During the last few weeks before the summer holidays, use this secondary assembly to discuss issues such as whether school should be compulsory, and the minimum age for leaving. It also wishes students well during their holidays, and invites them to reflect on the year that has passed

Resources

A leader and two readers

“The End of Term and School Holiday Song” (below). This may be read by the assembly – or if you want to sing, the lyrics fit to the tune of “Streets of Laredo”.

Engagement

Leader: Just a few more days now, and we’ll be breaking up for the summer holidays. Most of us have got that “end of term” feeling. A long time ago a singer called Alice Cooper wrote a song about the end of term. Some of the words are:

Reader 1: School’s out for summer.
               School’s out forever.

Reader 2: No more pencils
               No more books.

Reader 1: Out till summer              Out till fall.

              We might not go back at all.

Leader: It’s not surprising that we all get that “end of term feeling” at the end of a long year, because school is compulsory. Unless their parents arrange to teach them at home, children and young people have to go to school by law.  But why do you have to stay at school until sixteen? Why not eighteen? Or twenty?

Reflection

Today’s assembly takes the form of a short debate. And the proposal is:

“School should be compulsory and 16 is the right minimum age for leaving.”

First, let’s hear from the Proposer:

Reader 1 (Proposer): It’s all very well for singers like Alice Cooper to talk about not going back to school at all, but life is about learning. Animals teach their young how to find food, and, back in the Stone Age, children were taught to hunt and catch fish. Life today is much more complex. We need to learn reading, writing, science, languages, and Information Technology too. That’s why we need school. And we need to learn to work together, in groups. That’s why school has to be compulsory – up to the age of 16 at least.

Leader: Thank you. Now let’s hear from the Opposer.

Reader 2 (Opposer): Let’s be clear. We don’t want everyone to leave school; we’d like some people to go on learning. But we believe in choice. Nowadays, young people grow up much more quickly than before. And, once they become teenagers, many of them find the school curriculum boring. Even though teachers do their best, some subjects just don’t interest certain people. That’s why you get people who don’t like school, and who would be better off somewhere else.

Reader 1: The Opposer should try visiting parts of the world where school is not compulsory. Many children never go to school at all, and some have to leave because their parents can’t pay school fees. These children never even learn to read and write – so they can’t hope to get a decent job. It’s all very well to complain that school is “boring”, but having no school at all is worse than “boring”. It can be fatal.

Reader 2: We aren’t against free school for children. We just think the school leaving age is too rigid. Until 1946 you could leave at 14. Then they made it 15, and in 1971 it went up to 16. Now there’s even talk of making people stay on till 18! But what’s the point of forcing people to do things they don’t like? People should be allowed to leave school at 14, if that’s what they want, and they should be given a certificate which allows them two years of free study at college later on. Then they might pass more exams and get better grades.

Reader 1: But where would all those out-of-school people go in the meantime? There aren’t many jobs today for people with no qualifications.  Some of them would hang about on the streets, get involved in drink and drugs, and maybe get involved in crime as well. It makes much more sense for them to stay on at school, until they are at least 16. Maybe they aren’t really as “bored” as they say they are.

Reader 2: School is great for those who like it. If you are good at sports or lessons or whatever, then you have fun in school. But what happens if you’ve got the wrong accent or your face doesn’t fit? You may get picked on or laughed at.  For some people, school can be hell. Why should you be forced to go to school when you know that the bullies are waiting to get you?

Reader 1: Hold on. Our school has an anti-bullying policy. Nobody supports bullying.

Reader 2: Teachers do their best, but they can’t be everywhere. In some places, bullying does happen. And the older you are, the worse it is.

Leader: Excuse me for butting in, but are teachers the only people who have to tackle bullying? Can’t young people themselves do something about it?  Suppose somebody turns up who looks different, or sounds different, or likes music that you don’t like – does that mean you have to give them a hard time?

Reader 2: In theory it doesn’t; but the fact is that young people tend to stick together in gangs or groups. They may not do it on purpose, but if your face doesn’t fit, they tend to freeze you out.

Reader 1: That’s no reason to kick people out of school at 14, or at any age, for that matter.

Reader 2: We don’t want to kick anybody out. But if you are having a rotten time – if you can’t cope with the lessons, you might as well go somewhere else…

Reader 1: If people are having a rotten time, the answer is to find out why and do something about it. Don’t abolish school. Improve it.

Response

Thanks to both our speakers. The government has no plans to change the school leaving age at present, which means that most of us will be back here again in September. School will stay compulsory, but, if we get together, we will be able to combine hard work with good fun.

So we hope that everybody enjoys the summer holidays. They don’t last forever, but they do go on for quite a long time. We hope you’ll find plenty of interesting things to do, and that nobody gets bored.

Please join in now with the “End of term and School Holiday song”. The last verse includes a prayer for those who are leaving us – and for those who are coming back too.

[If not sung to the tune of “Streets of Laredo”, this may be read by the whole assembly – or by the readers in turn]

Say “Hi and hello” to the free days of summer. It’s time to enjoy the good things that God sends. With term nearly over and holidays coming,  

We’ll soon have all day to go out with our friends.

Say  “Cheerio, school, we liked most of the lessons”. And “Thanks to the teachers for all that you’ve done. We’re all a year older and just a bit wiser:

And truly enjoyed the hard work and the fun.

Say “Sorry!” for things that you should have done better: For goodness is right and unkindness is wrong. “Love God and your neighbour” – are wise rules to guide you.

So make them your friends as you travel along.

Shout “Hip, hip hooray!” for those holiday pleasures: The lake and the mountain, the beach and the sea. Be wise and be careful – and think about others.

The wide world is yours and its beauty is free.

“Goodbye and go well” to our friends who are leaving. “We’ll see you next term” to the people who stay.                                         We hope you’ll remember our school and feel happy:

“God bless us and guide us and keep us,” we pray.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in July 2008

About the author: John Coutts has worked as secondary school principal in Nigeria, taught RE in Scotland, and has been involved in teaching and teacher training at the University of Greenwich. He currently works as a freelance writer, poet and performer.

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