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In a stable all for law 'n' order

Hollybush Primary is well known for its enlightened teaching of children's rights. How well it succeeded became apparent during the festive season. The first sign of trouble came the day after the head, Mr Claus, announced in assembly that Gabriel would no longer be playing the archangel in the nativity play because extorting sweets from Year 2 pupils was not in the right seasonal spirit. The letter from Gabriel's solicitor father arrived next day threatening Mr Claus with defamation if Gabriel were not re-angelicised.

The Head went sick, leaving Mr Herald, the part-time music teacher, in sole charge. At the next rehearsal Abigail ran out crying when told she could not play one of the kings because it was a boy's part. In between tears she summoned up her knowledge of the Sex Discrimination Act. Her suggestion that the yellow dressing gowns worn by the kings could equally well be worn by girls was worryingly plausible.

Then Darren, who was now ex-King Moloch, expressed his disgruntlement by flicking stardust all over the Year 2 sheep at the front, abetted by Third Shepherd, Sharon, who had purloined the make-up box. They were spotted by Herald, who immediately cuffed their ears - "justifiably", he said at his subsequent disciplinary hearing.

At this point the calm was shattered by a scream from the front end of the ass. Shane, bored with the inactivity of the inn crowd, had shoved a candle from the crib up its rear end. Tail-end Charlie leapt in the air, pushing front-end Wayne off the dais. The writ when it arrived mentioned cuts and bruises, "in loco parentis", duty of care, and negligence, claiming that the school had failed to have regard of the propensity of small children to do unmentionable things.

It was not until the new term began that Mr Goode, the chair of governors, received the letter from the publisher of the carols regretting that action might be taken owing to the school's failure to obtain permission for the performance and breach of copyright. Before then everyone had been basking in the roaring success of the actual performance, a fitting start to a cracking festive season.

Chris Lowe, Former headteacher and trades union legal adviser.

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