By JR on Sunday, November 27, 2011
Don’t blame Father Christmas if he doesn’t allow your child to sit on his knee at a school event — teachers may have banned him from coming into contact with youngsters. While those playing Father Christmas are no longer required to pass a Criminal Records Bureau check, many schools have decided to “err on the side of caution” and impose rules on grotto behaviour.
Parents who have offered to don the red suit have been told they must not allow youngsters to sit on their laps and cannot be left alone with them.
Because CRB checks are required only for volunteers who have regular contact with children, Father Christmases are exempt. However, government guidance states: “Under no circumstances must a volunteer who has not obtained a CRB disclosure … be left unsupervised with children.”
Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said this meant many of its members had decided it was better if Father Christmases avoided all physical contact with children.
“The climate we work in, and the risks of getting it wrong, mean many school leaders err on the side of caution,” he said. “And if you are going to 'err’ I think that’s the side most parents would prefer.”
A spokesman for the Department for Education said children could still sit on Father Christmas’s knee as long as parents were consulted and were “completely comfortable” with the situation. “Santas in schools should be treated in the same way that other visitors to the school are managed. Our guidance recommends that for such visitors a member of staff is present,” added the spokesman.
Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, added: “It would be a great shame if misinterpretation of regulations deterred schools from traditional festive celebrations.”