Nativity Nightmares

By | 15 December 2015


Perhaps last weekend, with your Christmas shopping complete, you sat down to watch the film Nativity! or indeed perhaps Nativity 2 or Nativity 3.  Arguably it won’t really have mattered whether you were watching Nativity! or Nativity 2  as essentially the premise in each is the same; Primary School children, putting on a Christmas play, in difficult circumstances.  A light-hearted easy film, excellent cast and ideal for watching with children, especially if slapstick humour is their game! Be warned Nativity 3 does depart somewhat from this predictable plot.  Focussing on the first two films we witness children from ‘St Bernadette’s School’ struggling to put on an impressive end of term musical version of the Nativity for their parents.  They are ‘aided’ by the irrepressible Mr Poppy, whose good intentions lead the children into all sorts of odd and potentially dangerous situations.


Parents and guardians of the children don’t feature strongly, in fact I imagine they must be extremely open-minded and free spirited, as their offspring disappear on spontaneous trips abroad and undertake high risk activities with barely a murmur from a parent.  This leads me on to discuss parental responsibility and Family Law generally.  If you wanted to browse the shelves of the BLL relating to Family Law, you would need to head to KN170 – KN176.  Any superficial study of this area of law would soon reveal that many Family Law cases can be found in a series of law reports imaginatively entitled ‘Family Law Reports’ (FLR).  These you may be aware are on a specialized database called Jordans Family Law Online.  The FLR’s are online from approximately 1980 and a search facility is available if you are not looking for a specific case.   There is an option to print a ‘court copy’ if necessary.  In my Christmas film the rival school is the somewhat exclusive private school Oakmoor, perhaps some of the ‘Nativity’ parents wished their child to attend that school, indeed perhaps there is a ‘parental dispute’ over the child’s education.  By searching in Jordans using the ‘assisted search’ facility, I can search for parental dispute and education and view the cases on this area from the FLR.  As Jordans Family Law Online also covers the journals ‘Child and Family Law Quarterly’ (CFLQ) and ‘Family Law Journal’, the assisted search is also looking for relevant articles relating to my terms in these journals.  This brings me to an article on Parental Responsibility and the Duty to Consult – the Public’s view (2005)Vol 17 Issue 2 CFLQ 207 which in turn cites relevant cases in relation to education.  Also perhaps I may be drawn to read ‘Decisions, decisions: Choice of Schools and the Judicial Reasonable Parent’ (2013) Vol 43, Issue 8 Fam.L.J 1003.

If you are more familiar with searching HeinOnline,  then you will be delighted to know that the CFLQ is also available on this database.

However, equally I would want to consult Lexis and search the ‘Family Court Reports’ which are searchable back to 1987.  As a Butterworth’s product these are only available on Lexis.

Of course, now I’ve started going down this ‘children, education and the law’  route, I will of course wish to save myself time by gaining an overview of all the main resources in this area using the BLL Libguide ‘Children and the Law in the UK’ – please note the tab within this guide for ‘education’.  Amongst other references this would refer me to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and also a series of Law reports called ‘Education Law Reports’.  Assuming I wished to search this series of law reports, I would need to return to Jordans Publishing again, but this time a different database called Jordan’s Online.  The ‘legal databases link’ from the BLL is very helpful in explaining the content of these databases.

Of course with all that travelling in Nativity 2, they travelled far and wide and were very ‘appy’ – forgive my h-dropping, this could be my cockney roots, or my desire to sound like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady; as we all know ‘urricanes ‘ardly ever ‘appen’.  However this does, in no way seamlessly, lead me on to talks about ‘apps’.

If only the worryingly incompetent Mr Poppy  had had the Lexis app he would have been able to research case law on his iphone. (In Nativity 2 he failed to exclose the existence of this mobile phone.) With said app he could have researched the legality of taking children on a trip without the necessary forms completed, or abseiling with minors without any risk assessments and so on and so forth.  (Admittedly had Mr Poppy taken time to do this research,  this may have made for a rather different type of film.)  Lost in the countryside, with a class of children (and a baby), you would wish for a quick keyword style research on your mobile or citation searching, rather than in-depth research producing copious quantities of reading.  This is where the Lexis apps are good.  There are two main Lexis legal research apps, both are free to download.  It asks you to register using your email address initially and then it sends you a password to access the apps.  You only need to go through this process the first time you download the apps.

The first app is called ‘On the Case’ which enables you to search case law either by name, citation or keyword.  Results display the keywords and the case digest.  Helpfully a status signal is included indicating how the case has subsequently been treated by the courts.  So the usually mild mannered Mr Maddens is rightly concerned that taking the children out of the school without permission may be seen as ‘child abduction’.  Using this term in the ‘On the Case’ app brings me up 375 cases, the most recent judgment dated 24/11/2015.

It’s fair to say that Mr Poppy may not be over familiar with some of the legal terms in every day ‘lawyers parlance’ – fortunately there is another good app from Lexis to help him in his many hours of need.  This is called ‘Halsbury’s Legal Terms’.   In many ways I think this app is excellent for the Law student who quickly needs access to a key point of law.  I’m imagining a student requiring a quick ‘refresher’ en route to a  lecture or tutorial. Not only does it define the legal term, but also gives you the legislation where it has been defined and links to the cases that have discussed the definition.  It is so much more than simply a ‘legal dictionary’.  Using our example of ‘child abduction’ we can search this term, and find the key cases, legislation and also commentary from Halsbury’s Laws.



Or, like Mr Poppy, you could not worry about the ‘rules’ at all this Christmas.  Wishing you much fun and laughter this holiday…