Amid reports that only one in five schools is producing a traditional nativity this Christmas, JO HENWOOD has been out and about to see how Chester primary schools are marking this festive event.
Chester headteachers are bucking a national trend by telling the Christmas story.
A survey of 100 schools in the country has found that only 20% of primaries are planning to present a traditional nativity this Christmas. The Sunday Telegraph survey also found that 36% of primary schools are staging religion-free Christmas plays or have no plans for any plays at all.
Headteachers in the Chester area have decided, in the main, to present their own, very different versions of the birth of Jesus.
At Merton House School in Abbot’s Park, the children have presented the traditional Christmas story for the 14th year under the leadership of head of drama and reception teacher Millie Garrett.
She said: “Merton House is a traditional school in many ways and the continuation of the nativity is an aspect of school life that is recognised and enjoyed by everyone.”
For the 93 youngsters at Tushingham-with-Grindley CE Primary School, their Christmas revolves around the Christian story and the local church, St Chad’s.
Elizabeth Moncrieff, headteacher, explains: “We do a nativity play every year. We are a church school and it is a very important part of the children’s religious education and the tradition of the school.’
The birth of Jesus is always at the centre of Boughton Heath’s Christmas celebration. The infants have performed a nativity entitled There’s Something Amazing Going On and the juniors have presented a modern upbeat version of the story called Hosanna Rock.
Headteacher Mark Mullin said: “There is always a Christian theme to whatever we do at Christmas. How we do it will change, but there is always an aspect of the Nativity.”
Eleanor Dennis, music teacher at Horns Mill Primary School in Helsby, thinks there would be uproar from parents if the nativity play was chopped.
Bored shepherds formed the centrepiece of their performance of Rock Around the Flock.
“The shepherds are quite pleased with the stir caused by the birth of Jesus as they are a bit bored looking after the sheep,” she explained.
“They are entertained by a group of line-dancing cows and a rock ’n’ roll party to celebrate the occasion.”
Another biblical story was at the centre of Shocklach Oviatt CE Primary School’s Christmas production.
Every other year the school produces a nativity play but decided this year to present the story of Joseph.
Headteacher Kathryn Hinchliffe said: “We chose Joseph because it has a biblical theme and we are a church school. It also helps with our cross-curricular work because the children are studying the Egyptians.”
Sheer numbers of pupils of Abbey Gate School in Hoole forced staff to reconsider a nativity play, although the message behind their infant production, Clever Little Christmas Tree, was ‘thought for others’.
Year 1 teacher Linda Mellor said: “We would have ended up with a load of shepherds and a crowd of angels so we decided to do an alternative play this year. The message about ‘thought for others’, though, is what Christmas is all about.”
The 167 children at Belgrave Infant School posed no headache for headteacher Deanne Garratt. She said: “We found a wonderful story called The Last Straw by Frederick H Thury about a camel who had to carry the presents to Bethlehem.
“We wrote a script for this and thought it would make a good story for the children to act out. We were lucky to find some music for a play called Humph the Camel which we adapted to fit the story.”
For the children at Woodfield Primary School in Newton, this year’s nativity play was particularly poignant as it was the last before the school closes in July 2008.
Headteacher Alida Waine said: “This year was very special. I wrote the piece myself, called Woodfield’s Christmas Spell. I was able to draw together the school’s favourite songs and put in special characters based on some of our teachers.”