Youth and children’s workers who have been in the game long enough could probably tell numerous stories of the worst assembly they’ve ever done. This might just be one for the list!
A volunteer from the Mary Bass charity told the entire school of Fleet Wood Primary that Santa was “made up”. Two volunteer children were even welcomed to the front of the assembly to smash a chocolate Santa and reindeer.
The assembly came the day before the school was due to open a Santa’s grotto, organised by the school’s Parent Teacher Association! Awkward.
The school has understandably chosen to cut all ties to the charity and apologised to parents and carers.
Head teacher, Mrs Rachel Cotton said: “I have spoken to the children to help them understand the theme of the assembly in an appropriate way and apologised for how some of it was delivered. We discussed our core values of respect and tolerance and how parts of the assembly did not uphold those beliefs.”
Maybe there are a few lessons we can learn from this mishap.
Stick to a positive message. It’s very easy to rail against the consumerism of Christmas, and Santa can be an easy target. In many ways it’s right to mention how damaging this can be. Presents won’t replace loving relationships. And the pressure of Christmas giving can only exacerbate those struggling to afford it.
It’s worth pointing to a better Christmas message that is at the heart of the Christian belief. After all, that's why the school has probably welcomed you in.
But making children feel guilty or wrong is never going to go down well. Even if you don’t agree with certain traditions, tell people about yours, don’t pull theirs apart. Santa may not seem like a belief system, but to some little people he is real. The same goes for many beliefs, however big or small. Consider what will insult or harm. What might teachers have to pick up the pieces of later?
There's also a wider lesson in respecting schools. Their place is to inform and educate. To respect all beliefs including but not limited to yours. It's not a church (not that I would recommend denying Santa in church either). Respect your role within a school and don't overstep the mark. Remember your presence their is a privilege not a right.
If you want more on great school's work, the January issue of Premier Youth and Children's Work has extended their schools pages. Check out the latest issue here!