GCSE Law is offered by two boards: AQA and OCR. There is no coursework or controlled classroom assessment with either, so both are fully accessible to private candidates. GCSE Law will not be available under the new GCSE system, so the last opportunity to take the exam will be Summer 2018.'
The government invited exam boards to submit new GCSE law specifications for reformed GCSEs, but the boards decided not to continue - probably because few students take law GCSE as schools don't usually offer it. So, although it's an interesting and informative subject, it will no longer be available to exams at this level.
Which board? Edit
AQA GCSE Law exam code 4160
OCR GCSE Law specification code J485
One family's comments:
"We went for AQA - there was nothing in the specification which made choose that over OCR, but it looked like it would be a bit easier to organise with the exam centre as there are just 2 papers, rather than 4 shorter ones with OCR. At the time it looked like you'd need to do a computerised multiple-choice paper with OCR, but now they are offering a written alternative."
"I felt the focus of OCR law was more everyday and AQA more philosophical/theoretical, which suited us better. I think (but may be wrong) that OCR involved less extended writing and more short answers.
We were suprised at the amount of essay writing required in the second paper and I certainly wouldn't recommend the AQA spec for a child who is worried about writing. OK, it's not a history essay, but you still need to be able to rattle off a page of A4 against the clock."
"My oldest enjoyed teaching himself the course and my second son is working through it now and also enjoying it."
Checking for Changes to the LawEdit
There were fewer examples of out-of date material apart from the large number of students who appeared to be unaware of the recent changes to diminished responsibility brought about by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. On a more positive note, a pleasing number of students were aware of the current Bill relating to same sex marriages currently before Parliament.
The general rule with out-of-date material is that we allow a minimum of a year following a change in the law before we expect students to be aware of the change. Beyond that, out-of-date material is unlikely to be credited."
" 6 Out-of-date Material
Examiners reported generally less evidence of students using seriously out-of-date material this year which, pleasingly, continues a trend noticed from previous years. However, a few instances still occur.
For example, Question 5, some students were still referring to the House of Lords rather the Supreme Court. In Question 8, some students seemed to be under the impression that the fast track limit is still £15 000 when in fact it was raised to £25 000 some years ago."
Answering longer exam questions Edit
Some law questions require longer answers. The AQA question paper states clearly when Quality of Written Communication will be assessed, and this means that extra marks are awarded for spelling and style.
The Examiner's Report, which you can usually download from the exam boards along with past papers and mark schemes, gives useful feedback on what the examiners are looking for. These Reports are invaluable, and it is especially helpful for the student to read them.
OCR has published some Exemplar Responses which are very helpful.
Here are some helpful extracts from the AQA GCSE Law Examiner's Report for Summer 2012:
3 Relating the Answer to the Number of Marks Available
The basic rule is simple: one or two mark questions can generally be answered quite briefly and the examiner will be looking for a specific word/phrase, Act of Parliament etc. Questions which carry more marks require more depth/discussion/comment, depending on the ‘trigger’ word used (see below). Students who do follow this rule will inevitably score better than those who do not....
11 Answering Problem Questions in Law
This section has been included as a help in relation to Unit 2, the substantive law paper which was sat for the first time last year. For many students, this can be a difficult skill to acquire, and therefore it is hoped this section in the Report will be of help to students and teachers alike.
Examiners frequently comment upon the lack of organisation of the students’ responses to problem questions and therefore the following mini-guide may be of use.
- Identify the relevant fact(s) from the problem.
- Identify the relevant area of law raised.
- Quote relevant authority from that area of law.
- Apply that law to the facts of the problem.
- Draw the appropriate conclusion from that application.
For a trained lawyer, the above would be second nature, but not for a notional 16-year-old. Showing them the above guide and practising on past papers both individually and in groups should lead to better technique in next year’s exam.
This Report also suggests that, for Commentary questions (ie those where you are asked to Comment or Discuss):
In short, trying to find both positive and negative features (where required) and then drawing a reasoned conclusion is the best way to tackle such questions... One-sided (unless required by the question) and/or non-concluded responses will tend to attract less credit.
Tutors, Textbooks and other resources Edit
AQA GCSE Law by Alan Jones and Tracey Page. A bit light on content but lots of practice questions.
GCSE Law by Jacqueline Martin published by Hodder Education. Highly recommended supplementary book for any board. Goes into lots of detail and is an interesting read, but does not have many practice questions.
LearnLaw online multiple choice revision program for GCSE law. This costs £10 for a year's access.
The AQA website had some useful Teacher Support materials - good ideas for topic-based work and a scheme of work
Online law tutors Edit
itutorlaw - Diane May is a home educating mum, freelance solicitor and Open University law tutor. Online GCSE Law, tutoring programme, with full support at a competitive cost. Visit itutorlaw.co.uk or email Diane at email@example.com
Saleeta Soares is a tutor who marked a couple of essay questions for us before the exam - I emailed her scanned copies of the papers and she sent them back with comments. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org . I think she charged £20 an hour - it cost us £40 in total to have 2 past papers marked by her and returned with detailed commentaries. We found her via a tutor agency by searching "online GCSE law tutor".
Oxford Open Learning Law GCSE Introduction - this helpful document is aimed at OOL correspondence course students, but would be useful to anyone studying GCSE law. In particular the advice on essays and long answers, and the importance of learning cases, is relevant.
OOL GCSE Law Correspondence Course, AQA spec. No personal experience of this course.
Other Resources Edit
Royal Courts of Justice Education Something extra which was fun was a visit to the Royal Courts of Justice. We arranged a mock trial through their education department. It cost £8.50 a head and you need 20 people minimum. There are three mock trials looking at different scenarios and aimed at different age groups, and then the facilitator gives you a tour of the court. These are available at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand, London, and the Nottingham court.
Legal Resources for Students - Legal resources on the web for students maintained by Delia Venables, including information on case notes, course materials, competitions, discussion groups (forums) and links to the main legal resources sections.
TV, Radio etc. Edit
We found some useful material on TV and on YouTube .
The Strange Case of the Law on BBC4 - my son really wished he'd seen this before the exams! . As with many programmes, you can find it online even though it's no longer on iPlayer. By searching "strange case of the law BBC" I found it in various locations - eg Episode 1 on YouTube.
"With unprecedented access to in the inside of a courtroom at the Old Bailey, this ground-breaking documentary explores the British legal system. Young people from UK state schools and colleges take on the roles of barrister, defendant, witness, jury, court reporter, court artist, forensic scientist and court usher."
This is being aired on BBC2 in February 2014. Check the page above to see if programmes are available online. The link also leads to lesson plans and further information. If the programme is not available online from the BBC currently, you can find a 20-minute clip on YouTube, and by searching 'Young Legal Eagles' you may be able to find more
Law In Action - BBC Radio 4 programme, available on demand and as podcasts.