Using themes for assembly / collective worship planning
London Borough of Redbridge Advisory and Inspection Service, April 2000
The term 'assembly theme' can mean different things to different people. These notes, which have been used during INSET in Redbridge, are designed to bring clarity and to increase understanding.

What is a theme?

A theme is a word or phrase which acts as an imaginative link or trigger for a range of ideas and approaches which can be developed or taken in a single assembly, or during a series of assemblies/acts of collective worship.

What is the value of a theme?

Amongst other things, a theme can:

  • provide a focus for planning and forward-thinking;

  • excite interest;

  • act as a catalyst for imaginative ideas;

  • provide continuity;

  • suggest boundaries; and

  • provide a context for recognising and reflecting on important issues and incidents which affect the school.

Need a school use themes?

Though themes can be valuable for the above reasons, a school need not use them. Indeed, there can be dangers in over-reliance on themes. For example:

  • if carried on for too long, they could invite boredom; and

  • if given too much prominence, they can become restrictive and so form a barrier to developing other ideas or responding to something immediate. (A guard against this might be in suggesting that, though an assembly theme should usually be followed, assembly leaders should feel free to deviate from it if they judge that the situation warrants it.)

How long should a theme last?

Though a theme might be used for a single assembly/act of collective worship (see above), themes are usually used over a period of time such as a week, fortnight or half term. Schools sometimes adopt an assembly theme for a whole term.

What makes a good theme?

At least five qualities can be suggested:

  • it invites reflection

  • that is, it encourages people to think at depth, to 'get below the surface';;

  • it is 'multi-dimensional'

  • that is, it is capable of being developed in a range of ways;

  • it is attractively worded

  • through being alliterative or puzzling, for example;

  • it is relevant

  • that is, it connects with an aspect of the school, local, national or international scene

  • (eg with school Book Week, with World Food Day, with the beginning of Lent);

  • it is appropriate

  • that is, it can be understood by pupils at the school and does not compromise the school's philosophy and approach to assembly/collective worship.

What are the different types of theme?

The following might be suggested:

 
TYPE

seasonal

'three-dot'

polar

spiritual

religious

curricular

Christian

values-focused

proverbial

metaphorical

school-based

community-based

puzzling

familiar

multi-cultural



EXAMPLE

Autumn Thoughts

The person I most admire is...

Blindness & sight

Reaching out

Prayer & meditation

My kind of music

Jesus: then & now

Our kind of school

Beauty & the beast

Bridges

Tales from the classroom

People who help us

The forgotten question

Neighbours

One planet: many worlds

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