Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Problems - with Bells On: Columnists

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Problems - with Bells On: Columnists

Article excerpt

Retirement is great, but I miss Christmas at school. The concerts, the plays, the parties - all the activities that make this such a special time of year. But, Christmas being a religious festival, I also remember the difficulties we had with parents, such as Mrs Stebbin, who wanted her daughter withdrawn from all Christmas activities.

"We don't celebrate it," she said. "That's fine," I replied. "But we teach tolerance and understanding of everybody's beliefs. Our curriculum covers many religions and Christianity is one of them." She nodded: "I understand. I'm a tolerant person. But I want Cheryl put in another classroom when her teacher's talking about Christmas."

That simply wasn't practical, I explained. Every class would be working on Christmas activities or practising plays over the next fortnight, so perhaps Cheryl should be kept at home? Mrs Stebbin suggested that Cheryl could sit outside my room with a book for a fortnight, then reluctantly agreed to keep her off school. I felt sorry for Cheryl, who looked downcast about not being able to perform in the class play.

Mr Amit appeared two days before the Christmas concert. "Femi's in a Christmas play," he said. "It's against our religion." The class play wasn't religious. Femi had been rehearsing enthusiastically and I couldn't believe that she hadn't mentioned it to her parents before now. I explained that Femi would be disappointed, and after heavy bargaining Mr Amit said: "Perhaps she could hold the curtain... so long as she doesn't look at the stage."

Mrs Banner didn't want her child in the concert, either. …

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