Teaching law in the classroom
“There is a need to raise legal understanding in classrooms, and to tackle the fear many citizenship teachers feel when teaching the law” said Dan Mace, Lawyer and Trustee for the Citizenship Foundation as he introduced a seminar on ‘Law Related Education and the Citizenship Curriculum’ at BPP Law School on 5th May.
Tony Thorpe, author of the Young Citizen’s Passport, ran an introduction to some of the issues that arise when teaching about the law in the classroom. He said it was important to get the students to look at cases in a critical observational way, and ran through some case studies and ideas for practical teaching emphasising the benefits of active learning activities. Liz, from the RSPCA said “The session gave me some good ideas for using case studies to introduce the law to students.”
Chloe Parker a teacher from Islington Green School explained how the Citizenship Foundation’s Twinning scheme provided a great way of getting specialist knowledge into the classroom. Volunteer lawyers visit schools to run sessions on the law with small groups of students. “It has been a really positive experience and has brought a lot of quieter students out of themselves” she said, adding: “pupils can talk about things in these sessions that they don’t want to talk about in front of teachers.”
Solicitors from Slaughter and May then gave an example of how a session might work in a school, with attendees taking part in the activities.
Ann Flintham from the Magistrates’ Association also recommended inviting external experts into the classroom by talking about the Magistrates’ in the Community Project. She suggested taking classes to Magistrates’ Courts and inviting Magistrates into schools to talk to classes. She suggested ways to get the most out of visits, for example by asking Magistrates to lead a participatory class such as a sentencing exercise.
The day finished with attendees taking part in a ‘real mock trial’ such as the Magistrates’ Mock Trial Competition run in schools across the country by the Foundation. Participants took on the roles of magistrates, witnesses, defendant and barristers to try a case of a dispute between neighbours. Evaluating the day, teacher Kate Loupart said “this seminar was excellent – I am going away with a lot of ideas, resources and passion for the law and citizenship!!”
Twinning packs are available for purchase from the Citizenship Foundation at Schools, Colleges and Universities £30, Law Firms £60.