Tags: Assemblies | Classroom Teacher | Deputy Head | Headteacher | NQT | School Leadership & Management | Teaching and Learning

Gerald Haigh continues his three-part series on primary assemblies by looking at the role of the assembly leader

In part one of this series we focused on values in assemblies. We will now look at the role of the assembly leader.

The headteacher In most primaries, the main ‘assembly leader’ is the headteacher. That’s to do with tradition, of course, and with underlining the head’s authority. Along with that is the fact that the head clearly understands the purposes of assembly, and the way that it can serve his or her vision for the school. However, it’s increasingly common for the task to be shared. The deputy head, obviously, is usually the next in line, but there’s also a trend towards including other staff members. (The phrase ‘staff members’ is used here rather than ‘teachers’ because primary schools now have strong teams of teaching assistants, and there seems no reason to assume that TAs will never take assembly.) We’re very much in favour of heads sharing the task – actually it’s a privilege – of taking assembly. To do so is very much in line with the concept of ‘distributed leadership’. It’s a very clear signal to the whole community that the head is recognising and developing the skills and individual capabilities of each member of staff. It also constantly refreshes a part of school life that can easily become so routine as to lose children’s attention. We produce our assembly resources with that principle of sharing very much in mind. All of our assemblies can be delivered by any adult working in the school, with a minimum of specialist skill or preparation. ‘Wait a minute!’ says the head. ‘My assemblies are a highlight of the day. People talk about them years later. I enjoy them, and the children do too. I really don’t feel the need to share them.’ You’re fortunate, and so are your colleagues and pupils. Not everyone can make the same claim. However, one of the perils of headship is self-indulgence of a particular talent or interest. We all know the head who runs the soccer team, or the school choir, to the point where other, eager colleagues are sidelined. Think of it this way – if you’re good at assembly, you’re the ideal person to involve and bring on your colleagues. Encouraging others to take assembly is part of your professional development role. When they go for interview, it’s good if they can show that they’re at ease in front of the whole school.

The keen member of staff

But what if you’re not the head, and she shows no sign of moving over to let others do it? Someone has to challenge this, in the most positive and sensitive way possible. It’s very difficult to imagine any head not responding to something like – ‘Some of us are wondering if we could take a turn at taking assembly? We’ve watched you in action, and learned a lot, and it would be good professional development for us to have that experience. You could give us advice and feedback. You might appreciate saving a bit of your time, too.’

The scared member of staff

Some of our teachers are frankly afraid of assembly. Some staff members who are entirely confident in a classroom may shudder at the thought of facing the whole school. They really are worried about taking assembly, and will not put themselves forward – and may just refuse if they’re asked. This is a pity, because there are some real benefits to be had from being seen to take a successful assembly. Maybe if we outline them, some of the reluctant ones will be persuaded to have a go.

By taking assembly you: 

  •  Show yourself to colleagues – including the head – and to children, as a person with confidence and presence. (Providing, of course, that your assembly actually works. More of that later.) 
  •  Allow your class to enjoy seeing you, their own teacher, as a person succeeding in a bigger arena than your own classroom. This establishes you in their eyes as a member of staff and a significant member of the school community. It’s very helpful especially to new teachers and NQTs to be seen like this. 
  • Give children other than those in your own class the opportunity to see you in action. Again, it confirms your credentials as a teacher alongside other teachers. The more you have a presence beyond your own class, the easier it is for you to make relationships with children right across the school. 
  • Provide the children with a variation in their usual assembly diet. It’s good for them to see a different approach and hear another voice.

So, it’s important to take the opportunity to do assembly. Don’t shirk the task. Make the most of it.

But – and it’s a big one – all the advantages and benefits come only if you can do the assembly with confidence and skill. If you’re obviously nervous and put on an inept performance, then the effect is counter-productive. So how do you make sure that your assemblies are going to be effective?

The final part of this series covers preparation.

Find out about the great assemblies in our Primary Assemblies File

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