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Zoom at the inn: school nativities go online

19 November 2020


ABOUT half of primary schools will not be putting on a nativity play at Christmas this year because of the pandemic, while the rest are planning virtual performances of one kind or another, a Teacher Tapp survey of 1483 schools suggested this week.

“Almost no one is even holding out hope of having visitors,” the survey reports. The Midlands reported the fewest: only 39 per cent were planning a nativity play, compared with 52 per cent in the south-east. Last year, many schools faced disruption to their planned productions when buildings were designated as polling stations for the snap General Election, and Teacher Tapp takes credit for putting pressure on the Government to resolve that issue.

Many schools are planning to create a DVD and send a copy to every family: something that has been welcomed by parents, and which addresses safeguarding concerns about recordings on the internet.

St Gregory’s CEVC Primary School, in Sudbury, Suffolk, will “absolutely be putting on a nativity this year,” the school has told its parents. The story will be told via Zoom: much of the action will be pre-recorded, but it will feature some live pieces, too. The school says: “This approach means that there will be fewer speaking parts to go round than we would normally have had, but we know that you will understand.”

The St Gregory’s production is part of the school’s Caring Christmas: an initiative that also means that cards will be sent to all the residents of the local care homes.

The Association of School and College Leaders said in response to the survey that schools were very conscious of the importance of nativity activities to children and parents, but that the Covid-19 pandemic presented problems which made those events very difficult this year.

Its general secretary, Geoff Barton, said: “Some schools will be able to stage virtual events, but others may not be able to do so if they lack the necessary technical resources, staff are absent because of the need to self-isolate, or all their energies are absorbed dealing with the day-to-day challenges of the pandemic.”

Advent monologues. Since filming is the preferred medium this year, a group in Havant is creating a “Living Advent calendar”, which tells the Christmas story in 26 separate monologues, each portraying a different character. A new clip will be unveiled each day throughout Advent.

Diocese of PortsmouthJames Burke-Dunsmore recording Ingrid Corrigan deliver her monologue as Miriam, in St Francis, Leigh Park

Some recordings have already been made, at St Francis’s, Leigh Park. Others will be recorded once the lockdown restrictions have ended in December. The project has been co-ordinated by the ecumenical Havant Passion Play (HPP) group, and performers come from churches of all denominations.

The Vicar of St Francis’s, the Revd Jonathan Jeffery, is playing the innkeeper. “I think it’s really important to keep finding new ways of telling the nativity story,” he said. “Focusing on a different character every day during December will help us to imagine what it might have felt like 2000 years ago, and engage with the hope and expectation of the moment, which we believe changed everything.

“It’s a message we need to hear this year more than ever, and, at HPP, we are delighted to have found a way to offer the story as widely as possible to the biggest possible audience.”

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