Where better to learn about the law than a historic courtroom?
A 17th century courthouse in Northampton is being used as a classroom to teach youngsters from secondary and primary schools about the history of law, citizenship, crime and punishment.
The Sessions House is owned by Northamptonshire County Council and was the county’s administrative centre for more than 300 years.
After a successful pilot last year, the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law (NCCL) is now running courtroom-based education activities there.
The NCCL aims to educate youngsters about the law, how it can affect people’s everyday lives and the consequences of breaking the law. It also runs educational sessions in Nottingham and London.
The sessions are all linked to the national curriculum and include mock trials, debates and tours. Debates cover a range of issues – from the purpose of prison and punishment to diminished responsibility – while tours include visiting the prison cells and seeing the prisoners’ exercise yard.
“The education programme teaches young people about the law, how to live within it, their responsibility as a citizen and presents career opportunities within the justice system they may not have considered,” said Pollie Shorthouse, head of learning at the NCCL.
“Our courtroom workshops allow pupils to take on the characters in a court case, including barristers, judge and jury, and to act out historical or contemporary trials.
“Courtroom debates engage pupils in developing and delivering a constructive argument about a topic explored in one of the courtroom workshops and pupils develop skills such as speaking in public, historical enquiry and active listening.”
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