School assembly


When I became a headteacher, the one thing that concerned me most was the prospect of taking assemblies. I was intimidated by the faces, children and adults, all looking to me for inspiration, wisdom or entertainment. I practiced my first assembly at home, many times, with my wife sitting on the floor taking the role of an attentive child!

I wasn’t a natural but over time I improved. Eventually, I came to love assemblies. Stories took the focus off me and onto our shared experience. I started to collect favourite stories and some I used many times. I discovered that, through the power of storytelling, I could lead the school into a place of worship.

Occasionally, stories were chosen to address specific issues that had arisen amongst the school community. Sometimes, a story was selected for the staff rather than the children! A carefully chosen fable in assembly could create more space for personal reflection than any ‘wisdom’ offered in the classroom or office.

Stories are powerful. Their impact can last a lifetime. Many of us have favourite Bible stories that have accompanied and guided us throughout our lives. Jesus, perhaps the greatest storyteller of all, used stories to explain the deep mysteries of God.

But stories are not simply to be heard, they are also to be told and we are all storytellers. Each one of us has a unique story that needs to be told. In telling our story we come to understand our experiences and place them in a context, our personal history. Being unable to tell our story can lead to loneliness and even mental health problems. Indeed, a significant part of any counsellor’s role is to be the audience to hear their client’s story.

During the pandemic, many of us have had experiences that we have struggled to come to terms with. We have needed to tell our story and to explain our anxieties. Most of us have been helped by talking to friends and family, but some have not had that opportunity. A report from CarersUK(1) shows that only 30% of carers have a network of people around them to support them, and 48% feel lonely and cut off. Less than half (48%) of carers feel they are able to keep in contact with neighbours, family or members of their local community.

What is true for carers is also true of other people. For example, one in three (34%) older people say their anxiety is now worse or much worse than before the start of the pandemic(2). And the Alzheimer’s Society suggests that those with dementia have been the worst hit of all(3).

Thankfully, since the beginning of lockdown, many organisations, charities and churches have been making regular calls, via phone or online, to their members and particularly to those considered most vulnerable. New friendships have been created and people have found emotional support through sharing their stories. In this newsletter you can hear from Pippa May of West Norfolk Befriending as she explains how her organisation has been helping people ‘Cope with Covid’.

The need for support from a befriender or listener is likely to increase as the pandemic takes us deeper into a second wave. For those who might be interested, we are offering a training opportunity with Linking Lives on the 11th November. Please consider it. The details can be found below.

In an old BT advert, Bob Hoskins used to say, “It’s good to talk”. In the Bible, James said, “Everyone should be quick to listen”. In the classroom teachers still say, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason”. I think they're all good advice and to some they may be a lifeline.

Keep safe.


(1) CarersUK: Caring Behind Closed Doors
(2) AgeUK: The Impact of Covid-19 on Older People
(a) Alzheimer's Society: Worst Hit - dementia during Covid-19