Christmas parties and school nativities should still go ahead, the Prime Minister has said.
Boris Johnson told a press conference on Wednesday that despite the introduction of new restrictions in England to help control the spread of the Omicron variant, the Government was not suggesting children should be taken out of school ahead of the holidays, or plays cancelled.
He said the Plan B measures – which include guidance to work from home and face coverings for most indoors venues – do not amount to a lockdown.
Mr Johnson said: “On Christmas, the best way to ensure we have a Christmas as close to normal as possible is to get on with Plan B – irritating though it may be, it is not a lockdown, it is Plan B, it is what we set out a while back – and to get your booster and to get your jab.”
He said it was his view that festive parties and nativity plays should not be cancelled.
“They should follow the guidance, of course, but we are not saying we want kids to be taken out of school before the end of term – not that there is very long to go now – and we don’t want nativity plays to be cancelled,” Mr Johnson said.
“We think that it is OK currently, on what we can see, to keep going with Christmas parties, but obviously everybody should exercise due caution, have ventilation, wash your hands, get a test before you go – (it is) a sensible thing to do to give everybody else at the party the confidence that they are going to be meeting someone who is not contagious.”
Last year, companies and schools across the country were forced to cancel Christmas parties and nativities due to the pandemic and rising infection rates.
Speaking at the launch of Ofsted annual report on Tuesday, chief inspector Amanda Spielman was asked about disruption in schools this term.
She said: “I’m quite sure that any teacher would close a school or cancel Christmas events and nativities with a very heavy heart.
“But I will say that children have just lost out on so much over the last 20 months that as far as possible we want them to enjoy the experience and routines of school life as much as they can in the current climate.”
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi vowed earlier this month to do “everything in my power” to keep schools open amid concerns over the new variant, and advised schools to hold nativity events in the run-up to Christmas.
Health Minister Edward Argar has previously said the Government is not asking schools to cancel plays, and headteachers were expected to make “their own judgments”.
He said: “Headteachers will make their own judgments. They know their schools, they know their premises, they know their parents and pupils.
“What we are saying is people should, as ever, be sensible.”
Director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, James Bowen, said he hopes this year is the last for restrictions.
He said: “There is nothing schools want more than to have a hall full of families enjoying the children putting on their festive show.
“However, schools have so many things to balance when deciding what to do this year. They are dealing with concern about the impact of the new variant, advice from their local authorities and central government, and a wide range of parent opinions – they really are caught between a rock and a hard place.
“Schools will be listening carefully to the advice being given by public health teams and local authorities and putting the appropriate measures in place based on that advice. Where this means parents are unable to attend, we already know that many schools are already exploring other options so that families get some form of a ‘nativity experience’.”