In April 2012, I secured a deputy headship at The Heathland School, Hounslow.
With responsibility for ‘pupil support’, as an old-fashioned pastoral deputy, I plan the rota for assemblies, which are led in the main by members of the senior leadership team and heads of year. We have two areas in which they are held: year bases (which are a central base for each year group to go to during break and lunch) and the main hall, which holds two year-groups (540 pupils) and the team of approximately 40 staff who are tutors or attached staff to the two year-groups.
Lesson 1. Planning and preparation
Ensure your assemblies are well planned. Rehearse the timings, including any videos, and practice, practice, practice. You’ll develop your performance over time.
Lesson 2. Voice
Ensure you can be heard from the back of the hall, including any students who are delivering aspects of the assembly. There is nothing worse than delivering important messages that can’t be heard.
Lesson 3. Clarity
Ensure that everyone can understand your message. I like to start and finish assemblies with a thought to reflect upon so that the message is understood.
Lesson 4. Stimuli
With members of the senior leadership team having to typically lead 5 / 6 assembles each term, it’s important to include a range of stimuli: YouTube videos, students, outside speakers. Each year group at my school has two assemblies each week: one for their year group, and the second with their key stage. It’s important that we leave pupils and staff with an important message.
Lesson 5. Dead time
What do you do at the start of an assembly? Typically students can be sitting for a number of minutes waiting for the rest of the year group or the speaker to arrive. In many of the schools I’ve worked in, students have a limited grasp of music. To increase their knowledge of music, the head of performing arts produces a range of music that students listen to as they settle down. The speaker will then provide a brief overview at the start of the assembly. This is a nice way to learn something new.
My first assembly at The Heathland was an experience. Year 7 and 8 in the main hall, 540 students sitting waiting patiently, observed by over 40 staff sitting around the hall to witness the new deputy’s assembly. Thankfully the guidance from my previous head provided me with an excellent set of resources to keep afloat. Having to deliver an assembly in 12 minutes takes an enormous amount of planning, something I had underestimated whilst I was a head of year, rambling on for over 20 minutes. I now spend one day during my half term break planning the five or six assemblies for the half term ahead. I don’t think I’d be able to afford the time any other way during the term ahead.
When I started leading assemblies I used to produce a script. It helped me to rehearse my timings. Having led so many assemblies, I can now judge the overall timings. I recently finished reading a book by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes titled ‘How to be brilliant at public speaking’ and came across the model below which was adapted by Ross (@teachertoolkit). I’m sure it will develop into a useful plan on a page for assemblies/presentations in the future. The book is well worth a read.
Assembly theme: Talent / Growth Mindset
The assembly was put together after having read Matthew Syed’s book ‘Bounce’, although having read Carol Dweck’s book ‘Mindset’ I will tweak it further next year.
Syed’s book suggests that talent alone is not enough to succeed but excellence is attained through endless hours of purposeful practice, as highlighted by the athletes featured in the PowerPoint. The point stressed to the assembly audience is that all these personalities started the dedication to their craft very early on in their lives.
I then include a recording of two high attaining pupils in Year 11, who state that they were not the most able in primary, but were among the most dedicated and hardworking. With the endless support from staff and their parents, they’ve reaped the rewards. I then select two pupils from the year group who relay a similar message. Link here to the PowerPoint along with the YouTube clip below.
Assembly theme: End of Term / Year Assembly
Some of the slides have been borrowed from Ross' (@teachertoolkit) end of year assembly, thank you, sharing is caring!.
The assembly celebrates some of the successes relevant to the audience. On the last day of term we tweak the PowerPoint to celebrate achievements as part of the four end of term assesmblies (Year 7 & 8, 9 & 10, 11 and Sixth Form). My colleague assigned our A level Media Students to capture highlights as part of an 'amateur video' which included pupils from each of the year groups. The final message is the importance of time and we reflect on the life and achievements of Stephen Sutton. PowerPoint here.