Nativity plays ‘should go ahead’ this year despite Covid, says schools minister

Some schools are going ahead with in-person plays, while others are making parents tune in via video links (Picture: PA / Getty)

End-of-term shows and nativity plays are the stuff of school tradition and this year should be no different, the Government says.

Schools minister Robin Walker said he would like to see as many school celebrations go ahead ‘as possible’ this term.

His comments come amid reports that a number of schools have decided not to let parents attend nativity plays or festive celebrations in person amid concerns about coronavirus.

When asked whether it was wrong for schools to axe in-person nativity plays, Mr Walker said: ‘I think it’s good where those important traditions can be maintained that they are.’

But he said he recognised that some schools would feel it was safer to only let parents watch events remotely.

Mr Walker said: ‘Of course I understand there will be schools that feel that they have to take extra precautions and particularly when it’s about adults coming into a school and they need to be able to look at their local circumstances.

‘They need to be able to work with the local directors of public health who will have a feel for the local situation. And I respect that that’s going to be different in different parts of the country.’

Last year, lots of schools were forced to cancel their nativity plays because of the pandemic, while others hosted the traditional performances online instead.

Who remembers being in the school nativity? (Picture: Getty Images)

Schools leaders’ union NAHT said this year some of its members have had to do the same again.

James Bowen, director of policy for NAHT, said while nativities were special occasions schools had ‘so many things to balance when deciding what to do this year’.

‘They are dealing with varying advice from their local authorities, central government advice, and a wide range of parent opinions – they really are caught between a rock and a hard place,’ he added.

‘Schools will be listening carefully to the advice being given by the public health teams and local authorities and putting the appropriate measures in place based on that advice.

‘Where this means parents are unable to attend, we already know that many schools are already exploring other options so that families get some form of a nativity experience.

Schools minister Robin Walker says school end of term plays are an important tradition (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Everyone will be hoping that this is the last year where restrictions will be necessary.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), added: ‘Christmas activities, such as nativity plays and end-of-term shows, are an important part of school life and an enormous amount of time and effort goes into putting them together.

‘Leaders will, however, be realistic about the significant challenges they continue to face in tackling the disruption to normal school life brought by the coronavirus and will try to be flexible in managing the risks presented by bringing family members into the school environment to attend performances.

‘Some may, reluctantly, decide to cancel shows but the technology that has played such a vital role in education during the pandemic also offers schools the opportunity to stage virtual performances.

‘While this is no replacement for watching young people performing in person, it does mean that the show can go on for many schools.’

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