Teachers know that the school assemblies which they put so much effort into writing may not necessarily be the highlight of the day for much of their audience. Although some boys will always comment on what they’ve heard and even ask interesting follow-up questions, others, having been forced from their beds rather earlier than they might have liked, may take the chance of a quiet five minutes to prepare themselves for the lessons ahead. The one time, however, when we can guarantee much greater attentiveness is when a pupil steps up to lead our assembly. When the whole school is together for assembly in the Hodson Hall, with pupils and teachers combined, we number over a thousand; most of us will go through our entire lives without addressing an audience this large. There is then the clear understanding among the pupil body that a peer giving assembly is an extremely brave thing to do, and that therefore the speaker deserves their undivided attention.
Of course, School Assembly has been a victim of Covid regulations as we are unable to mix boys from different year group bubbles. It has been possible to hold year group assemblies in the Drama Studio with boys on alternate seats, but we have moved online for our twice-weekly addresses to the whole school. This has made the experience of contributing to an assembly much less intimidating and I’m delighted to say therefore that the vast majority of speakers this term has been pupils.
This is an example of how at LGS we seek to create a wide range of opportunities for boys to show leadership as they move through the school. Many of the assemblies have been led by members of our student committees. We have created several committees over the last few years in an attempt to involve boys of different ages in making the school into a better place. We have a GREAT Men committee co-ordinating our efforts to make boys more aware of their impact on others, as well as Anti-Bullying, Diversity, Multi-faith, Eco, Wellbeing and LGBT Committees. This week the School Council led an assembly on World Children’s Day. In addition, senior boys have given talks on stress, charity, STEM and the work of Amnesty International. We also want to mark major events: we had two assemblies featuring boys and staff to celebrate Black History month; the Biology Prefects marked World AIDS Day while three boys gave us the Hindu, Sikh and Jain perspectives on Diwali.
Other areas where boys can develop their leadership skills include taking responsibility for junior clubs. For example, Junior Dissection Club is always run by senior boys who are preparing their university Medicine applications. In addition, we enlist the majority of Year 12 students to act as form mentors to boys in Years 6,7 and 8. However, boys are never too young to show leadership; it is wonderful to see how many boys from our younger years are represented in our standing committees. Their reward for making a significant contribution to school leadership is a ‘Heron’, a smart lapel badge, a number of which I awarded in a recent assembly.
I would like to thank Mr Parish, who has taken on under Covid the responsibility for co-ordinating the assembly programme, and indeed for the onerous task of editing boys’ pre-recorded video excerpts into a coherent whole. If you are interested in catching up with any of the assemblies mentioned above, all are stored on the Firefly Assemblies page. Please ask your son to show you via his log-in.
As a footnote to this week’s blog, I would just like to point out how easy it is to accidentally say something unintentional in an assembly, and to thereby cause great hilarity. This is one of the reasons why I have such great respect for boys who put themselves forward to address the school. I have inevitably made several howlers, not least in December last year. I was reporting on the first ever House Shooting competition that the CCF staff had facilitated. What I intended to say was “many thanks to the staff for helping the boys to learn to shoot”. However, what I actually said was “many thanks to the staff for helping to shoot the boys”. Naturally, the whole assembly burst out laughing and I had no idea what had gone wrong until Dr Willmott sitting next to me on stage explained what I had said. Nevertheless, Dr Willmott is remembered for making an even funnier error just prior to lockdown last Spring when he intended to announce an ‘own clothes’ day for charity. An alternative name we sometimes give to such an event is ‘no uniform’ day. Unfortunately, Dr Willmott combined the two phrases and instead announced ‘no clothes’ day. This will not be forgotten by the boys in a hurry! Indeed, the school’s satirical magazine, Vox, ensures that mention of this is made in each edition.