In this article, we hear from Paul Hamilton who is currently teaching law at Clydebank High School. Paul discuses the qualification and why he believes teaching law at an early stage is important for the profession. We also hear from some of Paul’s pupils about what they enjoy and get out of the legal studies course.

In what sometimes feels like a previous life, prior to becoming a history teacher, I studied for and graduated with an LL.B (Hons) in Law. For various reasons, I never went on to pursue a career in law, but I never left the subject (or the interest) behind. Now, in session 2020/21, after years of wanting to (and a lot of collaboration), I am delivering the Level 6 NPA qualification in Legal Studies to S6 pupils at Clydebank High School, in partnership with the School of Law at the University of Glasgow. 

The course is a National Progression Award (NPA), comparable with a Higher level qualification from the Scottish Qualifications Authority. It consists of two mandatory units, Introduction to Scots Law and Crime & Society, described by the SQA as being developed with the “purpose of providing pupils with the basic legal skills and knowledge required for further study and/or employment where a basic understanding of the law may enhance their career prospects”. The Introduction to Scots Law unit looks at all you would expect – sources of law, creation of law, roles of solicitors, advocates and judges, as well as both civil and criminal procedure. Whilst Crime and Society examines the causes and impact of crime – the effect of crime on people, communities and wider-society. 

But, for me, delivering this course is about a lot more than simply what’s mentioned above. Teaching in an area labelled by the Scottish Government as being of “high deprivation”, I can’t help but wonder how many of the young people I teach have ever had an experience of the law that wasn’t confrontational, and was instead aspirational… 

“Law can seem scary and inaccessible… bridging the gap between high school (no experience) and university (thrown in at the deep end) is a very positive thing!” – Holly McKenna (LL.M Research Student) 

“Studying legal studies is benefiting me greatly as I want to study law when I leave school.” – Bethany Provan (S6 pupil) 

Offering NPAs such as Legal Studies is a real opportunity for schools to think differently, to dare I say, start thinking a bit outside the box when it comes to curricular design. It’s bizarre really when you think about the fact that law is not a standalone subject in Scottish schools; but maybe (just maybe) this is a small step towards that happening. At Clydebank High School for example, plans are currently being made for the introduction of a further NPA award in business law, coupled with another in Criminology. 

“I hope to study Scots Law at university, so Legal Studies at school has been a great introduction for me.” – Mia Moohan (S6 pupil)

“Offering subjects such as Law [at school] is essential. Offering this as part of the curriculum will ignite a spark in young people who have perhaps, never considered or felt capable enough to consider law as a career path.” – Ami-Jayne Hughes (Law graduate and paralegal with DCA Beachcroft) 

If you or anyone you know would like to find out more about what we are doing at Clydebank High School, or if you are perhaps able to support in any way, then please do not hesitate to get in touch by e-mail (paul.hamilton@west-dunbarton.gov.uk).

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