School plays – devil or divine comedy?

As we approach the latter end of the autumn term,

School Plays

schools will be thinking of the end of termproduction. The Christmas term seems to be the time for such an extravaganza. I’m not talking about the carol service or a traditional nativity but a show with lines to be read and stage directions to be followed. Usually it is held in the evening with tickets that sometimes have to be bought.
My experience of such events is mixed. At my first school the tradition was for every child to be involved (munchkins, shepherds). We kept our fingers crossed that a fire officer was not in the audience to see just how many extra bodies we had in the hall! Rehearsals towards the end had a ‘military operation’ feel and there were many nervous children bursting to ‘get it right’. The parents came in huge numbers to the point that we did consider a third evening as well as a matinee – it was THE event they had to attend. Children were only absent through illness.
At the other extreme was a small production, just for the keen children and staff. The finished product was not as professional and the audience was quite sparse. Some of the children taking part did not attend the evening performance citing it was too late (6.30pm). I found it quite difficult but I was new to the school and still getting to grips with things. Our results were not ‘pulling up trees’ and staff felt that time spent on such a venture would cause them more pressure.  
With all the talk in the media recently about the arts in school I wanted to ask how you view school plays. Are they a necessary evil or luxury that only ‘outstanding’ schools can have? Do you spend time on producing such a thing or is it left to a school club?
 Parents – if your child is struggling at school, how would you feel if some of those extra lessons were missed for the play? Do you think every child SHOULD be in the production or only those who want to?

Please leave a comment so that we can see what the present views are!

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  • Modern Dilemma

    I can understand why some teachers feel they are too much, but as a parent I think they are essential part of early school life. And I say that as the parent of one child with severe ADHD and for whom school was an epic hideous ordeal for the first 4 years. Then we changed to a school which does the “big” productions from Christmas to the class assemblies. I can honestly say it was the work ED put into these which tipped the balance from hating school, to tolerating it, to now loving it. Quite an extreme example but even with the other 2 kids (without learning barriers) I still believe they are an integral part of the school experience.
    MD xx
    (So, so lovely to see you today. Am now off to enjoy a full catch up in the Head’s Office 😉 xx

  • As a parent I can only be happy that these events take place. My two areat either ends of the spectrum but the greatest memories of them at school are seeing them, standing at the end of the school performances, awash with self confidence and pride. This has certainly boosted their performances in school as being part of something that has brought them so much pride has spurred them on to repeat the effort in other areas where they need to have more indidvidual focus.
    I also think that it can improve parental involvement in schools. We all have the hardcore of parents that like to be involved in everything (me being one), but the performances are the things that draw all parents in, even the ones that avoid the Summer and Christmas Fairs. That level of parental engagement could be harnessed for the benefit of the children.

  • I’m quite conflicted about school plays, especially in Primary school. There is a big danger that they can take over a lot of time in an already stretched timetable, but then many people swear by the developmental experiences they have had involved in such productions. The chance to pull together as a team to produce something that takes so much work can often be really valuable.
    I had lots of interesting conversations with a colleague last year who produced our Year 6 production. I asserted my feeling that I would find it really hard to do a school play as it basically involves you as a teacher telling children exactly what to do for vast swathes of time, when my philosophy is to ‘tell’ children as little as possible and instead let them take their own path to finding things out. It’s pretty hard to produce a scripted play like this!
    Despite my feelings this way I know school plays are some of the most valued school experiences of many adults I know. As such they have to be worth missing a few lessons for, although of course it depends on the quality of the experience… I’m not sure the traditional nativity performed by very young children fits the bill…

  • Anonymous

    I highlighted your post in my Daily Digest of Education related blogs today as I thought other teachers would find it of interest. You can see it here:

  • Pingback: The Daily Digest(ive) November 15th 2010 | Creative Education Blog

  • Laura

    For me, as a mother, I would say that depends on the time consumed by the play, and if there are more than one of those events during the year.
    But, you asked, if “my child is struggling at school”, I won’t be happy for him to spend time on a play when he should be doing basic maths, reading, creative writing,…

  • 03mghanem

    I think that the whole xmas production thing has really taken over in schools- what is the point? I remember children getting upset over parts, not being able to learn their lines, or just not wanting to stand up and “perform” infront of all the teachers, parents, governers, etc. All learning just goes out of the window in the run up to the school plays, teachers are under constant pressure and stress ( as if they need any more!). In the schools I have worked at , select teachers get very competitive about these plays , and seem to make a decision that actually nothing is more important than the production at the end of the year. Maybe we need to take a step back and actually ask oursselves who these productions are for, and why we do them!

    • Julia

      I think you’re right with the need to look at the whole experience for the whole school community. It will be interesting to see comments from parents about how they see the purpose of the school play. Great to see you here!

  • We have a Y3 play and a Y4 play at Christmas (separate weeks). We also used to have a Y5 one too, but as that often was less Christmassy we’ve moved it to the spring term this year. Y6 do a Summer production after SATS. All are full singing and dancing extravaganzas and certianly ARE stressful, but children get to be involved as they like (some only sing, most get on stage with at least one line) and as a staff we think it’s worth the effort. As a Y3 team we’ve probably spent 3 hours on it with the chidlren over the past 2 weeks – and children have learning they can do during rehearsals if they’re not directly involve din a scene.
    We surveyed parents last year and the overwhelming mjority of replies suggested we got the balance about right and that it was an important experience. We’ll never please everyone – just like we won’t with sports day etc.!

    • jfb57

      Many thanks for your comments. It does sound like you have all the bases covered. I must say though that it was great to have the whole school involved but I suspect those days are long gone now! Many thanks for stopping by to comment!

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