with a national message, to have the pupils empathise with those they were helping and, more importantly, to have the school make a difference in the community.

As the autumn term is traditionally linked to harvest time, it made sense to echo those themes in the appeal by gathering food from those who have it, to redistribute it to those who do not. The tricky part is to capture the imagination and heart of those different year groups in one assembly.

Sue decided that in order for her to speak passionately on the subject, she would need to experience what the recipients feel on a day-to-day basis. This is how she found herself wrapped in a blanket in a Brighton shop doorway one evening.

She recorded her experiences on film and prepared a PowerPoint display to highlight the difficulties she faced during just one evening.

The charity First Base is an open-door centre for homeless and vulnerable men and women in Brighton and Hove.

It provides a range of services, such as cheap and nutritious lunches, shower and laundry facilities, information and advice services. Sue liaised with the charity and prepared a list of items that would be most helpful to the recipients: tins of soup, meat and beans, shower gel, new toothbrushes, packets of pasta, new socks and warm coats. This list was given to the pupils by form tutors during registration.

This way, the smallest contribution could make a valid difference, and all pupils and staff at the school could get involved. The pupils helped with the collection and delivery to the charity. They could see how their appeal helped give someone a hot meal that day or allowed them to have a shower - basic rights that they previously had taken for granted.

In every town and city there are small charities that often get overshadowed by bigger charities' advertising budgets, but would benefit from a local school giving them sustained support each autumn and taking an active part in their community.

Katy Poole is a drama teacher at Dorothy Stringer High School in Brighton.

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