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Secondary: Standing Assemblies

By Stuart Kerner

> Suitable for Whole School

> Aim
To encourage students to keep exam stress in proportion.

> Preparation and materials

  • An OHT with some of the exam ‘howlers’.

> Assembly

  1. Children in England are the most tested in the world. According to the Times Educational Supplement, it is estimated that they will undertake up to 105 tests and exams during their school years. These include SATs - optional and compulsory - GCSEs, NVQs, GNVQs, modular and vocational A Levels, as well as a whole range of class tests, including CATs, baseline assessments, reading, listening, language and IQ tests.

  2. One headteacher worked out that students are out of lessons for at least 46 weeks in the course of their seven-year secondary careers and spend 150 hours actually sitting exams.
  3. As a result of the pressure this creates, Childline estimates that it receives 800 calls a year from pupils suffering from exam stress, some of them as young as nine years old. Also the annual cost of exams and tests has increased to more than £200 million - a 50 per cent rise since 1997.
  4. And to make matters worse, after all the stress, anxiety, effort and sleepless nights, when the results come in, the media tell us that exams are getting easier!
  5. Some people find exams easier than others. Here are some examples of real answers given by exam candidates who perhaps didn’t do very well (you can use as few or as many as you feel appropriate):
  6. When you smell an odourless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide.
    A super saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold.
    Before giving a blood transfusion, find out if the blood is affirmative or negative.
    Blood flows down one leg and up the other.
    Christians go on pilgrimage to Lord's.
    Dew is formed on leaves when the sun shines down on them and makes them perspire.
    For a nosebleed: Put the nose much lower than the body until the heart stops.
    Magnet: Something you find crawling all over a dead cat.
    Momentum: What you give a person when they are going away.
    Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas.
    The moon is a planet just like the earth, only it is even deader.
    The skeleton is what is left after the insides have been taken out and the outsides have been taken off. The purpose of the skeleton is something to hitch meat to.
    The tides are a fight between the Earth and moon. All water tends towards the moon, because there is no water in the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the sun joins in this fight.
    To keep milk from turning sour: Keep it in the cow.
    To remove dust from the eye, pull the eye down over the nose.
    A Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.
    A fossil is an extinct animal. The older it is, the more extinct it is.
    Jesus was born because Mary had an immaculate contraption.
    Lot's wife was a pillar of salt by day and a ball of fire by night.
    Moses went to the top of Mt Cyanide to get the 10 Commandments.
    Name the four seasons: Salt, mustard, pepper, vinegar.
    Noah's wife was Joan of Ark.
    One of the opossums was St Matthew.
    Solomon had 100 wives and 700 porcupines.
    The epistles were the wives of the apostles.
    The first book of the Bible is Guinness's in which Adam and Eve were created from an apple.
    The Jews had trouble throughout their history with unsympathetic Genitals.
    The people who followed Jesus were called the 12 decibels.
    The seventh commandment is, thou shalt not admit adultery.
    What is a co-operative? It's a kind of shop that is not as dear as places like Marks and Spencer.
    What is Britain's highest award for valour in war? Nelson's Column.
    What's a Hindu? It lays eggs.


  7. But do we really need all these tests and exams? Does being bad at exams make us failures? God clearly doesn’t think so. The Bible has numerous examples of people having tests set by God, many of whom were abject failures.
  8. Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 were tested by God in the Garden of Eden. They, of course, failed, but went on to start humanity.

    Job was tested by Satan, he passed with flying colours.

    The people of Israel in the wilderness who were tested by God for 40 years (see Deuteronomy 8.15-16) and had to retake a couple of times.

    Jesus at the beginning of his ministry was tested by Satan (Mark 1) and passed all three of his exams.

    The testing of Simon Peter after the death of Jesus is another good example. Again he failed at his first attempt, but later passed, and went on to better things (Mark 14.29-31; 14.66-72).
  9. In most of these examples, those who were failures went on to achieve greatness because they trusted in God and persevered. Above all, they tried.
  10. Finish with this story to illustrate the idea that exams are more a test of character than anything else:

    A college professor stood before his class of 20 biology students, about to hand out the final exam.

    ‘I want to say that it's been a pleasure teaching you this term. I know you've all worked extremely hard and many of you are off to medical school after the summer holiday.

    ‘So that no one gets their overall grades messed up because they might have been celebrating a bit too much this week, anyone who would like to opt out of the final exam today will receive a B for the course.’

    There was much rejoicing among the class as students got up, passed by the professor to thank him and sign out on his offer. As the last taker left the room, the professor looked out over the handful of remaining students and asked, ‘Anyone else? This is your last chance.’

    One final student rose up and took the offer.

    The professor closed the door and took attendance of those students remaining. ‘I'm glad to see you believe in yourself,’ he said. ‘You all have A's.’

> Time for reflection


Lord, it seems as though our lives are one test after another,

weighing us in somebody's balance.

Save us from taking the coming tests too seriously or too lightly,

but grant that we may reflect the best of the work we've done

and the best of the teaching we've received,

through Jesus Christ our Lord,



Sometimes it seems as though our lives are one test after another,

weighing us in somebody's balance.

The coming tests are important, but we should keep things in perspective

and not get too worried about them.

We hope our efforts will reflect the best of the work we've done

and the best of the teaching we've received.

> Hymn

The wise may bring their learning’



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