Jack and the Beanstalk helps to provide new insights into workings of the Law

Posted by er134 at May 20, 2013 12:35 PM |
University of Leicester students contribute to project that seeks to develop children’s ‘legal literacy’

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 20 May 2013

Photograph of the group available from er134@le.ac.uk

The tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is being used in the classroom to introduce primary school children to the intricacies of the law.

A novel project by the University of Leicester has seen 13 students from the School of Law work with children as part of a new study on Children and the Law.

The project involves University of Leicester undergraduates engaging with activities with children at a local school in order to gain an insight into their understanding of the law.  In Jack’s mock trail, the children act as jury members as criminal charges are brought against Jack.  One charge relates to the alleged theft of the giant’s bag of golden coins, a hen that lays golden eggs and a magical harp. The second charge is one of murder for the death of the giant.

Explaining the purpose of the project, Dr Dawn Watkins, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Leicester, said: “I am delighted to be working in partnership with St. Peter’s CE Primary Academy in developing this project.  This first visit has helped us to gain an understanding of what the children know about law and where it comes from.  Working with the school, we hope to develop a programme that can be made available to other schools in Leicestershire.  Its aim is to develop the children’s ‘legal literacy’ so that they develop an understanding of the law as an empowering force in their lives.  At the same time, we hope to develop a new module, through which our students can become engaged in working within schools as a part of their degree studies.”

Final year Law student Harriet Jones was one of those involved in this first part of the project.  She said: “The day started off with a mock trial, addressing the heinous acts of Jack, who came to infamy when he scaled the Beanstalk.

“After this, the children were allowed to ask Jack questions and then decide upon their verdict by walking to one side of the field for ‘Guilty’ and another for ‘Not Guilty’.

“Jack was found Guilty for the charge of theft and Not Guilty for murder, so he will no doubt soon be taken to Leicester Prison following his sentencing and mitigation hearing!”

After this activity, students paired up and sat down with the children to undertake a survey about the children’s perceptions of the Law – with Jack proving very popular with a lot of the children!

Harriet added: “We received some really interesting answers and it was great to see an insight into how the children believed the Law was governed – I was pleasantly surprised by how clever and insightful the children were!

“Following this, it was the children’s chance to ‘Draw the Law’ and work in pairs to draw pictures of what they thought the Law to be as researchers observed. This was again very interesting, as the children presented their pictures at the end which were very creative and again very insightful – it was nice to see our courtroom replicated a few times!

“It was a fantastic project to take part in and I am incredibly grateful to Dr Watkins, the University of Leicester and the school which we visited for the amazing experience. Working with children and upon a voluntary basis in the local community really broadens your legal horizons beyond what you learn in the textbooks at University. It is great schemes like this that I feel can really help a good understanding of the Law.”

Headteacher of St Peter’s CE Primary Academy, Ralph Wood, said: “I was delighted when Dawn contacted me suggesting this excellent initiative. As a graduate of Law myself and having studied for my degree at the University of Leicester, I’m very aware of how important it is for young people to get a good grasp of their rights and responsibilities. I was really excited at this opportunity for pupils at our academy to discover more about where they stand with the law, whilst giving the chance for Leicester law students to conduct research and volunteer their time to determine the best way to convey legal knowledge in a child-friendly manner. I very much look forward to establishing an ongoing project with the University that will be of great benefit to children and students’ learning alike.”

One of the pupils who took part, Cameron aged 9, when asked what he thought of the project, commented: “I enjoyed the play because I thought someone had actually been brought in handcuffs from the cells, but then I found out it was a role play. I liked it when we came in and talked about the different kinds of law and what we can and can’t do, and I also when we got to draw the law”. Another child, Esther aged 9, added: “I liked the bit when we talked about really serious laws and not so serious laws. I also liked the way the judge said how long the sentence was for Jack and that we got to vote about whether he was guilty or not on charges of stealing and murder of the giant."



For more information, please contact:

Dr Dawn Watkins

Senior Lecturer in Law

School of Law

University of Leicester

tel: 0116 252 2363

email: dawn.watkins@le.ac.uk

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