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A host of white angels in a rural stronghold

There are few surprises in Hereford and Worcester, one of the most rural authorities in Britain, where schools celebrate Christmas in the most traditional of ways. The nativity remains unencumbered by the need to be more culturally inclusive.

Only one school failed to do the nativity - on the premise that it would preclude the school's Jehovah's Witnesses from joining in. They are doing a concert instead.

Overwhelmingly the children are both white and Christian; traditions die hard and festive primary school productions still centre on stable scenes and hosts of white-clad angels. Whether modern musical representations of the nativity, or original versions composed by the children and teachers themselves, the final productions are invariably described as "typical".

Multifaith plays are unheard of in an area where church schools make up more than 50 per cent of those surveyed. Many schools were however keen to point out their broad coverage of Christmas celebrations in other countries.

The Swedish tradition of Christingle, a parade with candles and fruit, was being performed by some schools, often in church. One school was producing a Russian Christmas story, while several more set some scenes in different countries.

Many heads said that their schools would be developing more multicultural approaches to Christmas celebrations, and some suggested that perhaps this was all the more important in schools where there was little religious diversity. Jewish and Sikh festivals taking place around Christmas-time are recognised in the majority of these primary schools. The customs of Chanukah and Diwali are enacted with the pupils in a large minority of the primaries questioned, but most headteachers were reticent to term such activities "celebrations".

Only a handful of schools looked at other wintertime religious festivals.

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