Blackpool schools opt out of ‘One Britain One Nation’ singing amid Covid guidance confusion

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Blackpool school leaders have said their resort pupils won’t be joining in with the Government’s call for children to sing a patriotic song tomorrow, because singing “still isn’t allowed” in schools.

The Government is encouraging school children to sing a patriotic song which celebrates a “strong Britain great nation.”

The move is part of One Britain One Nation Day on Friday, June 25 – which is a government-backed campaign that aims to instil pride in Britain.

In a post on social media, the Department for Education said: “We’re encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June, when children can learn about our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect.”

The OBON website describes its vision as to “create a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”.

But leaders in schools across the resort said their pupils will not be participating in the event, largely due to guidance set out by the Government itself about singing.

A spokesman for Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT), one of the resort’s biggest trusts which runs schools including Montgomery Academy, Gateway Academy and Westcliff Primary Academy, said: “The answer is going to be no, largely because [they’ve] only just heard about it, and the other thing is, singing still isn’t allowed in schools.

“Assemblies haven’t been held for ages, so it’s not been approved as yet.”

One Britain One Nation 2021: Blackpool school leaders say they won't be participating in OBON Day tomorrow - because they were not told about it soon enough by the Department of Education, and singing restrictions still aren't lifted in schools. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)One Britain One Nation 2021: Blackpool school leaders say they won’t be participating in OBON Day tomorrow – because they were not told about it soon enough by the Department of Education, and singing restrictions still aren’t lifted in schools. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Government guidance around singing in schools during the pandemic outlines the “additional risk” of singing in schools – but allows for music lessons to continue to take place.

It says: “There may be an additional risk of infection in environments where singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments, dance or drama takes place. Singing, wind and brass playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles, or assemblies unless significant space, natural airflow and strict social distancing and mitigation can be maintained.

“You should take particular care in music, dance and drama lessons to observe social distancing where possible. Additionally, you should keep any background or accompanying music to levels which do not encourage teachers or other performers to raise their voices unduly.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “The department has not asked people to sing songs or endorsed any specific materials for One Britain One Nation day.”

But on June 3, it shared a Twitter post from One Britain One Nation, which said: “Inspiring a generation. Urging all schools to join us on 25th June for #OBONDAY2021 campaign supported by @educationgovuk to spread the message of #Pride #Unity #Love #Respect for all through a song composed by @StJohnsCE.”

The Musicians Union also advises music teachers to “avoiding singing, wind and brass playing in larger groups unless there is sufficient space and ventilation, or the activity can take place outdoors.”

Despite this, a promotional video for OBON Day showed children waving flags and singing the lyrics: “We are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team.

“Our nation survived through many storms and many wars.”

The campaign was founded by retired police inspector Kash Singh, who said the concept was “born from my dream as a police officer” after coming to the UK as a six-year-old boy who “couldn’t speak a word of English”.

He said he set up the campaign in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 2013 after retiring from the police force in 2012.

But Anchorsholme Academy headteacher Graeme Dow said although the One Britain One Nation song was a “jolly little tune,” he was not aware of the campaign being promoted locally.

He added that despite calls for singing nationally, the Government still had not fully permitted the activity in schools.

Mr Dow said: “It has certainly not been promoted to schools locally, not that I am aware of. It is a jolly little tune and it is always lovely to hear children singing.

“As this is the first I have really heard about it, that would not be enough time for us to prepare the children to sing it. As such, we would not be able to take part, even if we were asked to do so (and nobody has asked us).

“I’m not sure how the government is expecting schools to sing when they haven’t as yet fully lifted the restrictions that have been placed on singing in schools.”