COVID-19: Parents should be invited into schools to watch 'important' nativity plays where possible, says minister

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A minister has called for teachers to resume in-person events after reports that a number of schools have moved nativity plays and festive celebrations online due to COVID.

Schools minister Robin Walker said he would like to see as many end-of-term shows and other events "going forward as possible" this term, as these are "important" traditions.

Reports suggest that a number of schools have decided not to allow parents to attend events in person amid concerns about COVID-19 cases.

Schools leaders' union NAHT said some of its members have had to move the events online or on to video as families are asked to stay home.

Mr Walker told the PA news agency: "I want to see schools continuing to engage with parents in as constructive a way as they possibly can.

"Of course where they can go ahead safely, things like nativity plays and end-of-term shows are really important and a good way of doing that. I would want to see as many going forward as possible."

Coronavirus cases in the UK are rising.

On Thursday, a further 47,240 cases and 147 deaths were recorded. Meanwhile, cases between 19 and 25 November were up by 9.5% compared with the previous seven days.

Although, cases appear to be dropping among school children.

Latest figures suggest that 1.6% of all pupils, about 130,000 children, were not in class for reasons connected to coronavirus on 11 November.

This was down from about 248,000 children, or 3.2% of all pupils, on 21 October, the week before many schools went on half-term.

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

But he added: "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, many schools were forced to cancel their nativity plays amid the coronavirus pandemic, while others hosted the traditional performances online instead.

James Bowen, director of policy for NAHT, said: "School nativities are a special occasion for pupils, parents and staff. There is nothing schools want more than to have a hall full of families enjoying the children putting on their festive show.

"However, schools have 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."

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Some [schools] 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.

"Whilst 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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