Cover image: School assemblies

School assemblies

Amy West, Programme Manager at Think Global, considers the learning potential of school assemblies. Almost everyone seems to have a story or memory to share about a school assembly. It’s definitely a unifying topic that can encourage a diverse group of people to talk about their experiences in school. School assemblies seem to leave a lasting impression on young people, and these memories can stay with us for the rest of our lives. At Think Global we have been thinking about the potential of school assemblies over the past few weeks. I have just come back from the Geographical Association (GA) conference, where we were doing some surveys with teachers about what types of products they need to support high quality global learning in schools. School assembly packs and resources is always the most popular request! Our recent research ‘Bridging the Global Skills Gap’ also shows that there is a disturbing drop in teacher confidence to teach about big questions such as immigration, climate change and global interdependence. So maybe re-thinking the potential of school assemblies is a good starting point to build the confidence of teachers to discuss these types of issues with their students again. As I discussed the topic of assemblies with some of the team, these are some of the memories that were evoked. It’s interesting to think about whether these are the stereotypical memories of assemblies or whether these are the experiences that our students are still having today?

‘I just remember having to recite the Lord’s Prayer and pretending to close my eyes’

‘I remember Greek myths and Pilgrim’s Progress being read to us in primary school’

‘I remember the deputy head giving an assembly when I was 13, which was very pro nuclear weapons’

‘I can remember a carrot being carved in to a bird’

‘I can remember Michael Fish coming to speak’

‘On our birthdays, we always had all of our birthday cards read out to the rest of the school’

‘I remember a local group of teenagers coming to rap about Jesus’

The non-statutory requirements for religious education in schools state that all maintained schools must provide 'daily collective worship for all registered pupils and promote their spiritual, moral and cultural development'. This guidance was issued in 1994. These 1994 guidelines were replaced with a new set of guidelines in 2010. However, the guidance regarding 'collective worship' in the 1994 guidelines still remains current. Brian Walton, the Headteacher from Headley Park Primary School in Bristol has certainly maximised the potential of school assemblies for global learning, and this was acknowledged by Ofsted in his outstanding result. When I spoke to him recently, he told me about his ‘Respect’ Assemblies. They have been looking at Religious Education through different cultural lenses, and promoting identity, diversity and anti-racism. Over the course of the year children have been learning about different aspects of the six main world religions – Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism an Sikhism. So what do we all really think about school assemblies? Do they build school spirit, educate students and showcase talent, or are they a distraction from the school day? How can a teacher take hold of the educational potential of assemblies and capture the attention of their students? Maybe global learning offers us some fresh opportunities to ensure that students are experiencing assemblies that are fit for a 21st century student. A good starting point for primary school teachers is to try our free assembly pack ‘Be Choosy about your Food’. The focus of this assembly is food choices, using a story from South Africa. It has a simple PDF for teachers and a set of PowerPoint slides that you can use in your assembly. Here are some other useful resources and ideas to help primary and secondary teachers to promote global learning in school assemblies: Also, if you enjoy using our ‘Be Choosy about your Food’ assembly pack we also have a primary assembly packs on Respecting Rights, Waste Not Want Not, and Connection Detectives. They are priced at £7.50 each, or you can purchase all three for £20. Please email us at if you are interested. Do you have any suggestions, memories or thoughts about school assemblies? Share them in the comment box below.