Nativity news makes sense

As school term ends for the Christmas holidays it’s not just teachers and pupils who will be looking forward to a fortnight off – parents will be mightily relieved too. Especially the parents of primary school children. Because on top of the challenges facing every busy household in the run up to Christmas, primary school parents will also have had to deal with seemingly endless requests via the schoolbag mail.

During December the requests come in rapid succession. There are order forms to return to buy the Christmas cards your child designed. But please keep doing this – I love receiving these cards drawn by my friends’ kids and the cards raise decent amounts for school funds.

Then come requests to bake cakes and donate tombola bottles for the school Christmas Fair. Of course, you then must attend said fair to buy someone else’s home-baking and to pay to win hand-soap you don’t like, while the Rioja Reserva you donated is seemingly ‘lost’ in the staffroom.

You’ll also come home laden with the glitter-drenched decorations your child has spent all December making. Our Christmas tree is still topped by a 17-year-old paper plate masquerading as an angel. There’s a green polystyrene bell somewhere of similar vintage, which used to be part of an egg tray… Treasure these.

A 17-year-old paper plate masquerading as an angel…

There might be a Christmas Jumper Day with a suggested donation to charity, plus a gift to find or make for the teacher, and Christmas cards to be written… make sure no-one has been missed out!

Then follows the note with costume requirements for the nativity/Christmas play/carol concert. Will your child be a shepherd again this year? Or is the school going all ‘Love Actually’ and you’ll have to design an octopus or lobster? Hopefully it’s as simple as a Santa hat with school uniform. Whatever they wear, you’re going to want to attend. But the struggle to get time off work is real, and many parents are not able to make it at all.

There is nothing more guaranteed to bring Christmas alive than the sound of tiny children singing carols and I was lucky to make it to almost every concert ours were involved in. My most cherished memory is the time our tiny one (now 20 and taller than me) burst into loud, inconsolable sobs during ‘Away in a Manger’ because she had only just realised baby Jesus didn’t have a proper cot.

Do I have that moment on video? I don’t. The school at that time had a policy of no cameras during performances, so I saw it with my own (tear-filling) eyes. But for a lot of working parents that policy was unacceptable. Why couldn’t the show be filmed so working mums and dads could catch up later? No photos either? Shame! A good explanation was never given, and I always felt the school were being miserly. Others had a more relaxed policy. Why the discrepancy?

A friend is a social worker, and this week she explained it to me perfectly. The reason behind a filming ban is often that there is a cared-for child on stage; one who has been removed from an abusive, dangerous life and is looked after in a children’s home or with a foster family. Your proud post on Facebook might inadvertently show them in the background.

If shared by a well-meaning friend, neighbour or grandparent, the abusers might see it and they’ll then know the child’s school. This could mean the child being uprooted again, to be moved to another foster family, or a new children’s home. For the school the option is either to exclude the child from the show, exclude cameras to protect them, or hope parents can be trusted not to post images online. This was never properly explained to us as parents but thanks to my friend, it now all makes sense. Of course, it’s exactly right that schools do all they can to protect their most vulnerable pupils. How lovely it would be if that didn’t have to happen.

If you were lucky enough to have seen your child perform, cherish that memory; you don’t need it on film.

This post first appeared in Seven Days, published by SPP and issued with The Inverness Courier, The Northern Scot and four other titles across the north of Scotland, week ended 21st December 2018.

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