Stuff this for a lark


If you rise to your level of incompetence – it’s called The Peter Principle – you might well find yourself in something called a Leadership Group Team. You will then get lumbered with the morning assembly.

Just consider. You must fascinate 1,500 children, from 75 countries, from first years to 6th form, from pondlife to genius, all in various states of rage, gloom and fatigue. Moreover, your English department will mock your every clanking platitude.

Only a rare few can do an assembly, like my old brilliant heads, Maggie Pringle and Gayle Keller, who held the assemblies spellbound with wit, warmth and empathy. 

I had a go once and sounded not unlike like Alan Bennett’s vicar in his murderous “Take a Pew” sermon (your homework is to check it out on YouTube) – an exercise in sublime bathos. His fabulously hopeless ramblings explore the Bleedin’ Obvious with some venom, containing such insights as “Life is like a tin of sardines, we’re all of us looking for the key – I know I am.”

It concludes with the uplifting “Stuff this for a lark!” My address was a similar car crash. I too trawled through facile musings and bogus analogies, while many of the assembled snoozed – or gazed at Madame Moliere of Languages. My theme was something along the lines of “Be Good. Eat your Greens. Do your Homework”. Montaigne, it wasn’t.

Well, assemblies are even tougher now. You need to be a media event in an Italian suit, peddling bullet point wisdom from a silver screen. Meretricious Positivity is all the go. You must anchor your musings to management mumbo-jumbo – stuff like “minds are like parachutes; they work best when open”. Dear me. Or “angels get to heaven because they travel light” – or not, as the case may be. Whatever. And your theme will need to be more aggressive, something along the lines of “be a swot and drive a Ferrari”.

You can still be compelled to reflect whimsically on nuggets from more substantial thinkers – the likes of Shakespeare or TS Eliot – and reduce them to a branch of “life-skills”. Thus King Lear is about Bad Parenting! “Ripeness is all” is Meet your targets! A*s are everything! “April is the cruellest month.” Who knows why? Coursework deadlines? 

I can but conclude that the whole enterprise is a can of worms. Sardines even. Resist promotion. I know I did.

Stuff it for a lark!


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