Legal instruction within initial teacher training

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  • This article was downloaded by: [The Aga Khan University]On: 09 October 2014, At: 20:41Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

    Journal of Education for Teaching:International research and pedagogyPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:

    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

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  • Legal instruction within initial teacher


    John Hunter-Jones*

    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




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  • 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 framework

    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




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  • 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

    contexts (S3.1.5).

    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




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  • 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

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  • 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



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