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10 July, 2007

Citizenship Foundation response to PLEAS Task Force Report

The Citizenship Foundation has welcomed the PLEAS Task Force's call on government to improve both the quality of and access to public legal education (PLE).

Chief Executive Tony Breslin said, "Legal education has been central to the work of the Citizenship Foundation since it was founded in 1989 and before that through its predecessor programme, the Law in Education Project.

"Effective citizenship requires people to be informed and engaged, to possess knowledge of their legal rights and responsibilities in everyday situations and to have the confidence to use the law when they need to. The fact that so many legal problems go unsolved every year is a serious issue that impacts both on the lives of the individuals and on the functioning of society as a whole. That individuals should understand how the law works and how to engage with the law when they need to is central to the successful functioning of our democracy.

"Public legal education should provide an effective understanding of how the law and legal system works, enabling individuals to understand when a legal remedy is necessary and facilitating their search for it. Individuals need an understanding of what law is and how it can be used. We are not talking here about a detailed understanding of all laws and statutes but about a basic legal literacy that is shared by all.

"The Taskforce's recommendations can build on the work of National Curriculum Citizenship in schools which encourages young people to learn not just about the role of the law but the nature of law itself. This approach empowers young people to see how law can be changed, how it is applied and how it can be used as a tool for change. The kind of knowledge and the confidence that the best schools' provision develops should be available for all people of all ages. Here, the proposed Public Legal Education Centre is a welcome innovation but it will need to be strongly resourced and given sufficient political clout to influence educational practice from the outset.

"The test of the Taskforce's impact will come when in two or three years’ time when we begin to pose the question "how much better is the law understood and by how many people?" Certainly, we will hope to see real progress, especially among those in our poorest communities. A genuinely inclusive society is both legally literate and legally confident: on this, we have some way to go.”

Further information

To find out more please email:

Notes for editors:

The Citizenship Foundation is an independent educational charity and a longstanding authority on law related education. Its projects, publications and programmes in this area include the award winning Young Citizen's Passport (a pocket sized guide to the law published annually in partnership with Hodder Murray), Life and Law in Britain: a guide for young asylum seekers and refugees, the Bar National Mock Trial Competition, the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition and the Twinning Lawyers in Schools programme (delivered in partnership with a number of the UK's leading law firms).

For more information:

Young Citizen’s Passport


Life and Law in Britain: a guide for young asylum seekers and refugees


Bar Mock Trial Competition


Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Competition


Lawyers in Schools Twinning Scheme


The Law in Education Project


Task Force members were appointed from a range of organisations and sectors involved or interested in public legal education. These members include representatives from Citizens Advice; the Citizenship Foundation (Dan Mace, Vice Chair of Trustees); the Disability Rights Commission; the Bar Council; the Office of Fair Trading and the Legal Services Commission.

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