Law Curriculum

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Due to the current situation, departmental curriculum plans are not currently available.

Here is the Cowley COVID resuming plan as an interim guide.

Curriculum aim

Studying law offers students the opportunity to gain breadth and depth of legal knowledge and develop a range of skills when acquiring that knowledge. It helps students to develop the skills to be successful in any sphere that requires intellectual discipline combined with a practical approach.

Students are often attracted to studying law through television dramas which focus almost exclusively on criminal law and the criminal justice system. The aim of our course is broaden a student’s knowledge and understanding of law, both criminal and civil as well as understanding broad over-arching concepts such as criminal liability, the rule of law and human rights.

Law is studied to develop both practical problem-solving (through analysing scenarios) and abstract thinking (through studying concepts such as ‘justice’). We also aim to encourage imagination in the belief that creative arguments are derived from thinking laterally around a problem. The ability to do this arises naturally from breadth and depth of legal knowledge

Another aim of the course is that students will appreciate the bigger picture: how the law fits together and how the law relates to other subjects, such as politics, economics, history, criminology and philosophy. The law reaches into every aspect of human life and highlights the rich variety of problems and possibilities with which the law engages. Students will explore many aspects of human life and in doing so will sharpen their minds, strengthen their understanding and deepen their experience cross the full range of humanities and social sciences.

The department consists of one member of staff who also teaches Criminology and Psychology.  The social science/humanities team is committed to spreading the enjoyment of our subjects and work collaboratively to do so. The department is well-resourced for wider reading.

Curriculum structure

The law curriculum is organised according to the principle that a combination of knowledge and skills will result in understanding.

It is important that a student studying a completely new linear A Level subject rapidly gains and consolidates knowledge. Students will be taught the difference between short-term (‘working memory’) and long-term memory (LTM) and how consolidated knowledge is retrieved by cues. Students will also be taught the value of memory recall techniques and revision aids.

Knowledge
The law department considers this to be the sum of everything a student knows. It is the facts and information acquired about law, the wider curriculum and life-experience, embedded in LTM as a network of accessible memories.

  • It allows links and associations to be made and deepens knowledge further
  • Knowledge allows us to bring concepts together
  • Knowledge learned across the curriculum facilitates understanding
  • Knowledge is generative, the more knowledge you have the more you will learn because new learning ‘hooks’ onto old learning
  • Knowledge can be accessed from LTM when students work on tasks using ‘working memory’

Learning
Learning is the consolidation of information in LTM and the ability to retrieve that information using cues. If a student has committed law content to their LTM and this can then be used both in understanding law and in other areas of life, then we can be confident that this has been learned.

The early part of the course, therefore, focuses on knowledge of law-making and emphasis is placed on encouraging and helping students to encounter and learn material. These can be described as the ‘components’ of the course –  the building blocks of prior knowledge needed in order to achieve a desired outcome- for example, arguing for criminal liability will involve knowledge of different components such as actus reus and mens rea, alongside ideas such as transferred malice.

Learning is ensured through regular classroom activities and through regular homework. Additional materials (in the forms of cases, examples) are offered to further students’ knowledge in independent study.

Skills
A skill is the ability to do something well and is acquired through direct experiences and practice. Acquiring the skills of thinking like a lawyer comes with practice. Such skills include reading and interpreting primary sources (such as statutes), putting them in context, evaluating them, and developing your own opinion through this evaluation. Developing these critical skills and this contextual understanding takes time.

Examples of skills encouraged and developed in law lessons:

  • Critical thinking – In lessons students will be given opportunities to analyse information and make judgements.
  • Analysis and problem solving – Students will be given opportunities to analyse scenarios, solve problems and reach conclusions.
  • Communication – In all lessons communication skills will be developed, including traditional face to face interactions, being a good listener, an understanding of verbal and non-verbal communication. The teacher will engage in a high level of spoken English in the classroom and expect pupils to do so also.
  • Reading fluency – Students will be given the opportunity to read texts and articles which challenge them.
  • Presentation skills – Students will be given opportunities to present their ideas either as prepared presentations or impromptu exposition (e.g. ‘mock court’ situations).
  • Interpersonal skills – Students will be taught how to relate and interact with others, how to work in a team, how to negotiate and how to influence others.
  • Goal setting – Students will set themselves personal goals and targets in law and reflect on their progress in meeting their goals. Pupils will be encouraged to be ambitious
  • Resilience and positive mind-set – Students will be set challenging tasks that test their resolve and resilience and hopefully will learn how to take value from a situation.
  • Study strategies – Students will be taught skills needed for revision and exam technique.
  • Active citizenship – Students will taught how to be active citizens. They will taught about the law, democracy (including their responsibility as voters) and British Values and how to express their views effectively.

Understanding
Understanding in law is achieved through the combination of knowledge and skills. Understanding deepens as structures of knowledge in LTM become increasingly complex. It is therefore natural and helpful for students to move onto analysis of scenarios detailing civil and criminal liability once their knowledge has been consolidated.  Mid way through Y12, skills of analysis are taught and practised through exposure to statutes and scenarios based upon individuals being negligent or breaking the law. These skills are developed throughout the rest of Y12.

Concepts
Key concepts are the important ideas and principles in Law (such as ‘The Rule of Law’ or ‘Criminal Liability’ which often underpin other areas of subject learning. These can sometimes be viewed as a curricular ‘over-arching’ concept, such as equality.

Since concepts of law are more difficult to understand and are, by their nature, synoptic, these units of study are left towards the end of the course and taught exclusively in Y13.

Curriculum in action

Curriculum Beyond the Classroom

Wider Curriculum
The wider curriculum contributes significantly to a student’s knowledge. It includes learning experiences which take place outside of traditional Law lessons, for example gaining knowledge from a talk by a visiting Magistrate or observing a trial in a Crown Court.

Visits are organised to both Magistrates’ Court and A Crown Court so that students can see ‘law in action’ and how legal personnel work. A visit is also organise to London so that students can see how Parliament passes laws and how the higher (appellate) courts work such as the High Court and the Supreme Court.

Visits from legal professionals and lay-people involved in law are a regular feature of the course.

The department also has a relationship with a law firm in Liverpool which offers opportunities for work experience for Cowley students.

We also have a link with Salford University law department whose mooting society have been invited into college to conduct a workshop.

Subject Expertise
The law teacher has seven years’ experience in delivering the course and in 2019 attended CPD linked to the new Linear A level. He has also been accepted as an assistant examiner for Summer 2020 which will enhance understanding of how examinations in law are set, moderated and marked.

It is not difficult to keep up to date with the latest developments in law as there is always great press interest in high-profile cases/changes in the law (proposed and actual). Students are encouraged from the outset to keep up to date with news outlets and to watch documentaries/dramas which highlight aspects of the criminal justice system.

Students are also helped to prepare for interviews for law courses at university, including Cambridge.

Impact and destinations
An important aim of this course is that through thinking creatively about problems, practising writing and presenting arguments, students acquire skills which will prepare students not only for further study in law but also for diverse subjects. This is an aim for all students.

Many students continue onto courses as a direct result of their interests in studying law, whether a straight law degree or a combination of law, criminology, Youth Justice etc. Some students choose a degree in Policing and A level law is an excellent starting point. Law students who have completed a law A level in the last five years are now starting careers as solicitors, legal executives and advisors for Citizens Advice.

Destinations this year include law degrees at a variety of universities in the North West and Apprenticeships in law at local firms.