How can a school performance ruin the curriculum?
It’s Christmas. The time of presents, glitter, excitement and school performances.
It is tradition.
Tradition is good. Or is it?
For many primary schools here in the UK, it will be a nativity play of some sort. It may not be the one with all the carols that you see on TV but it will tell the same hopeful story of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus.
It will have a cast of many tea-toweled heads so that everyone can take part even if they haven’t got a speaking part. Parents and grandparents will ooh and ah as their little button arrives on the stage and everyone will leave with that warm glow that Christmas has arrived.
Nowadays, though, some schools are ringing the changes. They are going for a more modern take on the tale with everyday dress rather than a costume. Personally, I would feel cheated if I didn’t have to dress up to go on stage but that’s another matter.
Others are dispensing with the nativity all together. With a growing number of cultures now in our schools, a Christian tale may not seem appropriate.
I have heard from teachers where schools now divide up the performances across the year so that the younger ones do a nativity and the older ones wait until the end of the year. Still others have a series of concerts / carol services to which relatives and friends can come and share.
But what about the curriculum?
The curriculum is full to bursting. The pressures on teachers to get everything covered are huge. Is it practical to do a school performance at this time of the year? Just think about it. You need:
- Time to decide what you are going to perform
- Time to select the cast
- Time to practice all the lines and movements
- Time to perform as it may need more than one showing
Where does this time come from in the busy, chock-a-bloke timetable?
Some schools have moved away from the Nativity so that they can link a performance to the topic being studied. Is that to reassure them that they can justify the time being spent on it?
A happy medium
As a headteacher, I struggled with these same decisions and pressures. My first headship was at a school that had a reputation for amazing shows and we had to have 4/5 performances otherwise there would be a riot from parents not able to get a ticket. It was fabulous to stand up at the end of each and congratulate the cast and staff but they took at least all of December to hone. As the expectations of the curriculum were rachetted up, we had to have a re-think because we really couldn’t justify the time. It also meant that those children who found sitting and waiting for their turn unbearable, were better catered for.
So, we went for the split – Nativity by littles in December and a secular performance usually by Year 6 in the summer. They were always wonderful but somehow it just wasn’t the same not to have the whole school together.
Remember the purpose
Giving children an opportunity to perform in front of an audience is great. It can build some many skills and confidence. However, we must remeber the teachers who have to juggle getting through the curriculum as well as producing a Hollywood production. Tempers can be raised as the tensions between the curriculum and a school performance fight it out.
We all know that this thing about time is linked to inspection and the fear that an Ofsted inspector will critise the school for ‘wasting learning time’. This is where you need to be brave. Be clear of the purpose of putting on this show and you will be able to see all the learning that will be going on and be happy to share it to whoever asks.
After all, many memories of adults go back to wearing that tea towel in the Nativity!
Do you have to make a compromise at this time of the year?
Many thanks to some mums for the photos!