DfE 'Grinch fund' to save Xmas plays from election

Education secretary says nativity plays needn't be cancelled if alternative venues to schools are used as polling stations

Tes Reporter

Grinch fund

Funding has been announced to help councils find alternative polling venues for the December election, to avoid schools having to cancel their nativity plays and carol concerts.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has written to returning officers asking them to keep disruption to school activities "to an absolute minimum" in their search for venues to serve as polling stations. 

It comes as school leaders warned the timing of the polling day – 12 December – could prove "particularly disruptive" for primary schools as it was likely to clash with traditional festive events.

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The funding – being referred to in the media as "the Grinch fund", in reference to the Dr Seuss character who stole Christmas – will reimburse costs in identifying alternative venues.

Mr Williamson said in a tweet: "There's no reason that nativity plays or carol concerts shouldn't be going ahead as planned this year."

In a letter to returning officers, which Mr Williamson posted on Twitter, he wrote: "These are important highlights in the school calendar and the result of a huge amount of hard work and dedication from staff, parents and children.

"As you will be aware, central government has agreed to reimburse the necessary costs where needed to support you in identifying alternative
venues to avoid disrupting long-planned and important events relating to this time of year.

"I would be grateful for anything you can do to ensure arrangements for polling stations keep the disruption to school activities over the Christmas period to an absolute minimum and that you work closely with local schools to this end.

"In every community, there will be alternatives and I would ask that, wherever possible, these are used instead."

Paul Whiteman, general secretary for the NAHT headteachers' union, said: "Elections are always an organisational headache for schools that are used as polling stations.

"The timing of this general election could prove particularly disruptive, landing during a special time of year for many primary schools and clashing with nativity plays or other seasonal celebrations."

Peter Stanyon, chief executive of the Association of Electoral Administrators, said he had been told that only a "handful" of venues proposed as polling stations were unavailable because they had been booked for other events.

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