Half of schools in England drop nativity plays because of Covid

Around half of schools will not have a nativity play this year due to pandemic pressures – and most of the performances that are going ahead are going virtual.

A small minority – less than 5% – might yet hold live, socially distanced activities, according to responses to a survey by the Teacher Tapp app, but for many a whole world of film production is opening up.

Some schools with scope to do so are doing their filming outdoors, with footage then shared with parents and, in the case of at least one school, a local care home. In some cases, nativity activities will be filmed and edited into the form of an advent calendar.

Among those who start rehearsals this week will be Sedbergh Preparatory School in Cumbria, which normally puts on a nativity play involving its reception-year pupils, and which will carry out trial filming on Tuesday.

In a twist on traditional nativities, it will be filmed in scenes, so actual stables will feature in one, and in another shepherds will appear in fields, though alongside goats rather than sheep.

“It’s been an experience that has also prompted us to think about things a little differently this year, so that will be reflected in what will also hopefully be a fun way,” said Emma Goligher, who is part of the school’s marketing and admissions team.

“For example, after a scene the children might be asked questions about what they experienced and answer them in character. The shepherds might say how they felt about seeing the bright lights in the sky. We’ll try to link it in to our teaching.”

Last year the snap general election called for December meant many schools were faced with having to tear up plans as they became polling stations.

Pressure forced the government to step in to fund councils to find alternative venues for polling stations, though election officers in many areas wrote back to the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, to tell him there were no alternatives.

The survey this year by Teacher Tapp, which was answered by 1,483 teachers, recorded that the schools of 50% of those in the east of England and 53% in the Midlands were not holding a nativity. In the south-east by contrast, 56% said they were running a nativity activity, though it would be virtual.

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