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Last Updated: Friday, 17 December, 2004, 15:38 GMT
Schools 'ignoring' Nativity play
Nativity scene
Plays are still 'overwhelmingly' popular, the Church of England says
One in four teachers say their schools are not putting on Christmas carol services, according to a survey.

Meanwhile, more than one in seven primary staff claim there will be no Nativity play staged this year, the Times Educational Supplement said.

Some 59% of teachers said schools would put on a non-religious end-of-term celebration, many citing pupils' wide range of faiths as the reason.

Mori researchers interviewed 789 teachers in England and Wales.

'Run on tea-towels'

Of these, 28% said some form of multi-faith celebration was being staged.

But a Church of England spokesman said: "The Nativity play is alive and well.

"Nativity plays are held in almost all primary schools, including those with many children from different faith backgrounds.

"Not for nothing was there a run on tea-towels for head-dresses in recent weeks."

He added: "An overwhelming majority of primary and secondary schools hold carol concerts as part of the generally high level of religious observance related to Christmas."

In recent years, even many Church of England primary schools have performed updated versions of the Nativity play.

Provided by sheet music companies, these often focus on different characters and figures from the biblical story of Jesus' birth.

In one, the focus is the star leading Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and, in another, it is the inn-keeper who gives them shelter in a stable.

The TES survey found nearly 62% of teachers interviewed said they believed in God.

Your comments

I think this is crazy. I'm no Christian but I bet these schools that don't have carols or nativity for Christmas will have celebrations for Diwali or Eid. In a true multi-faith or multi-cultural environment how can you ignore one of the most important events in the Christian calendar?
Sanjai Mehta, London, UK

The nativity play is done for the sake of a nice photograph with no thought for the religious message behind it
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex UK
I can't imagine that the majority of nativity plays that are being staged are actually going to have any luck at bringing a religious message to the children playing in them and their parents. The nativity play has become like the christening and even the church wedding - all done for the sake of a nice photograph with no thought for the religious message behind it.
Jennifer, Netherlands, ex UK

At work I am bombarded with e-mails about not putting up decorations, not mentioning Christmas, being wished "Happy Holidays" and so on. Thank goodness my daughter attends a multi-cultural school where everybody is embraced. They are putting on a nativity play. A few weeks ago, the whole school they celebrated Diwali. All major faith holidays and festivals are recognised. It gives me some hope because these children will eventually become the workforce of tomorrow and perhaps this extreme of political correctness we find ourselves in nowadays will be abandoned.
David, Ashford, Kent, UK

I think it's down to teachers not wanting to cast one child as Joseph and the other 300 as sheep, in today's overcrowded classrooms.
Tim Mann, Bristol

It's just another form of religious brainwashing. People are free to believe whatever claptrap they want, but you should let children decide when they are older.
Ray, Cambs, UK

But for Christ, there would not be the holiday. Children should be exposed to celebrations and history of all religions. We becoming non-committed and "plain vanilla" people. We should celebrate our differences, be they religious, political or whatever. Merry Christmas!!
Carol Sue Ravenel, Roswell, GA USA

Christianity is woven into the culture and history of these islands
Mark, London, England
I believe it is important for children to know about all faiths but Christianity is woven into the culture and history of these islands and as such it should have a special place in the education of all children whatever their ethnic background.
David, Gloucester

Whether or not a school celebrates traditional Christian festivals should be made perfectly clear to parents when they apply for a place for their child. They can then choose to go elsewhere.
Mark, London, England

I went to my children's school Christmas play two weeks ago and not once was the real Christmas story of the baby born in Bethlehem mentioned or even hinted at. It is a sad situation when our education system is either politically unwilling or insufficiently resourced to recognise Jesus who, in the whole of history, has done more to promote peace, reconciliation and love than any other person.
David, Whitley Bay, England

The fear of not being "politically correct" for many activities means that people will now do nothing. Official bodies state that this is to prevent insulting "minority groups" but has anyone considered that they may be insulted by the very fact that "we" think they can not be understanding of the British way of life?
Kevin Weston, Warminster, Wiltshire

Let's celebrate all occasions
Peter Connolly, Reading, Berkshire
During the year my son's primary school has celebrated Muslim, Hindu and a variety of other celebrations. Yesterday the school held the annual carols around the Christmas tree which was enjoyed by children of all faiths. Let's celebrate all occasions. The more celebrations for the children, the more peace in the world!
Peter Connolly, Reading, Berkshire

I work for an educational establishment that chose not to celebrate Christmas. BUT we all had to celebrate Diwali in a mainly non-ethnic school. Where is the equality or political correctness in this?
Anon, Southampton

What absolute tosh. My 8 year old daughter's school has a wide denomination of faiths. Their Nativity play simply highlighted the various ways different cultures celebrate Christmas or whatever pagan mid-winter festival they used to have. My 4 and 7 year olds had a standard Nativity play. All the kids loved it, no matter what faith they where. Happy Saturnalia to all.
Dave Barlow, Basingstoke, UK

Christmas is one of the central Christian celebrations and the Nativity is an integral part of that celebration. Speaking as an agnostic, other faiths are free to celebrate their religious festivals without interference or fear of being branded as racist or exclusionist - why can't the indigenous faith of this country do so?
Dan, Derby, UK

It's not just because of a wider range of faiths in our schools now but I believe it's more down to the fact that the teachers just haven't got the resources and time to stage a Nativity play. People really do not appreciate the amount of time and effort these events need and with teachers already stretched to their limits these 'extras' take a back seat, I'm afraid.
Chris, Newbury, Berkshire

Why more schools are turning to non-religious plays

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24 Feb 03 |  Politics

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