Perfect Timing In A Primary School Assembly

Planning your assembly timings

Fitting activities, games, songs, stories and more into your primary school collective worship can be difficult. Here’s how to make it work…

Planning assemblies can be difficult – particularly for busy teachers. You might have the “perfect” collective worship lined up – everything hangs together, you have a consistent message, a variety of ways for children to engage and a wonderfully creative reflection to finish with – but, it all falls apart halfway through when you realise you will have to cut some sections or miss things out because you are running out of time!

Here are just four things you need to remember that might help you stay on track and finish strong:

1. Give every aspect of your assembly equal attention

We all have favourite aspects of collective worship when we deliver it. Maybe you love a good song, can’t wait for the story or like to emphasise the prayer. We run the danger of compiling “filler” until we get to the main “bit” that we especially enjoy. This ignores what Marlene LeFever* would refer to as the “learning styles” of our students. We might be conscious of this in the classroom but then neglect it when planning collective worship. Each child will engage at different stages in the collective worship – we need to give each area the attention it deserves. If we do this, we should find we have balance and are clearer on the time each section will take. Getting carried away with your “favourite bit” will mean time runs away from you.

2. Plan your assembly timings

Donald Rumsfeld  says “There are known unknowns, that is to say, there are things we know we don’t know.” In your collective worship time, especially with KS1, you have to give a bit of time to the children coming in for worship and getting settled – allow EXTRA time if this is the first assembly with reception children joining the rest of the Infants. You also need to plan in time for children to come out to the front if helping and the time it will explain what it is you need them to do. Finally, If just before you kick off the Head hijacks the assembly with sixteen notices or needs to shave off five minutes at the end for a special announcement you’ll be glad of that buffer!

3. Don’t get distracted

If you are leading collective worship, you should REALLY be able to focus on the content and deliver it. This might not work if you are the only member of staff in the hall. Yes, it is challenging for staff who aren’t leading collective worship to be present when there is so much that could be done in the 15 minute window of someone else having their class’s attention – however, if there is noise or misbehaving – as the leader of the assembly, this is unwanted distraction and puts you in the place of both trying to deliver a collective worship AND manage behaviour at the same time. Although this is usual for the classroom, it is unhelpful when you have 120 students rather than your usual 30. Make sure at least one other member of staff is present and briefed to nip conversation or poor behaviour in the bud – so you don’t have to and can concentrate on delivering an excellent assembly.

4. Have a backup plan

This is especially true if your collective worship relies on a music track playing for a reflection or a video clip** tells the story. Technology – even checked and double checked – can go wrong. In that unfortunate circumstance make sure you have a backup. If video was going to tell the story – do you know the story, could you tell it another way? If music was going to play for a reflection – is there a musical member of staff on hand at the piano just incase? Have some ideas stored in your plan – If things are going astray could you cut a 6 minute activity out of your assembly and bring in a 2 minute song or hymn?


These are the four main areas where time might get away from you – pay attention, be on top of these – and if you have planned well, your timing should be bang on!

* Marlene LeFever wrote a book called “Learning Styles” – imaginative, analytic, common sense, and dynamic – how we lead collective worship needs to consider each.

** Video Clips can fail if you are trying to play them over your school Wifi. Make sure they play by downloading them first – you then don’t need to rely on an internet connection and there shouldn’t be any buffering issues or delay. To do this, type the URL of your desired clip in to and select your download option.

Why not sign up for a free trial of Big Start Assemblies? You’ll get downloadable resources that help you plan and deliver KS1 and KS2 collective worship. If you’re looking for more tips and advice check out Five Ideas for Telling Stories in School AssembliesOur Top Tip for Preparing Collective Worship, and Getting KS1 & KS2 Collective Worship Right