A Gift for All

All the Church of England schools in the Diocese have received copies of a brand new musical nativity, A Gift for All, written by our own advisers Kathryn Wright and Gill Hipwell. 

Written to celebrate the 200th anniversary of The National Society, the character of Joshua Watson, a founder member of the society, provides a commentary.  For community schools there is a simple adaptation, allowing Joshua Watson to be omitted altogether or to be replaced by a different commentator.  The accompanying resources include an alternative version narrated by Edith Cavell. If you work with a community school and would like a copy of this nativity to share with them we would be delighted to send you one. 

The nativity play includes six songs, has a total running time of 30 minutes and is suitable for using in churches as a crib service. 

This resource forms part of a wider project on Big Cribs, an Advent exhibition of crib scenes in market towns across the diocese.  More information on this will be available in early October.

Preview one of the songs below:


Order a copy

Order your own copy of A Gift for All for free through our online shop here.


Guidance and information for teachers

Background adapted from the Church of England website

The Christian churches were the first to provide mass education in England and Wales. The National Society was founded in 1811 by Joshua Watson to provide schools for poor children. The original name was ‘The National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church’. The founders were deeply concerned about the fate of the population, including children, working in the factories, mills and mines of the newly industrialised Britain. They set up the Society to raise money to build schools and pay teachers. These schools were to teach basic skills and also to provide for the moral and spiritual welfare of the children. Their aim was to found a church school in every parish and by 1851, still 20 years before the state took any responsibility for education, there were 17,000 schools across England and Wales.

Joshua Watson had made a fortune, and retired from business to devote all his services to the service of the Church of England. ‘He was’, wrote Bishop Blomfield of London, ‘the most remarkable instance I have ever personally known, of a Christian man devoting all the faculties with which God had endowed him, and a very large portion of the means which are more valuable in the world’s estimate though not in his, to the promotion of God’s glory in His Church. The young men of this generation are but little aware of what the Church of England owes to my venerable friend.’

For further information about the foundation of church schools visit www.churchofengland.org/more/education-and-schools

Materials available in this resource

The resource pack contains:

  • A full script
  • Song words with actions
  • Melody line and guitar chords for the songs
  • Two CDs: full script and audio recordings

The character of Joshua Watson

The play has been written in a flexible way so that schools can tailor it to their own settings. It is written for church schools, but can be adapted for use in community schools.

i) The character of Joshua Watson: This character forms an important part of the play, as he links the nativity story to the 200th anniversary of the formation of The National Society. He comments on the nativity story from his point of view, and shows how it inspired him to set up church schools.

ii) Adapting the character of Joshua Watson: In subsequent years, schools may wish to substitute the character of Joshua Watson with someone in their own community or region who has been inspired by their Christian faith to help others e.g. Norwich Foodbank, YMCA, Salvation Army, a local hospice…

For one example, that of Edith Cavell, take a look at the Resources CD.

iii) Omitting the character of Joshua Watson: In order to ensure that these materials can be used beyond 2011 and can be used by as many schools as possible, the play has been written so the character of Joshua Watson can be omitted and still make sense. This also allows community schools to use this resource if they wish. Narration marked * should also be omitted.

The narrators

The narration forms an important part of the play and is written to be delivered either by one person or shared between several. The play may be narrated by confident Key Stage 1 children, or in a small school may be narrated by older Key Stage 2 children In some cases adults may take the role of narrator. Why not involve your local church as part of the celebration?

The songs

The songs have been specially written for this play. They each have a different style and draw on traditions from the last 200 years including ‘anthems’, ‘pastoral’, ‘swing’ and ‘contemporary’. The songs have been recorded by five schools in the Diocese of Norwich, and these can be used for rehearsal and/or performance purposes. A ‘karaoke’ version is also available on the CD if schools wish to use this instead. Schools can also use the melody line and guitar chords to perform the music live.

The children

This play is designed to involve any number of children. If there are few children then individuals may be allocated parts. Characters may speak their own lines or, alternatively, one child may be the speaker whilst another acts out the story. The parts of shepherds and angels may be divided between several children and it is deliberate that no number has been specified for the wise men/women. If there are larger numbers it is expected that children may take on the role of animals, villagers, angels, shepherds and so on.

Staging the performance

Some schools with a large performance area may wish to have two ‘stage areas’; one with the nativity scene and one with Joshua Watson and a ‘school classroom’ from 1811. The children in the ‘classroom’ could take the role of a ‘choir’ for all the songs.

An act of collective worship

This musical nativity play may be set in the context of an act of collective worship. The following prayer may be used at end of the performance.

Dear God, we thank you for sending Jesus as a gift for us all. We ask that you will help us to share God’s love with everyone, just like Joshua Watson did 200 years ago.