Assembly: General Election 2015

Ballot Box

Here’s my assembly for our local junior school for tomorrow morning on the theme of the General Election, you can download the powerpoint here.

General Election

What’s your favourite colour? Maybe it’s yellow or red, blue, green or purple. Maybe you prefer a combination or like there to be some kind of pattern or symbol. The media has been saturated with a competing range of badges and banners urging those over 18 to nail their colours to the mast. It’s because there’s a General Election scheduled for tomorrow.
The General Election has probably passed many of you by. It’s simply been an irritating interruption to TV, radio and social media. But maybe it has more to do with all of us than you might think.

 

Politics does have something to do with all of us, even those who are under the age of 18 and are not yet able to vote. Politics is about the way we organize the communities and country in which we live. It affects our water, our power, our schools, hospitals, mobile phone networks and much much more!

 

Every one of us, I’m pretty sure, wants the best for ourselves and also the best for society. The range of political parties competing for seats in Parliament simply shows that there might be many different ways to achieve this and so politics becomes a complicated business.

 

Good Leadership

William Gladstone, Liberal prime minister of the 19th century said ‘It is the duty of government to make it difficult for people to do wrong, easy to do right’.

 

We need good leaders in every area of our society. Without good political leaders, laws would be passed that would make it easier for people to do wrong things and get away with them. Gladstone was right about what governments exist to do – good leaders make it harder to do wrong and easier to do right. Without good political leaders, the country would descend into a very unstable place where the poorest and most vulnerable in society were not being looked after. Many believe a society should be judged on how well it looks after its most needy and vulnerable. Good government frees up people to take responsibility to do good and confront things when they are bad.

 

Explain that the children will have one vote each at the end to choose who they feel would make the best leader of the country based on what they say and anything they know about them:

  • ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won.’ (Gandhi)
  • ‘You have to be unique, and different, and shine in your own way.’ (Lady Gaga)
  • ‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’ (Winston Churchill)
  • ‘I stand for freedom of expression, doing what you believe in, and going after your dreams.’ (Madonna)
  • ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ (Nelson Mandela)
  • ‘I still look at myself and want to improve.’ (David Beckham)

 

Hold the vote with a show of hands and announce the winner! Point out that it can sometimes be difficult to choose – perhaps you wanted to vote for more than one person, or you were disappointed that your person didn’t win. But this is how democracy works.

 

In the end, everyone agrees to go with what most people (the majority) decide and once the person who has been elected takes his or her place, that person represents everyone (not just those who voted for them!) – that’s democracy!

What about you?

But what about us? The result of the General Election might affect us but we still don’t have a vote. What’s politics got to do with us?

You are already able to demonstrate your views. You live as part of a school community and reside in a local geographical community. From what I hear, you’ve got lots of ideas. You believe there are better ways to do many things. You get angry at what you perceive as injustice. You get irritated at rules and regulations that seem to have little point. You want to describe a better way to do it. So what might you do?

 

Politics in school is about making your views known. Use ideas boxes to post your concerns and suggestions. Think about what’s important for the most vulnerable in the school or those who are too shy to voice their opinion publicly.
Politics in your community can provide the opportunity to work with all ages. Make a stand, offer to volunteer, take part in a boycott, hold a protest rally and use social media. It’s all politics and you can be an important part of it.
I don’t know what the Election result is likely to be. It’s too close to call. I hope you take an interest. But more than that, I hope you get involved.
Prayer
Dear Lord,

Thank you for people who are willing to give their time and expertise to organize the society in which we live.
Remind us of their sacrifices when we’re tempted to criticise them and help us to see where and when we too can be involved in politics.
Amen.

 

PSHE Association warns against Ch4 ‘My Self-Harm Nightmare’ documentary

Channel 4

PSHE Association warns against using Ch4 ‘My Self-Harm Nightmare’ documentary in class 

The PSHE Association is deeply concerned about the content of the ‘My Self-Harm Nightmare’ Channel 4 documentary aired on Wednesday night which contains graphic depictions and description of self-harming, and therefore could be a ‘trigger’ to young people vulnerable to self-harm. We urge against any school using the documentary in the classroom for this reason.

Our Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing Advisor, Dr. Pooky Knightsmith, is a leading expert in this field and comments that:

“You should never go into too much detail about the technical details of self-harm or eating disorders as this could trigger unhealthy responses in any vulnerable individuals in your group. Talking about specific methods of self-harm can be instructive to vulnerable students.

These suggestions may also be taken on board by any students who are currently harming.

Graphic or extreme images of self-harm and eating disorders should also never be shown for the following reasons:

  • they act as a barrier to seeking help: if someone who self-harms sees images of more severe cases they are likely to feel that their own self-harming is not severe enough to be taken seriously/they’re not yet ‘doing it well enough’
  • they provide a target to be achieved, or a bench mark to strive to reach for those who are vulnerable to, or who are already self-harming or suffering from disordered eating.

Teachers cannot know who will be harming in their class but should assume that someone in the class is currently self harming, has self harmed in the past or is at risk of doing so in the future and should therefore exercise extreme caution.”

 

The Association is due to launch guidance this week on teaching about mental health and emotional wellbeing which will provide advice to schools on how to address these issues appropriately. The guidance will be free to download from: www.pshe-association.org.uk/emotionalhealth.

Easter Egg Surprise assembly

Fish Fingers

Yesterday I did an Easter assembly at our local Infant school focussed on different foods:

Aims

To explain the ‘surprise’ of the Easter story and encourage openness to being surprised.

Preparation and Materials

  • You will need some hot cross buns, a large Easter egg, an empty packet of fish fingers and four eggs – two fresh and two hard-boiled (don’t forget to mark them so you can tell which is which!).
  • Bible reading: John 21:1–14 – I used a Bob Hartman story version. You could ask a child to read this.
  • A large bowl to break the fresh eggs into.
  • A damp cloth to clean up any mess!
  • Apron (optional depending on how messy you’re prepared to get – don’t wear your best clothes!).

Assembly

Explain that this morning you have with you some different types of Easter food. Get the children to consider quietly what food they think you have brought.

 

Bring out the hot cross buns. Explain that buns like these have been eaten for hundreds of years, and were particularly popular during holidays like Christmas and Easter. The cross marked on them is a reminder of Jesus’ death on a cross, so eventually they became associated with Good Friday.

 

Bring out the big Easter egg. Talk about how much we all enjoy eating chocolate at Easter. Explain that in the past, eggs were considered a luxury food, so during Lent people used to give up eating them. (Remind the children, particularly if you have spoken to them about this during Lent, that on Shrove Tuesday eggs would have been used up in the pancakes.) Eggs also remind us of new life, and spring. Some people also say that the inside of a chocolate egg reminds us of Jesus’ empty tomb.

 

Ask if anyone expects to receive (or has already received) any eggs this Easter? Ask if anyone knows why eggs have come to be associated with Easter? Then say you want to use some eggs to demonstrate something about the story of Easter. Put on your apron if you have one.

 

Pick up the fresh eggs and make a show of ‘accidentally’ breaking them in your hand (be prepared for the egg to go everywhere, which will add to the effect). Hopefully the children will laugh, at which point say, ‘If you think that’s funny, you do better – catch!’ and throw one of the hard-boiled eggs to one of the older children. For added fun you can throw another before the children have time to register that they are hard-boiled. (The usual health and safety warnings apply here: throw low and gently and preferably to a good catcher if you know one.)

 

Explain that you threw the eggs to demonstrate something about the Easter story. The Easter story is all about the unexpected, about a surprise.

 

Read or tell the story of how the women, Jesus’ friends, went to the tomb and found it open and empty. They were shocked and surprised to find the body not there.

 

Say that we have all been expecting Easter (we may have been looking at eggs in the shops). But the first Christians were not expecting Easter at all. They didn’t expect to see Jesus again. Ask the children to imagine that they were friends of Jesus.

 

Jesus was their friend, they loved him. Then they saw him get into trouble with the Roman authorities, and they saw him die. They were so sad that they cried and cried. They thought he had left them for ever. After a couple of days they decided to go to visit his grave. But the tomb was empty! What a huge, amazing, exciting surprise! More surprising and exciting than 100 Easter eggs, or 100 eggs thrown about in an assembly!

 

The last Easter food you have brought is … fish fingers! Bring out the empty fish finger packet. A strange choice – do we normally eat fish fingers on Easter Day?

 

No, but we do hear a lot about fish in the stories about Jesus, and one famous story about fish tells of something that happened after Jesus came back to life.

Read, or paraphrase, John 21.1–14. Jesus appeared to his disciples and cooked them a breakfast of fish on a barbecue. This was the third time he appeared to his friends after he had died. They were so excited that he was alive again.

 

End by talking about how at Easter, Jesus died and came back to life. Christians believe that Jesus is with us now as our friend, even though we can’t see him.

 

Explain that the Easter story shows us how when things seem at their worst, when everything has gone wrong, we can often find signs of new life and new hope – if we are open to being surprised.

Time for reflection

Close your eyes and think of a time when you were unhappy…

Remember what got you through that time…

If there is anything troubling you at the moment try to think of a way forward…

Think of a place where you may find new life and hope…

And think how you could bring new life and hope to someone else who is in need…

Prayer

Loving God, give us open hearts and minds to be surprised by new life and new hope. Help us to bring Easter joy to others, especially to those who are sad or in need. Amen.

Egg on your head – Easter assembly

Egg on head

Here’s my favourite assembly that I do each year – feel free to use and adapt:

 

PREPARATION: One egg, towel, plastic sheeting/black sacks, a large chocolate Easter egg. You also need a willing teacher who is prepared to look like they will have an egg cracked on their head – the more senior or precious they are about their hair the better!

 

This assembly works best when done by two people, where one of you is prepared to be the volunteer who does actually have an egg cracked on their head. It can be done as a one-person assembly but you will need another teacher or trusted pupil to crack the egg on your head at the end.

 

INTRODUCTION

If possible as the pupils are coming into assembly give a class worth of pupils a piece of paper with the question “What is love?” on it, and pens or pencils to scribble down their thoughts.

 

Welcome the students and explain that this assembly will be exploring the idea of love at Easter. Ask: ‘I wonder if anyone can tell me what love is?’ Field the various responses and if you have given out the question to a class prior to the assembly share some of their answers.

 

Say, sometimes love is giving up something so that you can help someone else. For example, you may give up watching a TV programme so you can help your mum with the housework or dinner, to show her you love her. Or, you give some of your time and effort to raise money for people less fortunate than yourself because you care for them, for example with Comic Relief Red Nose Day.

 

Now, this kind of giving we call sacrifice which means ‘giving up something valuable for something else that’s really important.’

 

ILLUSTRATION

Now to explain a bit more about sacrifice we’ve got a little quiz with a big Easter egg as a prize for the winner and a nasty forfeit for the loser. The winner gets a lovely chocolate egg, while the loser will get an egg on their head – they will get egged!

 

Don’t use pupils for this, but instead prepare a teacher and another adult volunteer to be your partners in crime.

 

Ask them three questions each, easy ones to your volunteer – they of course get the questions right. The teacher is given the impossibly difficult questions – they of course get the answers wrong!

 

Questions:

For the volunteer

  1. What are Easter eggs made of?                                        Chocolate
  2. What colour is chocolate?                                                 Brown
  3. What day of the week is Easter Sunday on?                              Sunday

 

For teacher

  1. When was the first mass produced Easter egg made?            1873
  2. What is the volunteer’s favourite kind of chocolate?
  3. What was the date of Easter Sunday in the 2000?                    23rd April

 

(Ask questions alternatively)

 

As the questioning progresses it is likely that the students will get quite noisy as they see that one of their teachers will get egged. It is important that you ensure that they are listening.

 

At the end, say you are going to egg the teacher as they clearly got all their questions wrong. Make a big thing of giving the large Easter egg to your volunteer and then standing the teacher on the plastic sheeting/black sacks and getting ready to egg them. Encourage the assembly to count down from three for you to break the egg on the teacher’s head.

 

As you go to bring the egg down on their head your volunteer moves the teacher out of the way and steps in to take the egging in the teacher’s place. You carry on oblivious and break the egg on your volunteer’s head.

 

Once this has happened thank the teacher, and give them the large Easter egg, and allow your volunteer to go and get cleaned up.

 

TALK

Explain that sacrifice is a really important part of love. And (name the egged person) suffered a little there, they gave up their nice hairdo so your teacher didn’t have to take the punishment for getting all those questions wrong.

 

Now it’s easy to say you love someone, it’s easy to give someone a hug, and hugging is a part of showing someone you love him or her. But are we prepared to suffer to help others?

 

We’re coming up to Easter, a time when Christians remember the death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection.

 

Just as, name your egged volunteer, stepped in to take the punishment for the wrong answers from your teacher, we believe that Jesus stepped in and was crucified to take the punishment for all the wrong we do, so that if we chose to follow Him we can be forgiven and one day have eternal life with him.

 

There is a verse in the Bible that says: For God loved the world so much that he gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

 

Christians believe that this was the greatest sacrifice anyone has ever made, to lay down his life for the whole world.

 

You will hopefully never be in the place of having to give up your life for someone, but maybe you might think about some sacrifices you could make, to show someone you care or love them.

 

And when eating your chocolate Easter eggs, perhaps you might remember the Christian message behind Easter, that of Jesus giving up His life for us all.

Exams are ruining teenagers’ lives

Exam pupils 1

Emma Jacobs is studying for her A-levels. She is an aspiring journalist and occasional slam poet. She blogs here and tweets @ESophieJ.  Yesterday she wrote a fantastic article on how exams are ruining teenagers’ lives:

Spring is the start of a period of intense pressure for 16-year-olds taking GCSEs. Schools push their more academic pupils in order to score well in league tables. At my comprehensive school, many peers took more than 10 GCSE subjects in one summer. Some had been encouraged to take exams a year early and were then enrolled on AS-levels alongside the GCSEs.

The school day, with travel, can easily stretch from 7.30am until 5pm, and then extra work starts as soon as you get home. A 14-hour day is not unusual in the run-up to exams. There is little or no time for exercise or fresh air. Levels of stress, clinical depression and anxiety are high, and up to one fifth of my contemporaries are said to be self-harming. Eating disorders remain a distressing problem and increasingly sufferers include young men. Some schools recognise the high levels of anxiety by having strategies like “time out” for those who cannot get through an exam without a panic attack, but I see little evidence of strategies being put in place to mitigate the stress before it becomes clinically debilitating.

Not only do exams put a strain on young people’s mental health, their physical health also suffers. For A-level students all-nighters are standard and many then survive a full day of school on caffeine alone. Within my friendship group, on any given night one person is awake texting about how they’re up during the early hours finishing an essay or cramming for a test. Arguably the texting and distractions we have on our phones are part of the problem, but they are part of our world and it’s not as easy as adults think to just turn them off (I notice that adults who advise turning off extraneous screens are often rather wedded to their own devices).

After over ten years of full-time youth work I have never seen young people (and their teachers) under more pressure than they currently are.  Not only does it have a profound impact on physical and mental health it also places a challenge at the door of the church as it seeks to disciple young people.

Is more coursework the solution to this problem or does this not merely keep the high levels of pressure going for a longer period of time causing even more of a problem?

Any ideas?

Easter Assembly – Hidden Meanings

Easter - Hidden Message of Easter

My favourite Easter assembly is the egg on your head assembly, but having done this at our local special educational needs secondary school I needed a different Easter assembly.  Lacking time to plan I turned to the fantastic schoolwork.co.uk website where I came across a brilliant assembly on Hidden Meanings.

They provide a script and Keynote and PowerPoint presentations:

You will need:

  • “Hidden Message “PowerPoint/Keynote presentation (see above)
  • Small eggs as prizes
  • A Barbie novelty easter egg (or something equally as exciting!)
  • The Real Easter Egg (see note at bottom of next page)

Introduction:

Welcome the students to their assembly, introduce yourself and say that you’d like to begin the assembly today by talking about easter eggs. Explain that you don’t mean the kind of chocolate easter eggs that you eat. Easter eggs are hidden messages in computer games, art, tv shows and even web sites. Say that before introducing them to some of those hidden messages, you will first have some fun with chocolate easter eggs too.

Easter egg games:

You can show some pictures of classic easter eggs on screen and get the assembly to cheer for their favourite (award the head of year with whichever one they pick!). Then say if they want to win an Easter egg too, they have a chance to do that by seeing whether they can guess the favourite Easter egg of these stars:

  • Justin Bieber: An American easter candy called Peeps (marshmallows in the shape of easter chicks)
  • Adele: Green & Blacks Organic Easter Egg
  • Usher: Cadbury’s Crunchie
  • The Wanted: Cadbury’s Creme Egg

(NB: You will need to control this game well, keep up the pace and award any winners with a small egg)

Hidden message ‘easter eggs’:

Remind students that you were about to show them some examples of easter eggs in movies, art and even computer games. Go on to show what you mean by introducing three examples of easter eggs (pictures on the PowerPoint/Keynote accompany these):

  1. UP (2009): In the part near the end, where Carl and Russel are pointing out red and blue cars, it starts to zoom out. There, in the back parking lot to the left, is the Pizza Planet truck. The Pizza Planet truck has been in every Disney/Pixar film since Toy Story.
  2. Michelangelo’s art: On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican in Rome, the center of the ceiling is “The Creation of Adam” also know as the “ET” part of the painting. The figure on the right who represents God has a red robe flowing around him and angels surrounding him. This is actually a cross section view of a human brain. The robe forms the outer limit and the feet of God and the angels form the spinal cord.
  3. Call of Duty Modern Warware: After You’ve finished the last level (Game over/The end) the credits come up. What you have to do is to listen through all the credits until the first song ends, then Sgt. Grigg’s brand new rap Song about the COD4 series (you can look it up on YouTube).

Challenge

[Hold up a large classic chocolate egg]: This is the kind of egg most people imagine when we talk about Easter. Choose an egg that’s as silly and frivolous as possible, a Barbie branded egg for example, and ask students to think about whether there could be a hidden message in this egg as well. The answer is ‘no’! This is just a cheesy silly egg, although at least it’s made of chocolate.

Hold up the ‘Real Easter Egg’ * and explain this is an egg that does claim to have a hidden meaning. It’s been made by a company that wanted to make an egg that explained the meaning of Easter for millions of Christians around world. For them, Easter symbolises the belief that Easter brings new hope through the death and resurrection of Jesus. To Christians, it’s one of the most sacred and important moments of the year, especially given their belief that Jesus was seen alive by hundreds of people on Easter Sunday after being crucified on Good Friday. To these Christians, the chocolate egg has often been seen to represent the boulder or stone that was rolled away from the burial tomb where Jesus’ body had been put.

Allow the students reflect on the question on the final slide of the presentation “What might the hidden message of Easter mean for you this year?” and use a moment of silence while they reflect.

Assembly: New Year, new you!

Vector 2015 Happy New Year background

Here’s an assembly I did on Tuesday at our local secondary special needs school:

Lots of us will have made resolutions, and it is likely that most of us will break them. GMTV asked viewers to email in their new years resolutions. Here are the top 5 that came out of that poll:

  • To lose weight
  • Save money/spend less
  • Recycle/become greener
  • Get fit/exercise more
  • Stop smoking

CBBC on their website suggested that the top 5 new years resolutions would be:

  • To get fit
  • Stop biting my nails
  • Keep room tidy
  • Eat less junk food
  • Start a new hobby

 

Research suggests that around only 12-29% of us will be successful in keeping our resolution.

 

This January along with thousands of others I’ve started trying to get fit. For me this has involved running four times a week at 6.30am. I’m training to do the Southampton half marathon in April.

 

Do you enjoy running? If so, are you more of a sprinter, enjoying running the 100-metres or 200-metres, or a long-distance runner (5-km, half marathon or full marathon)? (Ask for a show of hands for each type of race).

 

The BUPA Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Each year there are expected to be about 54,000 dedicated runners. Does anyone know how many miles there are in a marathon? Half marathon? (Answer: 26 miles in a full marathon and 13 in a half.)

 

While gym membership is falling, according to the latest research, running has never been more popular than it is now, with more people than ever going running regularly. The most recent quarterly figures from Sport England show that participation in athletics, which includes running and jogging, increased by more than 215,000 to 1.827 million between the 2007/08 survey and the 2008/09 survey. Charity 5-km runs like ‘Race for Life’ have become very popular, to raise much needed funds for worthy causes, including breast cancer research. Marathons, whether full or half, have sprung up in most major towns and cities in the UK, the most recent being in Southampton.

 

As well as a great way of raising money for charity, running has many health benefits for those who take part: it is fun – by releasing chemicals known as ‘endorphins’, it can make people feel happier (mental/emotional health); it is good for the heart (physical health); and training for races teaches discipline and dedication (spiritual health). It is also a good way of making friends (social health).

 

Many people have a life-long goal to run a marathon. Every year many people fulfil that goal after weeks of training and preparation.

 

Many people see life as a race – a clear start, with stages to pass as you run the race of life. Clearly, everyone finishes the race of life – it’s how you behave along the way that will make you loved.

 

There’s something very special and fulfilling about running alongside thousands of other runners in a long-distance running race. This is particularly the case after weeks of long training-runs, often entirely run alone.

 

Paul wrote in the Bible:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

 

Be inspired by your fellow travellers on the journey that is the race of life, and run with perseverance the race that each one of us has entered, and all of us have the potential to win.

 

What you value will dictate how you run, and keep you going in the race of life.  When you feel tired and worn out with the challenges and difficulties that we will all face in life, how will you keep motivated? Keeping our eyes on the prize will help us to keep motivated. You finish a race and win a race by focusing only on the next step. Let God guide you, with good values, relationships and integrity this term, this school year and for the rest of your life’s race.

 

Prayer

Thank you God for being with us on the ‘race’ of life. Help us to get rid of those things that hold us back and run a race of faith, hope and love that pleases you.

Amen.

Assembly: Communication

communication

This morning we did an assembly on the theme of Communication in our local junior school.

Ways of communication

Start the assembly by saying something like this. While you are all getting settled, I’ll just have time to phone my friend who lives in London, about 130 miles away’.  Speak on the phone/to the laptop, saying something like:  “Hello, Mum, how are you? Just a quick call to remind you to remember Daniel’s looking forward to ice creams with you this week! (Pause) You had remembered – fine! (Pause)I’m in school, just about to take an assembly. I’ll talk to you later. Bye!”

Continue by saying that if everyone can wait a little longer, you’d just like to email (or text) your friend Sarah, who lives in Chile in South America. Then tap away at the keyboard, speaking as you (pretend to) type. Hi, Sarah Hope you’re having a good week, and enjoying some sunshine. Weather here is chilly, but the summer was good.  Take care and talk to you soon. SEND!

Ask the children when your friend will get the message. He might even get back to you before the assembly finishes, unless of course she’s in bed. Suggest that this type of communication, although now commonplace, is amazing. We hear about things happening all over the world within minutes of their actually taking place:

Message in a bottle

Ask the children for examples of the way people send messages today, such as text messages, email, phone, etc. Discuss ways of sending messages through the ages: messengers, post, telegrams, pigeon post.

Have the four bottles displayed on a table in view of the children. Ask if anyone has sent a message in a bottle. Discuss with the children whether they think this is a good way to send a message?

Explain that it is impossible to predict the direction a bottle will take in the sea.  An experiment was carried out tracking two bottles dropped off the Brazilian coast. One drifted east for 30 days and was found on a beach in Africa; the other floated north-west for 190 days, reaching Nicaragua. (Track these on the world map if you have one.)

Explain that, fragile as it may seem, a well-sealed bottle is one of the world’s most seaworthy objects. It will bob safely through hurricanes that can sink great ships!  Glass also lasts for a very long time. In 1954, 18 bottles were salvaged from a ship sunk 250 years earlier off the English coast. The liquid in them was unrecognizable but the bottles were as good as new!

We are going to think about what kind of message might be sent in a bottle by looking at some actual messages which have been found. Volunteers can be chosen to come out and open a bottle and read the message. Track the journeys on the world map.

Bottle 1: Thrown in to the sea at Morecambe Bay by a four-year-old girl as part of a nursery school project on ‘Beside the Sea’. This bottle ended up in Australia. Message: ‘Hello. Please will you write to me?’

Bottle 2: Dropped overboard by a Swedish sailor called Ake Viking. Picked up in a fishing net by a Sicilian fisherman.
Message: ‘If any pretty girl finds this, please write!’ 
The fisherman gave it to his daughter, Paolina, who wrote back, and the couple subsequently married!

Bottle 3: Tied to the long line of a fishing net that was found by 88 refugees who had been abandoned in the seas off the coast of Ecuador. The boat had started to take in water and the men they had paid to take them to the USA had abandoned them three days earlier. As a result they were saved. Message: ‘Help, please, help us.’

Bottle 4: Picked up on a beach somewhere on the west coast of Africa, along with a New Testament of the Bible. Message: ‘God loves you very much.’ It had been sent by a charity called Bread on the Waters from the USA.

So you could put all sorts of messages in a bottle and who knows where it might end up and who might read it. It might be a cry for help, it might be a proposal of marriage, it might bring you a pen friend, or it might be good news for someone.

God is always there

Talk about the ways the children have already communicated today, e.g. talking, maybe a phone call, smiling, pulling a face, answering the register.

Show the children some of the forms of communication that you have brought. Ask what is good and bad about each one. For example, a mobile phone is a great way of communicating with people even when they are not at home; however, it can be easily lost, and there are times when it needs to be switched off, making the owner not contactable. An email is a good way to contact someone if you don’t want to disturb them at a busy time, but some people may not check their emails for days on end.

Explain that all forms of communication have their good and bad points but none of them gives immediate access to someone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Christians believe that God is available for us to talk to him at all times. They believe that there will never be a moment when God is not listening to us. This can bring people great comfort as they feel that they are never really alone.  Psalm 121 verse 4 tells us: ‘He who watches over you will never slumber or sleep.’

Misunderstandings

When we think about how we communicate it’s really important to take the time to understand the feelings of others and what those around you really mean. Otherwise we might upset them, start arguments or just get very embarrassed.

Show the letters WC and ask your audience if they know what these initials stand for. (Answers may include Winston Churchill, West Central, etc.). Hopefully, you should eventually get the answer ‘water closet’ – an old-fashioned term for a toilet.

Now tell them the following story: A lady from England, while visiting Switzerland, asked the local schoolmaster to help her find a place to stay where she could have a room for the summer. He was a very kind man and took her to see several rooms. When everything was settled, the lady returned to England to make final preparations to move. When she arrived back home, however, the thought occurred to her that she had not seen a WC in the apartment. So, she immediately wrote a note to the Swiss schoolmaster asking him if there was a ‘WC’ in the place.

The schoolmaster only had a very limited knowledge of English and was not familiar with the term, so he asked the local priest if he could help in the matter. Together, they tried to find the meaning of the letters ‘WC’ and the only solution they agreed on was that the letters must be an abbreviation for ‘Wayside Chapel’ – a small church common in the Swiss countryside. The schoolmaster then wrote the following letter to the English lady:

My dear Madam, I am delighted to inform you that a ‘WC’ is situated nine miles from the house in the corner of a beautiful grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people, and it is open on Sundays and Thursdays only. As there are a great many people expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early, although there is usually plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation, particularly if you are in the habit of going regularly. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good many bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others, who are unable to go in their car, arrive just in time.

I would especially advise you to go on Thursdays when there is an organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere. The newest attraction is a bell, donated by a wealthy resident of the district, which rings every time a person enters.

It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the ‘WC’ and indeed it was there that she first met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat usually reserved for one, and it was wonderful to see the expression on their faces.

Sadly my wife is rather delicate so she can’t go regularly: it is almost a year since she went last. Naturally it pains her not to be able to go more often. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by all.

Hoping to have been of some service to you, I remain, Yours truly, The Schoolmaster

Comment that, as you see, it is so easy to misunderstand those we come into contact with if we are not careful.

Obviously we hope to see you in the nearest WC – that’s Wayside Chapel, of course!

 

Reflection

Do you ever feel lonely? Do you ever feel scared and alone? Christians believe that God is always with us and that we can talk to him at any time.

Prayer

Dear God,

Thank you that you are always there for us to talk to.

Thank you that you understand me when other people don’t.

Amen.

Assembly: Sharing and Working Together

Sharing

We did this assembly on sharing and working together last week in one of our local junior schools:

Preparation and Materials

  • Equipment: two spoons, sticky-taped onto long canes; some small sweets such as Smarties, or crisps; two shallow dishes; two bananas; two bags of cookies.
  • You will also need a travel bag and a couple of books. Put one book and one of the bags of cookies in the travel bag – along with other items to ‘hide’ the secreted bag of cookies.
  • Before the start of the assembly, place three chairs at the front of the assembly space with the travel bag on the middle chair and the other paper bag of five small cookies out of sight behind the travel bag. The three chairs are the airport departure lounge. Put two further chairs to one side of the ‘stage’: these will be the plane.

 

The Long Spoons

Ask for two volunteers to come out and eat some sweets. Tell them they must use your ‘Special Spoons’. The children try to eat the sweets, but fail as the spoons are too long.

 

Stop the children after a few attempts and tell them that the theme of the assembly is ‘sharing’. Give them a few clues if necessary, so that they get the idea of feeding each other with the spoons. Stop after a few successful attempts.

 

Ask the children for any examples of times when they have helped someone to do something, or needed someone to work with them. If appropriate, have some children act out their ideas, or use the ideas above.

 

Discuss the need for working together to make life better, for offering to help rather than waiting to be asked, for being open to help and ready to receive it.

 

Have a Banana

Explain that you are very hungry because you missed out on breakfast/break/lunch (whichever is appropriate to the time of day). Say you hope that, while you are talking, no one minds if you have a snack.

 

Produce a banana from your pocket or bag and say how much you like bananas and how healthy and delicious they are, etc. Begin to peel it.

 

Part way through peeling it, stop and say that perhaps you are being a little selfish, and maybe someone would like to share your banana with you. Ask for a volunteer who really likes bananas. Choose an older child who is emotionally robust(!) and say you will ‘go halves’ with him or her. Continue to peel the banana, and then give the skin to the child while you begin to eat the fruit, saying: Half for you and half for me.

 

Look disappointed that the child isn’t eating the banana-peel, and say something like, I thought you liked bananas – what’s the problem? Hopefully the child will say something along the lines that s/he can’t eat the skin, and so hasn’t really had half, etc.

 

Make the point that sometimes we think we are sharing and being generous, when really we are keeping the best for ourselves and giving away rubbish. Can the children think of any examples, such as sharing sweets but only giving away the ones we don’t like? Christians believe that everything we have really belongs to God, and we need to be responsible with it and not greedy. In the Bible we are called to be generous and ready to share (1 Timothy 6.18).

 

Finish by apologizing to the volunteer and giving him/her the second banana.

 

The Cookie Thief

Ask for two volunteers to act out the story that you are going to tell. Tell the volunteers to sit on the two outside chairs. Explain that they are passengers waiting in an airport departure lounge for their flights. They don’t know each other and are waiting for an announcement to board their planes. The man is reading a book (give one to the volunteer).

 

The lady is getting a bit bored. She decides that she will get her own book out to read (she gets it out of the travel bag).  An announcement comes over the speaker system that her flight is delayed. The lady is getting a bit peckish so decides she will have one of her cookies. Without looking up from her book, she reaches down by her bag and takes a cookie (the child reaches into the paper bag behind the travel bag).

 

To her astonishment, the man also reaches down and helps himself to a cookie and eats it all (child gets a cookie out of the same paper bag). The lady is shocked and thinks what an awful man he must be. She chooses to say nothing but gives him a look of disdain. She has a further cookie and again the man takes one and quickly eats it. (Lots can be made of this – how the lady must be feeling – her shock and surprise. Get the children to imagine how they would feel in her place.)

 

Then to her disbelief, the man reaches down and takes the last cookie in the bag, looks at her, breaks it in half, offers her half of it and he eats the other half. The lady snatches it off him and with a scowl eats it. Another announcement is made and it is the lady’s flight that is being called. She pushes her book in to her travel bag, puts the bag over her shoulder, grabs the cookie bag, screws it up in anger, throws it in the bin and with an angry look at the man, storms off to the departure gate and her plane (child moves and sits on one of the other two seats: the plane), leaving the man behind to wait for his own flight.

 

Settling in to her plane seat, the lady prepares for the flight. She reaches into her travel bag to get her book. (Give a gasp of astonishment and shocked disbelief.) To the lady’s horror, she discovers her bag of cookies! (She pulls out of her travel bag an identical paper bag to the one just screwed up and thrown away. Hold this up.)

 

Depending upon the age of the children, remind them of what has happened and point out that the man had offered the lady half of the last cookie even though they were his cookies.

 

Time for reflection

What a terrible situation to be in! But reflect upon what the man did. Even though the lady was eating his cookies, he graciously let her have half of his last one.

 

Would we have done the same?

 

Just as that lady did, do we think bad thoughts about people when they act strangely? Perhaps we should sometimes turn around how we think and respond with kindness even when we feel we are wronged.

 

In a moment of silence, ask the children to think especially of someone they might share things with, choose to work with, play with or help in some way today.

 

Dear God,

Please bless our school,

that by working together and playing together

we may learn to serve you

and to serve one another.

Amen.

 

Assembly: We are all special to God

You are special

We did this assembly in one of our local Infant schools this afternoon:

 

Start by looking through the binoculars as if bird-watching, with a bird book at hand. Pretend to follow a bird’s flight path. Every now and then say, ‘Wow, did you see that?’ Take out the bird book and pretend to search for the bird.

 

Notice the children and tell them that you are a keen bird-watcher and you have heard that there are some rare birds about. They have been blown off course in a recent storm. Suggest that the children help you. When you spot a bird you will try to describe it to them. If they think they have identified the bird they may put up their hand. 

‘Here comes one now.’ Pretend to follow its path. ‘Now this one is quite big. It is all white and has big wings. I think it is looking for fish.’ Take the first reasonable answer you hear and thank the children.

 

‘Look, here we go again.’ This one is making for the school bird table. It is quite small. I see a bit of blue on it. Oh, it is eating the nuts.’ Again accept an answer from the children.

 

Then choose an unusual bird, maybe an osprey, a kingfisher, or a bird from another continent if any class has been studying such a topic. Be very excited about this one. Lots of exclamation! ‘Imagine us seeing an osprey! Do you know how rare that is?’

At that moment another bird flies quickly past and you immediately stop talking to the children to follow its imaginary flight as before. ‘What is this one? Do you see it go? It’s brown and it’s small. Oh, quick, it’s landed on that gate.’ Keep looking. ‘I think it’s a … Oh, it’s a sparrow!’ Put the binoculars down.

 

Explain to the children that sparrows were once very ordinary in this country, one of the most common birds around, in fact. They are not very colourful. They don’t do anything very spectacular. But God speaks about them in the Bible. There is no mention of a seagull in the Bible. There is no mention of a blue tit in the Bible. Nor is an osprey even mentioned. But an ordinary, little sparrow. Yes, in fact it was Jesus who had something to say about sparrows. In Matthew 10.29, Jesus says that his Father knows when a sparrow anywhere falls to the ground. He cares about each common little sparrow. Christians believe that this means that God cares for everyone, not just the ‘special’ or unusual people.

 

Point out that recently the number of sparrows in the UK has dropped off so that in some areas they are not very common at all – they’ve become special and unusual!

 

Ask: how many of us feel very ordinary like the sparrows? Maybe we are very ordinary to look at. Maybe the things we are able to do seem very ordinary. Maybe we don’t think we particularly shine at anything. But just like the sparrow, the only bird that Jesus talked about, we are special. Each one of us is unique. Ask if anyone knows what unique means: we are the only one just like us.

 

Lewis Carroll

Ask the children if any have heard of someone called Lewis Carroll. Hopefully an older child will have read Alice in Wonderland and know that he was the author of the book. Spend a few minutes allowing the children to share what they know of the story.

Say that Lewis Carroll lived during the reign of Queen Victoria and is well known as an author. But probably not many people know that he was also a lecturer in mathematics. He invented something called the Carroll Diagram. We are going to find out what this is and maybe we will discover that the older children have been using these diagrams already as they have gathered and sorted information in mathematics.

 

Put the large pieces of white paper on the floor. To the left side of the squares place the labels Brown and Blond. At the foot of the squares place the labels Boy and Girl.

 

Choose a class or group with the smallest number of children in it, or the reception class. Explain that you are going to sort this class by their sex and by their hair colour. Bring each child out one at a time and see if they can work out in which square they should stand.

Ask the older children questions from the information on display. For example, how many boys have blond hair? How many more girls have brown hair than boys?

 

Explain that as we start the new school year many children have moved into a new class with a new teacher. In some classes there are new pupils. Some classes may even have been joined in with another class. There is a lot to learn about one another!

It is easy to be able to say what colour of hair we each have, whether we are tall or small, whether we are quiet or noisy. But there is so much we have yet to find out about one another, so many interests and talents that are developing in each of us. 

Very few people, including your teachers, perhaps knew that Lewis Carroll was not only a famous author but a famous mathematician.

Time for reflection

 

Reflection

Lewis Carroll was good at writing stories and at mathematics. Choose two things that you are good at. Maybe you could share these with your teacher when you go back to class.

 

Prayer

Invite the children quietly to look around at one another as you say this prayer:

 

Dear Father God,
Thank you that I am me!

Thank you that I am special, that there is no one else quite like me.

Thank you that you have made me in your image, which means that I am able to think and do and make and create and learn and enjoy.

Help me as I grow and change this school year, to become all that you made me to be.

Amen.

A’ Level Results – how to help your child

Exam results

Here are some top tips on dealing with disappointing results:

For parents:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk about the results, either before or after.
  • Don’t shy away from the disappointment your child is feeling. Encourage him or her to talk about it.
  • Keep talking about the many possible future paths available.
  • Emphasise how hard they’ve tried and the work they’ve put in – and why this shows they have qualities that can take them far.
  • Explain – preferably with real examples – that many successful people have taken “a zig-zag route” to reach their goals.

For students:

  • If you’re worried, don’t wait till the last minute. Ring up and ask for an appointment with your tutor or careers adviser to look at options in case you drop a grade, so you have a real plan B. Find out too if there’s someone you can talk to at school or college in the days and weeks after results.
  • Be aware of the hype around A-levels day – TV images of ecstatic students, for example – which can inflate the importance of the results beyond the reality.
  • Develop a broader perspective on your future – talk to your friends, your family and especially your teachers or tutors, who may be well placed to help you think about alternative but equally rewarding ways forward.
  • Plan to do something positive on results day, whatever your grades. And stay in touch with people, to remind yourself that there is more to life than A-levels.

Clearing 2014 – A step-by-step guide

Ucas

Around 300,000 students will receive their A-level results on Thursday, and like every year, thousands of students will suddenly find themselves thrown into the Clearing system.

If you are among them, remember – ending up in Clearing is no reason to panic. University Clearing is there for anyone who has applied through Ucas but is without a place after receiving their results, whatever the reason.  Last year almost 52,000 people obtained a university place this way, so there is a good chance you will too, provided you are flexible and get your research right.

Here is a simple, step-by-step guide to Clearing should you need to get involved on results day:

1. Check Track

On the morning of results day, log in to Track on the Ucas website to see if you are eligible for Clearing. It’s a myth that Track is updated at midnight on results day. Only the Clearing 2014 Vacancy Search goes live at midnight; Track opens at around 8am.

2. Browse courses

You can browse Clearing 2014 vacancies at any time on results day, but you can’t make a formal choice until around 5.00pm when, if you’re eligible, an “add Clearing choice” button appears on your Track “choices” screen. However, you should call universities or colleges much earlier in the day to secure a provisional offer. Discuss your options with those who know your academic background and have been advising you up to this point. You might also find it helpful to talk to careers advisers on the Exam Results Helpline (0808 100 8000).

3. Be ready to act fast

Vacancies can be filled extremely quickly, and if you’re not around at the start of Clearing places on your chosen courses may have gone by the time you call the universities or colleges. Admissions staff will want to speak to you, not your parents or advisers.

4. Prepare to contact admissions staff

When you have found a course you like, call the university’s admissions office to confirm that places are still available and discuss the course demands. You should prepare for that phone call as seriously as for a job interview. Be ready to ask tutors intelligent questions about the course requirements, and make sure you are a good fit for them. You might want to ask how the course is taught, what assessment model is used, what materials you’ll need to supply, and about the accommodation arrangements. Admissions staff will ask for your personal ID and Clearing number to confirm they can consider you in Clearing (you’ll find these on the “welcome” and “choices” pages in Track). They can then view your complete application immediately on Ucas’s secure online system.

5. Add a Clearing choice in Track

If an admissions tutor offers you a provisional place, you’ll probably be given a deadline for making a formal commitment to the course by adding a Clearing choice on Track. You can only make one choice at a time. Before accepting an offer, research the course requirements and university carefully. You are committing to years of study and should feel confident that you’re doing the right thing.

6. Confirm or pick another course

Ucas tells the institution that you have entered its details on Track. If you are successful, you will see the acceptance in the “choices” section and Ucas will send you a letter confirming your place and giving further guidance. If you aren’t successful the “add Clearing choice” button will be reactivated so you can add another choice, and still more if necessary up until October 22. Vacancies in Clearing are a shifting landscape as people turn down offers and places are filled, so keep looking at the lists.

7. Consider applying again next year

If you can’t find a course in Clearing that matches your aspirations you can always apply again for next year. Courses for 2014 are already available to browse on the Ucas website. You can start work on your new application right now, although you won’t be able to submit it until mid-September.

John Orchard a friend who is the Education Outreach Officer at the University of Essex, wrote some comments from his perspective as someone who works at a university and will be answering clearing phone calls this week:

  • It is SO important to read up on courses and universities BEFORE making any phone calls. We don’t mind answering specific questions but it’s really important that students have a good idea of what they’re applying for before they ring.
  • If you’re applying to a university through clearing find out if they have a clearing open day or tours running and make it a priority to go if at all possible.
  • Please be patient with us. We will process applications and get a response to you as soon as we can Sometimes taking time out to reflect and re-applying the following year is the best thing. Rushed decisions are more likely to be wrong decisions.
  • Please be patient with us. We will process applications and get a response to you as soon as we can”