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Silent nights for Christmas carols

A quarter of schools in England and Wales will not be holding a Christmas carol service this year, a TES poll has revealed.

One in seven primaries will not stage a nativity play and half of all schools will host non-religious celebrations. The findings will add to growing fears over the erosion of traditional Christian attitudes. The Sun newspaper has launched a campaign to save Christmas from the hands of the so-called "PC brigade", a view supported by members of the Association of Christian Teachers.

But despite this decline, out of almost 800 teachers, two-thirds (62 per cent) told MORI that they believe in God. This is slightly higher than in the nation as a whole, as 60 per cent of the public described themselves as believers in a similar poll carried out for the BBC in 2003.

According to today's poll, faith is stronger among primary teachers - 70 per cent said that they believed in God. In secondaries just over half (54 per cent) described themselves as believers. A gender split also emerges as 65 per cent of women teachers said that they believe in God compared to 55 per cent of men.

But teachers are more sceptical about the afterlife. Only 45 per cent believe in life after death and 18 per cent believe in reincarnation. Half those surveyed said heaven exists and 28 per cent said there was a hell.

More secondary teachers thought of hell as a real place.

When asked if their school would be holding a carol service this year, 74 per cent said yes and 23 per cent said no. Traditional Christmas nativity plays would be staged in 83 per cent of primaries, according to the survey, but in only 6 per cent of secondaries.

Reflecting a shift to a more inclusive approach to worship and religious education, 50 per cent of teachers said their schools would also be hosting a non-religious or secular celebration and 28 per cent said some form of multi-faith celebration was being staged.

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