I’m a school secretary – what your child’s part in the nativity means and why you don’t want them to be a shepherd | The Sun

WHEN it comes to the school calendar, the crowning glory for the Christmas period has to be the obligatory Nativity production.

Teachers now have the unenviable task of allocating parts to this most festive of traditions. 

Your child’s school may be progressive and opt for a more ‘woke’ version, or they may stick with the tried and tested version, but what does it mean when your child is given the part of the donkey, rather than a more coveted role?

Well, our secret school secretary, who works in a primary school in Yorkshire, is here to reveal all…


You may think that your child being given the part of either Mary or Joseph gives them (and by reflection, you) a kind of kudos – it really doesn’t. 

They may have the requisite looks, but these parts being non-speaking itself speaks volumes.


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Shepherd roles are more likely to be given to those children who like to be in the spotlight. 

Teachers know that putting these children into other roles is futile, as they crave the attention of being close to the front of the stage and the audience. 

However, being a non-speaking role, teachers can rest assured that they will not have to coax these children from the side, feeding them forgotten / unlearnt lines. 

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of the Shepherds’ costumes – hint: if you are asked to provide a tea towel for your child’s head it’s not going well!


Angels are similar to shepherds, but instead of wanting to be seen, they want to be heard. 

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These children believe they are the next singing TikTok sensation and this performance is just the beginning! 

Teachers know that these little angels will need extra time to practise their songs which means that the children will be pulled out of more of their lessons – it’s a win-win situation really.

The angel Gabriel is a slightly different matter. The child picked for this role is normally the most precocious child in class. 

It is simply not worth the hassle for the teacher giving it to another child, they will never hear the end of it.


If your child is chosen as one of the Three Wise Men it means that they are one of the best in the class – they can be trusted to remember a few words as well as make their entrances and exits in a timely manner without a teaching assistant having to bundle them off stage. 

They are also unlikely to distract the other children or direct cheeky remarks towards the audience.


You can almost guarantee that if your child is given the role of the Innkeeper they are the teacher’s favourite. 

It is the best role for showcasing an emerging talent, be it comedic or dramatic. 

The teacher knows that they can be relied on to learn their lines ahead of time, work well interacting with the other children, and get their timings spot on.


Several children will be cast as donkeys; these children all have circumspect attendance so it’s better to have multiple donkeys rather than be left with none.

And after weeks of learning lines and songs, rehearsals and dress rehearsals, tears (not just from the staff) and normal lessons going out of the window, the day of the Nativity is finally upon everyone.

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Parents watch, bursting with pride, gamely trying to catch the eye of their offspring so they can beam in their direction. 

And afterwards, no matter how bad the acting or the singing, there’s a glow because it’s nearly Christmas – and the teachers know that there are only a few more days left of term!

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