Law newsletter (issue 2)

Thursday 27 Feb 2014

Law newsletter - Issue 2 - Summer 2014

Welcome to our second newsletter. We hope you found the first one useful and, as before, if there are any issues that you would like to see in the newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact the subject team on the contact details at the end of this newsletter.

This month:

Updates on the law


From 29 July 2013, the payment of fees for making an employment claim to a tribunal was introduced. The fees could be between £390 and £1200. If the claimant loses the claim, a Tribunal could order the employee to pay the employer's costs.

From April 2014, before lodging an employment claim to the Tribunal, all claimants need to notify ACAS first, following which conciliation will be offered. If conciliation is unsuccessful within a set period, the claimant can proceed to lodge a tribunal claim.

The Employment Tribunal will have the power to order an employer who has lost a case to pay a financial penalty to the Secretary of State of between £100 and £5000. The penalty will be imposed where the employer has breached any of the worker's rights and the breach has one or more aggravating features.


Changes from the Children and Family Act 2013 became effective from April 2014.

They mean that anyone wishing to make an application to court about their children or finances will have to attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAMS).

The aims of the changes are to move the family courts away from the adversarial model towards a model that means that separating couples reach workable practical arrangements that meet their need both now and in the future, and that are designed to meet the needs of their children.

Some cases will continue to require the courts to make the final decision but these cases are likely to involve more serious issues of violence and abuse. There will be only one family court in the future (rather than separate proceedings in the Magistrates Court, County Court or High Court) and a time frame has been introduced for cases where children are taken into care.

Whole-life sentences

In July 2013, the European Court of Human Rights had ruled that whole-life sentences breached human rights. It said that, while it accepted whole-life orders could be justified, there should nevertheless be some way of having imprisonment reviewed after 25 years. It ruled that whole-life sentences had to have the possibility of release and that, to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, there should be some way of having a sentence reviewed after 25 years.

In February 2014, the Court of Appeal, with a panel of five judges, found that the Strasbourg court had been wrong when it reached a conclusion that the law of England and Wales did not clearly provide the possibility that a whole-life prison term could ever be reduced. Lord Thomas, Lord Chief Justice, said some crimes were "so heinous" that Parliament was entitled to allow whole-life orders "entirely compatibly" with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Clarification of the specification requirements on marriage

Changes to the law on same-sex marriage

Please note that since same-sex marriages became legal in March 2014, the reference to 'marriage' in the GCSE specification should be taken to include the new legislation. Anyone teaching now for examination in 2015 should be teaching the key provisions of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. The level of detail required would match what has traditionally been required for heterosexual marriage. You still need to teach the law on Civil Partnerships for as long as it remains in force. You'll find some useful video clips about this in the YouTube section below.

Specification reform

There's no new news about when Law will be reformed, so we are assuming that the situation is still that A-level will be reformed for first teaching in September 2017. We realise this is a bit unsettling and it is making some people feel that Law is being devalued as a subject or, worse, that it's not going to be redeveloped. To give some reassurance, there is absolutely nothing to make us think that it won’t follow on once the Phase 1 and 2 subjects have been reformed and the delay does give us time to plan how a future redevelopment might go. You can check on the latest information at any time on our website by going to the home page and clicking on the big blue links called 'Changes to A-levels' and 'Changes to GCSEs' which are updated every time there is any news.

We'e had a few questions about the modular to linear change, and how this affects Law. GCSE is now linear, and both papers have to be sat at the end of the course of study.

A-level will carry on being modular until the new specification comes in, at which point it will be linear. We assume that it will follow the pattern of the specifications that are already being reformed, in that the AS will become a stand-alone qualification but it will be co-teachable with the A-level, so you won'thave two quite different courses of study to plan.

In support of A-level Law

Many of you will have encountered the belief that Higher Education Institutions prefer students who are applying to do Law degrees with them NOT to have A-level Law. The Law department at AQA has tried several times in the past to scotch this rumour, but it still persists. We've recently been in touch with Russell Group universities and other institutions, some of whom have been willing to go on the record to say that they don't take this attitude. We’ve now published In Support of A-level Law which makes interesting reading, and I hope you’ll find it useful at Open Evenings and discussions that you may have with students and parents. Some of our earlier research is still on the website here under the heading 'Newsletters'.

Using past papers for mock exams

For the last 10 years, AQA has had a policy of making our papers and mark schemes available on the AQA website in March/April from the previous June exam series. The policy of publishing papers on the website is in line with the practice of other boards (though we have noted that OCR are not publishing their June 13 papers on their website until August 14).

With the removal of the January exam series, we have realised that this may have an impact on the use of the previous June papers for mocks. We are therefore reviewing our policy in this area to ensure that it best meets the needs of teachers and their students. We need to ensure that papers can be used appropriately for mocks, though we know that many students begin their revision in earnest at Easter and we receive a number of queries from students, parents and teachers about when the previous June papers will be available on the AQA website for this purpose.

We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the publication of these papers on 1 April and will communicate to all schools and colleges the outcome of the review in the autumn, so that teachers are aware of when these papers will be available on the website in future years.

Updated resources

We have now published an updated Resources list (2014) and a new Scheme of Work (3) for GCSE on the teaching and learning resources page. We hope you'll find these useful. See below in the comments about Teacher CPD courses for a possible way to make shared resources available.

For A-level, new materials are in preparation, including exemplars with commentaries, updated Resources list and Schemes of Work. They will appear later this term, and when they're ready, you'll be able to find them on the teaching and learning resources page.

How do marks become grades?

There won't be another newsletter before Results Day, so we thought this was a good time to point you towards a short video. Not everyone is aware of what happens in the Awarding process, where the grade boundaries for each paper are determined, so if you've ever been baffled by the grade boundaries, or wonder why they change from year to year, take a few minutes to watch the video.

Support materials from the Law Commission?

We have heard that the Law Commission are considering producing some materials for teachers and students that would support the law syllabus at GCSE and A level.

They would really welcome the views of teachers on what sort of materials would be most useful, in what format, and what sort of content would be most relevant (eg should it be about the Law Commission or law reform projects?). It would also be useful to understand more about how teachers and students use different kinds of materials. Please let us have your views and experiences by emailing to the address at the end.

What's on television?

Television and radio programmes can be useful sources of teaching material, and catch-up and YouTube make it easier to capture things after the event. Here are a couple of suggestions from recent broadcasts.

BBC3 Crime and Punishment Season (March 2014) considered the following issues:

  • life on death row
  • restorative justice
  • suicide in the penal system.

Radio 4 third series of 'The Public Philosopher' (May 2014) discussed the issue of 'Morality and the State'.


You might find some of these clips useful in your teaching. They've been contributed by a current teacher who has researched what's out there and uses these herself.



Same sex marriage

This is a compilation of the main highlights from the debates in the Commons on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. Could be useful for both family law in GCSE Unit 2 AND creating law in Parliament in Unit 1, as it depicts the stages


A Question Time debate on same sex marriage - good for promoting debate in class


A video of the first same sex marriage union in the UK  


Nicely done video focusing on the basics of causation

Coroners and Justice Acts 2009

A webinar about the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 from Lincoln House Chambers in Manchester


Murderer David Gilroy is sentenced to life for murder in the first televised murder trial in the UK


This is a lecture from Harvard University looking at Law and Morality with focus on murder. Although American, there are many overlaps and it covers Bentham et al. Particularly useful for A Level students.

Solicitors and Barristers

Short video outlining the difference between solicitors and barristers and when you may use one or the other


A BPP video on how to become a solicitor


A University of Law video on what it's like to train as a barrister


The Law Bank Channel and has a lot of useful videos covering Units 1-4 for A level and both GCSE units


Carol Withey's channel with amusing and accurate depictions of key cases for revision and plenaries


The UK Supreme Court channel, including an overview and judgements


The Scottish Council for Law Reporting - particularly useful for history of judicial precedent

Missed the first Law newsletter?

You can view Issue 1 of our newsletter in the News and Policy area of our website.

We're sending this newsletter out electronically wherever we have the appropriate contact details: if you haven't received this electronically and would like future newsletters to come to you personally, please email us at the address above, giving your name, job title, email address and centre name and number.

Teacher CPD training courses

We had a good take-up of the GCSE training 'Focus on Feedback' in April and it was interesting to find out how people's feelings of confidence went up by the end of the course. We noted the request to have more marked exemplar material and hope to provide that for future sessions. It seems that teachers have lots of ideas for teaching activities that they'd be willing to share – how could we do this? Most of you receiving this newsletter are in the Teacher Network Group, which seems a good place to start asking for ideas and then sharing them. Any comments on this? The materials from the April meeting are now available on Secure Key Materials (called 'Feedback on Examinations, Spring 2014'), and we're hoping to run another course in spring 2015.

Face-to-face courses for all topics of A-level Law are available throughout June and July, and in the autumn term, in various locations. They have been well received by teachers who have attended them to date. You can book online now or contact the Teacher Professional Development (CPD) team at or 0203 671 8014.

Exam timetable for June 2015

The provisional timetables for the GCSE and A-level examinations are now available.

GCSE Law mark bands

A reminder that the mark bands for 4- and 5-mark questions on Unit 1 (41601) will revert to those indicated on the specimen exam materials from the summer 2014 series. This will help differentiate better between student answers.

Contact us

We are here to support our teachers and if you have any questions, or suggestions for what you would like to see in the newsletter, please do not hesitate to contact the subject team on 01483 477750 or email us on

Download the PDF version of our summer newsletter (issue 2) for GCSE and A-level Law.