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The Old Bailey Proceedings: Notes for Teachers

A warning note about the content of the Proceedings:

Teachers may wish to exercise caution in the use of this site. Some trials concern sexual offences. Therefore, you may prefer to create an internet trail, by suggesting words for younger pupils to use in their search, or take your own extracts for use in the classroom.

Opportunities in the Teaching of History

A man in a wig and dressing gown, sitting in poor lodgings, scratches his head while trying to draft a poem.  Detail from William Hogarth, 'The distressed poet', March 1736/7. Reproduced courtesy of and with thanks to the Birmingham museums & art gallery

At first, the most obvious uses of this website might appear to be for the teaching of history and ICT. In fact, studying the Proceedings by using the search tools and the primary and secondary sources linked to them can help pupils to develop skills which are desirable outcomes in a number of subject areas in the National Curriculum as well as in Literacy and Numeracy.

In teaching history in the National Curriculum, crime and the law, and in particular its study through the use of the search tools on this website, can be utilised at all key stages to develop students' learning.

Key Stage 2 places an emphasis on both Victorian and local history and, more importantly, demands that teachers address the key elements of continuity and change, chronology, and the use of sources. The story of the convicts' final journey, from Newgate to Tyburn could, for instance, be used as a way of delivering historical knowledge through the literacy hour.

Key Stage 3, with its broad sweep, chronologically speaking, of "British" history provides an open invitation to introduce a "history from below" element into Schemes of Work addressing the early modern period onwards. As early modern passes through to the period of industrialisation, issues about immigration and forced emigration through transportation can help to illuminate the changing nature of Britishness as well as its export overseas. Most obviously, however, the Proceedings can shed light on both the general and the particular in history. Students can examine the life and death of an individual, cases of small numbers of individuals related in some way, perhaps by trade, or generate and analyse the statistics of large populations of people who passed through the Old Bailey.

In Key Stage 4 the Proceedings could play a significant part in the teaching of the Schools History Project GCSE. The development study "Crime & Punishment Through Time" explores issues of continuity and change in crime and the law from the Roman period to the present day. Students taking this GCSE could, with some direction, use the Proceedings to find examples for both classwork and coursework. (Indeed, Ian Dawson's excellent coursebook for this GCSE topic (see Introductory Reading) contains many tasks for students to which the Proceedings could help to provide examples and answers.)

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Cross-Curricular Links

In English an analysis of fiction involving crime, including juvenile crime, is a topic covered by students of all ages and has been taught at all levels for a number of years. Charles Dickens observed London life through a lens of criminality that is still used in schools from the literacy hour in Key Stage 2 to A level lessons.

This website offers an up-to-date way for students to develop their learning in what are now very recognisable desirable outcomes across a much wider range of subject areas. In Maths, with data handling for example, students can use the search tools to generate and analyse simple (and sometimes complex) statistical information about types and frequencies of crimes; in Art, they can examine the style of prints depicting crime, architecture, and representations of people, for instance in Hogarth and Rowlandson; in English, they can construct mini-biographies and examine continuity and change in language and communication; in PSHE and Citizenship, they can look at values, controversial subjects (such as the use of the death penalty), and the mechanisms of the legal system (which can also be used later in courses on GCSE Law). See also The National Curriculum for England Online for further suggestions.

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Citizenship Education

Elsewhere in the website it is clear that the Proceedings affords an opportunity to address issues that have become acknowledged to be crucial in the teaching of citizenship. The histories of minority ethnic groups can be investigated using this site - meeting requirements at Key Stages 3 and 4 [KS3 &4, 1 (b)] to investigate communities' origins and the implications of diverse national, regional, and ethnic identities (see Community Histories). Elsewhere in Key Stage 4, in meeting the requirement to develop knowledge, skills, and understanding, students can use material from this site to explore legal and human rights (1a) and also the work of Parliament, the government and the courts (1c). (For more about promoting citizenship education at Key Stage 3 through the teaching of history, see The Department for Education and Skills' Standards Site.)

The linked pages in this section include a few suggestions for tasks for students. It is possible for teachers to develop a Scheme of Work around the subjects addressed in this site. (For details of schemes see The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and The Department for Education and Skills' Standards Site.)

You may wish to introduce students to the key concepts and information first, encouraging them to find a greater degree of detail on a needs basis from the pages in the section on historical background. Additionally, tasks can be differentiated for students of differing abilities; the ones here are intended to stretch students at all levels (see Activities for Students). We would, of course, welcome constructive suggestions and contributions to this as well as other parts of the site (Contact Us).

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Introductory Reading

  • Arthur, J. & Wright, D., Teaching Citizenship in the Secondary School (London, 2001)
  • Bourdillon, H., ed., Teaching History (Milton Keynes, 1997)
  • Cooper, H., The Teaching of History in Primary Schools: Implementing the Revised National Curriculum (London, 2000)
  • Dadzie, S., Toolkit for Tackling Racism in Schools (London, 2002)
  • Dawson, I., Crime and Punishment Through Time: an SHP Development Study. Discovering the Past for GCSE (London, 2002)
  • Emsley, C., Crime and Society in England, 1750-1900 (London, 1996)
  • Farmer, A. & Knight, P., Active History in Key Stages 3 and 4 (London, 1995)

See also the full bibliography.

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