On 9th April 2023, we were saddened to hear of the passing of our charity’s founding father, Lord Andrew Phillips of Sudbury OBE.
As a lawyer, politician and passionate advocate for citizenship education, Andrew’s influence was immense.
To pay tribute to his remarkable legacy, we invited his former colleagues and friends to offer their unique reflections on a life dedicated to sparking young people’s civic engagement.
We begin with a full obituary from Andrew’s close ally, Don Rowe, followed by tributes from former colleagues David Kerr, Martin Bostock, Michael Maclay, Tony Breslin and Tony Thorpe.
Don Rowe | Former Chief Executive and Director of Curriculum Resources
Andrew Phillips’s passion for law-related education established a partnership between the legal profession and teaching that has had a lasting impact.
As a young solicitor, Andrew Phillips felt passionately that the law should be regarded as ‘theirs’ by lay people, including the young. This famously manifested itself through his regular broadcasts as a ‘legal eagle’ on Radio 2, but it may be less well-known that he believed that young people in schools should also learn about the law and how it relates to their ordinary, everyday lives. There was very considerable scepticism about the feasibility of this idea in the early 1980s.
After the raising of the school leaving age in England and Wales in 1972, Andrew, like other young solicitors, regularly went into schools to talk with teenagers (often they were the ‘reluctant learners’) about key aspects of the law. Andrew’s experience was that his audiences found it all fascinating and worthwhile.
But he was not content to leave things at that. Typical of him, he wanted to make a systemic change.
In pursuit of this, he persuaded The Law Society to commission a survey of head teachers as to whether they would welcome a range of law-related teaching materials for use in Personal, Social and Health education classes.
Following a resounding ‘yes’ to this question, Andrew brought together The Law Society and the Department of Education who agreed to run a curriculum development project to create a course of law-related materials for use with 14-16-year-olds. Crucially, the lessons had to be deliverable by non-legally trained teachers.
The result was the Law in Education Project, which Tony Thorpe and I had the privilege to lead from 1984 to 1989. It was run under the auspices of the School Curriculum Development Committee and was fully funded by The Law Society.
In 1989, again largely thanks to Andrew’s efforts, the Citizenship Foundation was set up as an independent NGO to continue the work. In partnership with the new National Curriculum Council (NCC), and sharing the funding with The Law Society, we developed a law-related curriculum for Key Stage 3, which would lead into the KS4 curriculum. We also worked closely with the NCC as it developed the framework for Citizenship Education as a new cross-curricular theme, from KS1 to KS4 (this was a significant new development for citizenship in the primary years).
A year later, this work was reinforced by the Speaker’s Commission on Citizenship which also recommended that the teaching of legal rights and responsibilities should begin with infants and continue right through to university.
Andrew Phillips was the first chair of the Citizenship Foundation and remained in this post until 2007, when he became its first president. He never lost his enthusiasm for this important cause. It is well-known that very many curriculum development projects make a brief impact and then sink without trace. It’s a tribute to Andrew’s charisma and drive that law-related education is still thriving.
The second major project of the Citizenship Foundation (1991) was to introduce mock trialling into state secondary schools. Andrew’s extensive network of contacts led to Anthony Hooper QC (later Lord Justice Hooper) being recruited to the Board of Trustees. The Bar Council readily agreed to provide extensive support and funding, and, following the huge success of this project, a mock trial competition was developed for lower secondary students, in close collaboration with the Magistrates Association (1993).
Currently, every year, over 4000 students participate in these competitions along with hundreds of barristers, magistrates and solicitors. Hundreds more young people benefit from Young Citizens’ Legal Workshops and Experts in Schools sessions with corporate partners.
In the early days, one of the arguments that Andrew commonly faced was that young people could not be taught about the law as it was too complex and abstract. The projects described above gave the lie to that claim.
Today it is accepted that, to be a functioning citizen, a knowledge of how laws are made and changed and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship are not only important – they are an entitlement. Andrew Phillips’s passion and commitment to this has brought about a significant development in education in Britain, with the presence for the first time of a law-related strand of citizenship education, together with an abiding partnership between teachers and the legal profession.
Countless young people have benefitted as a result of these developments and not a few have had their lives transformed through the kind of contact with the law and the legal system that they would not otherwise have had.
David Kerr | Former Trustee and Director of Education
Andrew’s passion for citizenship and legal education shone through his very being. Whether pigeonholing politicians to press the case for action, speaking with young people and teachers, or cajoling the legal profession for more active support, he put his heart and soul into every encounter.
He was a constant support in my time working with Professor Sir Bernard Crick and then the Citizenship Foundation.
He leaves a lasting legacy – and you cannot say that of many people.
Martin Bostock | Former Chair of Trustees
My enduring memory of Andrew is his astonishing energy – physical and mental.
In my role as Chair of Young Citizens (2013-2019) I would meet with him regularly to brief him on our progress and to discuss future plans.
At these meetings – usually over a cup of tea in Parliament – he would be positively fizzing with ideas: new initiatives we could explore; new people we could approach for support or funding; legislation going through Parliament which we might try to influence.
The hardest part of my job was to manage his expectations, as we could never have the resources to achieve everything he wanted us to. But his boundless enthusiasm for the cause and the limitless flow of ideas he generated kept us constantly challenged to think bigger and better.
Sometimes we would talk while walking around Westminster or along the river, and I invariably struggled to keep up with his long, rangy stride, despite being reasonably fit and a decade and a half younger than him!
And as if all this weren’t enough, despite his hectic schedule he always found time to ask about the wellbeing of the Young Citizens team and about me and my family.
Even with the health issues which affected him later in the time we worked together, I never felt that his passion, energy or commitment were diminished. A truly remarkable man in so many ways.
Michael Maclay | Former Chair of Trustees
Andrew managed to mix inspiration with imagination – the mark of a true leader. He saw what people were capable of even when they could not see it themselves. We all benefited hugely from this.
We also benefitted from his extraordinary ability to generate new ideas. A very small proportion were duds, as is always the case with original thinkers: the remarkable thing was that a high proportion of his were both brilliant and practical, making it possible to build up new organisations and institutions and new legal instruments and practices which endured.
Not only was it a pleasure and a privilege to work with him over many years. It was enormous fun. And you never quite knew what was coming next.
Dr. Tony Breslin | Former Chief Executive
As Chair and President, Andrew Phillips was not merely a custodian of the campaign for law-related education, or of the Citizenship Foundation. Rather, he was an engaged and passionate champion for the cause of legal and political engagement at every level, from the street corner or community group through to Parliament and beyond – citizenship in all its manifestations.
Not for him the distant support of a hands-off trustee of the kind so often recommended in dry manuals on effective governance. Andrew was literally in there with you, opening every door and making every introduction that might lead to influence or income, like a football coach who kicks every ball from the dugout and sometimes allows himself to enter the field of play, even if the rules might say he shouldn’t. As such, he was an inspiration, a guiding light and simply great to work with.
Driven, dynamic and dashing, he went about everything at a pace, impatient for change and determined that you should match his infectious enthusiasm and effort. Andrew was at his most witty (and his most colourful) in talking about the inadequacies of a legal and political system that citizens could not access, or of a project that might not have quite achieved its objectives, but this intolerance was always good-natured, witty and incisive, always the driver of the next initiative and never a cause to give up.
He leaves an incredible legacy, but he would never be happy for us to rest on that. We owe it to him to continue the fight to widen understanding of, and access to, our justice system and our democracy.
Rest assured Andrew, we will.
Tony Thorpe | Former Deputy Project Director
I think my strongest memories of Andrew are of his drive and wealth of ability, but also of his generosity. Although sometimes quite a taskmaster, he was a very kind and generous man, but one who never sought the limelight in this respect. He was very much a polymath, and someone whose knowledge, understanding and opinion I always valued and respected.
Andrew had the ability to think about the value of law-related education and public legal understanding in the simplest, but most effective way – two key qualities that brought about the development of the Citizenship Foundation.
In the early days, it was Andrew’s custom to meet me and Don for supper every couple of months to check on progress and share new ideas. By the time we were about halfway through the Law in Education Project, we had already started to think about ways of raising funds for a second project to extend our work to younger secondary school students.
As we left the restaurant one night and walked towards the Tube, Andrew said to us both, “Of course, we are not going to be looking to set up just another project. We need something permanent – a Foundation that can carry on and broaden this work, long term.”
That conversation really did hit me like a train. I remember thinking that this is going to change my life – and it did. Thanks to Andrew’s perception, drive, and generosity, it opened up so many different and unexpected avenues for Don, Jan, Tony, Ted and I, and all our colleagues.
Speaking for myself, I believe it changed the way that I looked at many aspects of society and was such an enriching influence in my life. And for that, I shall always be grateful to Andrew and my colleagues whom I met as a result.