Why children and young people need a big legal lesson

Valerie Robertson
Valerie RobertsonPolicy adviser

Justice Week is here and, this year, it is exclusively online. The theme is Rights and Justice: the cost of COVID-19 and we want to reach as wide a public audience as possible, including young people.

The Big Legal Lesson

Children have been affected heavily by coronavirus (COVID-19) through school closures, but most young people were never consulted on these decisions. Those under the age of 18 can’t even submit questions during the prime minister’s briefings on the pandemic.

What is The Big Legal Lesson?

The Law Society is a supporter of public legal education, which is why we wanted The Big Legal Lesson (BLL) to have a significant role during Justice Week. The Big Legal Lesson has been developed by Young Citizens, an education charity working in primary and secondary schools to help educate, inspire and motivate the active citizens of tomorrow.

Through sponsorship from Allen & Overy, Young Citizens has created in The Big Legal Lesson a classroom resource designed by teachers to introduce children and young people to the rule of law. The resources help familiarise young people with subjects such as:

  • why we have laws
  • what is a bill
  • how a law is created

How does The Big Legal Lesson work?

Young Citizens provides every primary school that pledges its involvement with access to a high-quality ‘introduction to the law’ legal lesson.

For key stages 1 and 2, the focus is on the basics of what law is and why it is important. For key stages 3 and 4, Young Citizens has enhanced the resources to reflect how the rule of law and the justice system have been impacted by the pandemic.

This is the second year Young Citizens has run The Big Legal Lesson. It’s growing in popularity, too – 732 schools are taking part in 2021, up from 594 last year. Why such a huge increase? Well, the reach of The Big Legal Lesson is enormous, and its impact on students is incredible.

In 2020, Young Citizens estimated the resources reached 46,000 young people. 100% of the students and volunteers who participated, recommended taking part to a classmate or colleague, and 85% of the teachers who taught The Big Legal Lesson reported that their students developed a better understanding of how the legal system works.

The Big Legal Lesson helps students develop their critical thinking and analytical skills, empathy, problem-solving skills and self-confidence. These are all qualities and skills we want our future citizens to have, in order to ensure we maintain a society which understands the justice system and wants to protect access to justice.

It's hoped that, as restrictions ease, The Big Legal Lesson can be taught face to face and allow solicitors to get involved.

In 2020, Allen & Overy invited 16 Year 10 students from Raine’s Foundation School in east London to participate in The Big Legal Lesson at its offices. Examples like this are why the Law Society has over a 30-year history of being a funder of Young Citizens.

We are committed to ensuring young people understand the rule of law and access to justice. Young Citizens helps us achieve this aim, providing incredible opportunities for our members to get involved in public legal education.

Justice Week is a collaborative effort with the Bar Council and CILEx. A series of online events and activities to improve access to justice and discuss the rule of law is running 1 to 5 March.

Explore the full list of activities

Find out more about Young Citizens and The Big Legal Lesson

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