Parents Outraged After Being Charged to Watch Their Children in School’s Christmas Play

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

Getting charged admission to a school play has some U.K. parents hot under the collar this Christmas season. St. Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Worcester, England, announced they would be charging £1 ($1.06) per ticket for the annual nativity play for the three performances by students in Key Stage 1, reception, and nursery (that’s ages 3 to 7, according to my British husband).

Instead of parents shouting at the teacher over their precious offspring relegated to the manger goat again this year, they are now screaming obscenities over being charged an entrance fee. But it’s not the fee that’s especially troubling to folks. Apparently, it is because the money is being raised, in part, to help purchase bilingual books and story sacks for children with English as a second language. These students make up 43 percent of the student body of St. Joseph’s, who speak languages from Greek and Filipino to Punjabi and Malay.

Headmistress Louise Bury was forced to write a letter home to parents when some St. Joseph’s staff began being “verbally abused” by outraged parents when they learned of the nominal fee:

Dear Parents/Carers,

This is such an exciting time of year and all of our staff are continuing to work hard to ensure that your children enjoy an enriched learning curriculum. The Christmas performances at early years and key stage one provide a rich opportunity for the children to live out the Christmas story and are always so special.

For the first time this year we have decided to charge for the tickets. It is evident from the feedback received that there are mixed feelings about this. We pride ourselves on listening to you and I just wanted this opportunity to explain the reasons. I know that for some of you, paying to see your child perform doesn’t feel right. With ever tightening budgets and growing numbers, we saw this as
an opportunity to be able to invest in some valuable reading and learning resources for Key Stage 1 and Early Years. These resources will help to improve the home school learning for reading and therefore improve the reading progress and attainment of the children. We have plans to develop parent groups that will enable you to grow in your awareness of how reading is taught; this will
especially help those of you who don’t have English as your first language.

I fully support all of my staff and am looking forward to the performances. However I have been extremely concerned about the conduct of some parents towards my staff which in some cases I can only describe as verbal abuse. This is unnecessary and leaves open the question: do we need a parent code of conduct to protect the teaching staff who work so passionately for your children?

Your children, are the reason behind everything we do here. Both myself and my staff know the value of working together with parents and we work hard to continue to build on this. Therefore, I can only express my extreme hurt and deep disappointment when yesterday I received a telephone call from the Worcester News. One parent who wishes to remain anonymous, has telephoned the newspaper to complain about the ticketing system and the paper are running a story. I spoke to the journalist honestly and openly about the reasons for this, the fund raising opportunity and the health and safety reasons behind the tickets including fire safety. I await the story going live!

Everything I have said in this letter emphasises the importance of partnership work both within school and with yourselves. I always make myself available for any parent if they have an issue with anything and my office staff will always liaise with me to organise an appointment if I am otherwise engaged at that time. I am sorry that this has happened and will welcome your thoughts and reactions to the story.

Yours in faith,
Mrs. Louise Bury

In part, Mrs. Bury stated, “We are a very poorly-funded authority,” and explained that the school saw the plays as “a wonderful opportunity to raise some money. … We are becoming a bigger school and there are cost implications on that.” In addition, the money would be used to “invest in some valuable reading and learning resources” for the school.

Mrs. Bury addressed the verbal attacks with the excruciating politeness only a Brit can when she said: “It is evident from the feedback received that there are mixed feelings about this. I know that for some of you, paying to see your child perform doesn’t feel right. … I have been extremely concerned about the conduct of some parents towards my staff.”

It reminds me of the scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail when the Knight has both arms chopped off and says, “‘Tis but a flesh wound.”

Look, regardless of whether you feel your money should be going to helping non-English speaking children receive books that may help them learn English faster or easier, our children are watching our behavior. This is when they are learning how to treat others. We are role models and they will, in part, learn how to conduct themselves as adults based on our actions. Slinging insults at teachers who are trying to help students learn may not be the best way to handle the situation.

Schools are constantly trying to do more with less. It is their responsibility to support all students to help them receive the best education possible. When schools do this, our society has more productive members, and we all benefit.

h/t: BBC News

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