By Craig Mackenzie
Last updated at 4:36 PM on 3rd December 2011
A 'work to rule' by hundreds of thousands of teachers could mean the cancellation of school nativity plays this Christmas, it emerged today.
The ban on festive cheer was ordered by the NASUWT union, which claims to be the largest classroom union in the country.
It wants teachers to protect their 'work-life balance' by refusing to work outside normal hours or do any extra tasks - like putting up decorations.
Nativity play: Union action by teachers in the classroom could stop the festive school tasks
The industrial action which began on Thursday, will see staff working six-and-a-half-hour days, no cover for absent colleagues and no non-teaching jobs carried out.
Chris Keates, the general secretary of NASUWT, has defended the guidance to more than 220,000 members who are expected to take part in the campaign.
She said: 'All teachers and head teachers are entitled to a satisfactory work-life balance. Teachers are entitled to enjoy time away from work.'
Miss Keates insisted staff would be free to volunteer to run nativity plays if they wanted to.
But Priti Patel, the Conservative MP for Witham, Essex, told the Daily Telegraph the union?s action was 'appalling' at a time when there are current negotiations between ministers and unions over pension reforms.
And Nick Gibb, the schools minister,said the action 'could mean huge disruption to school plays, sports and everything else schools do to enrich their pupils? lives'.