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Legal instruction within initial teachertrainingJohn HunterJones aa University of Manchester , UKPublished online: 04 Sep 2006.
To cite this article: John HunterJones (2006) Legal instruction within initial teacher training,Journal of Education for Teaching: International research and pedagogy, 32:3, 259-268
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02607470600782302
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Legal instruction within initial teacher
University of Manchester, UK
Englands Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) requires that students, in order
to qualify for teacher status, must undertake the study of law. This article reviews the TDA
standards and considers its rationale for the selection of law. Such selection and the need, if any, to
study law are contrasted with texts written for teachers wishing to study law. It is evident that the
need to study law is now even greater because of the increased role that regulations play,
particularly with regards to childrens rights, and the willingness of parents to challenge decisions.
Empirical research was undertaken to review the initial level of legal knowledge of trainee teachers.
This indicated that there is a need for a robust approach to law as there is evidence of trainees
confusion about such matters. The article recommends that there should be greater emphasis
given to enabling students to further their studies through understanding legal principles, that
some subjects should be given greater priority in initial training whilst others, though introduced to
students, could be left to the induction period. It is also of concern that the current approach to the
subject ignores its potential for problem based learning and the use of case material.
This article considers the position of legal instruction within Englands initial teacher
training (ITT) prior to the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). The starting
point of the work is to consider the Training and Development Agency for Schools
(TDA) Standards and Requirements in Qualifying to teach (TTA, 2003a) and
associated guidance (TTA, 2003b). Such standards are then considered in the light
of literature and empirical research undertaken with trainee teachers.
Recommendations, on the basis of the research, conclude the work.
Initial teacher training
Consideration of the role of legal instruction within vocational training requires, as a
starting point, an examination of the aims and objectives of the training. Even then
any such training undertaken is limited by time, resources and competing demands.
*School of Education, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.
Journal of Education for Teaching
Vol. 32, No. 3, August 2006, pp. 259268
ISSN 0260-7476 (print)/ISSN 1360-0540 (online)/06/030259-10
# 2006 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/02607470600782302
The selection of the law (such as employment, health and safety, tort, school
governance, discrimination, child protection, human rights, copyright, etc.) is no
less difficult. It is not the intention of this work to rate law against other areas, but to
consider its value in preparing teachers and where the emphasis might be placed in
the selection and the teaching of the subject.
The above challenges are faced with the training of teachers in other countries
(Gullatt & Tollett, 1997) and in the training of other professionals. Analysis of the
issues involved in integrating law into teacher training in England provides a case
study that should be of interest to an international readership.
Initial teacher training: aims and objectives
In the foreword to Qualifying to teach (QTT) ministerial approval is given to
statements such as:
helping to make sure that new teachers hit the ground running.
the profession is changing and that ITT needs to make sure that new teachers, who
will help shape the future of the profession, are prepared for these changes.
Standards and Requirements should ensure that all new teachers have the subject
knowledge and the teaching and learning expertise they need, and are well prepared for
the wider professional demands of being a teacher. (TTA, 2003a, p. 1)
So teachers should be well prepared, prepared for change and able to address the
wider demands of being a teacher. The TDA (prior to September 2005 the TDA
was known as the Teacher Training Agency) was established under the Education
Act 2005, which states, s.75 (3), that the Agency shall secure the school workforce
is well fitted and trained(a) to promote the spiritual, moral, behavioural, social,
cultural, mental and physical development of children and young people, (b) to
contribute to their well being, and (c) to prepare them for the opportunities,
responsibilities and experiences of later life. These aims extend the remit of the
TTA (Education Act 1994; HMSO, 1994) and reinforce the broad function of
teachers. Given these changes it would be a good time for the TDA to review its
predecessors approach to legal instruction within ITT.
Teacher training is clearly more than teaching a subject. The specified aims of ITT
fall into three inter-related sections (TTA, 2003a, p. 3): professional values and
practice; knowledge and understanding; teaching. Each of these sections is divided into
sub-sections, 19 in total. All sub-sections can be regarded as objectives and set out what
a trainee teacher must know, understand and be able to do (TTA, 2003a, p. 3).
Legal knowledge is either directly or indirectly referred to in four of the 19 sub-
N S1.8: They are aware of, and work within, the statutory frameworks relating toteachers responsibilities.
260 J. Hunter-Jones
N S2.6: They understand their responsibilities under the SEN [Special EducationalNeeds] Code of Practice
N S3.1: Planning, expectations and targets: makes reference to safe organisation ofresources (S.3.1.3) and plan opportunities for pupils to learn in out-of-school
N S3.3: Teaching and class management: makes reference to safe organisation ofphysical teaching space, tools, materials, texts and other resources (S3.3.8);
pupils behaviour and establishing a clear framework for classroom discipline
(S3.3.9); and responding to equal opportunities issues (S3.3.14).
A feature of the above is that no specific body of law, either statute or common law,
is identified, the sub-sections leaving it open to local interpretation. It is not clear
why teachers responsibilities are only considered within the context of statutory
frameworks, when the primary responsibility to pupils is defined by the common
The Handbook of guidance (TTA, 2003b, S1.8) states, Teachers are not expected
to have a detailed knowledge of the whole legal framework, but they need to be
aware of their own statutory responsibilities and where to gain information, support
and assistance when they need it (p. 13). The assessment of such awareness is left to
a variety of means and could include discussions with the trainee and written
assignments. The following statutes are identified under the section guidance:
Education Act 1996 and Disability Discrimination Act 1995both in relation to
Special Needs; The Children Act 1989, The Race Relations Act 1976 and The
Disability Discrimination Act 1995all in relation to equal opportunities. No other
legislation or body of law is identified, although in the annex of the Handbook there is
a list of statutes and guidance documents which is intended for reference (p. 97).
It is not clear how these are to be used.
Within the Handbook it does mention that teachers should be aware that they
have rights and responsibilities as employees as well as teachers (p. 13). Child
protection is mentioned, but only as an example of when they may need advice.
Health and safety issues are raised in relation to out-of-school trips (p. 31) and
resources (p. 50).
From the above one can see that the emphasis is on teachers being made aware of
legal issues that impact on the teaching profession and that they should also be able
to judge when they may need advice and know how to seek it (p. 13). How they
can demonstrate such skills prior to qualification is left open. The emphasis, with
regards to legal issues, is on: special needs, equal opportunities and pupils physical
safety. Other areas mentioned are rights and responsibilities as employees as well as
teachers and child protection, each identified on the one occasion and with no
further comment. In short, Qualifying to teach (TTA, 2003a) and its Handbook
(TTA, 2003b) do not present a clear rationale for the selection of the legal content,
that the law has been selected on a piecemeal basis and is not considered as being
part of a body of knowledge. There remains a concern as to how the understanding
and knowledge of the law are to be assessed, if at all. It would help if the above
documents addressed these issues by bringing the strands together and provided
Legal instruction within ITT 261
some direction with regards to securing legal knowledge and its role in professional
The selection of the law for the trainee teacher is a challenge that has been faced
by a number of authors, many of whom have been teachers. What follows is an
examination of what they have selected for teachers and how this compares with the
objectives of Qualifying to teach.
Review of literature
One of the challenges of incorporating law into any vocational training is knowing
what you are trying to achieve. Partington (1984) is quick to avoid creating the
barrack-room lawyer, but states that having knowledge of the law can improve
understanding of teaching issues. Gilliat (1999) adds: However, just as a car driver
needs to have a rudimentary understanding of the law affecting their use of the
public highways, so any professional teacher needs to understand the legal
framework in which their role sits (p. 2). Barrell and Partington (1985) refer to
teachers being forewarned and forearmed and that knowledge of the law should be a
general guide to help teachers to unravel some of the simpler problems, and to warn
them of the existence of some of the graver dangers (p. xxvi).
Adams (1984), over 20 years ago, referred to the increasing intervention of the law
in school life: The growth of large comprehensive schools, the raising of the school
leaving age, the ramifications of present employment law, the increasing interest in
parental rights and concern over the accountability of schools have forced all
involved in the running of the education service to become more aware of the legal
implications of what they do (or dont do!) (p. 13). Harris (1990) wrote: The
Education system has entered a new era, and it is one of regulation. For those
working in the field of education knowledge of the increasingly complex legal
framework is becoming supremely important (p. v).
Gullatt and Tollett (1997), reviewing teacher training across the United States of
America, raise the concern that teachers without legal education will see rules,
regulations, restrictions and restraints as optional when, in fact, these concepts are
the legal obligations upon which they will be held accountable (p. 129). The article
emphasises that a background in law might also help teachers avoid mistakes and
events that could jeopardise a career.
There is also a widespread belief that society is becoming increasingly litigious and
parents more willing to challenge the authority of the schools. Teachers are more
likely to have to face the legal implications of their actions (Holland, 2003). Hyams
(2004), in reviewing education law and the need to understand the practical effects,
adds that on occasions: it is necessary to refer to theoretical underpinning (p. 8).
He also refers to the increasing willingness of the courts to apply legal principles
within education, for instance, redress in the cases of negligent teaching, and the
great increase in statutory instruments from central government.
There are two arguments for the inclusion of the subject. The first is to avoid
conflict with an increasingly broad body of law. The second is to make teachers
262 J. Hunter-Jones
better at doing their job through having the confidence and understanding of good
practice. A teacher who does not undertake school trips through a patchy knowledge
of the law may well be avoiding conflict with the law, but are they a better teacher?
Hunter-Jones (2005), in reviewing teachers willingness to undertake school trips,
found that those with a confident understanding of the law were more willing to
undertake such work. The House of Commons Education and Skills Committee
recently acknowledged that the fear of accidents and subsequent litigation (whether