- Haggerston School, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Prudential
- Ernesford Grange Academy and National Grid (Warwick)
- Burlington Danes Academy and Olswang and BBC Worldwide
- Kirkbie Kendal School and Southlakeland District Cumbria County Councils
Freshfields Brauckhaus Deringer and Haggerston School’s partnership on the Lawyers in Schools programme has been running since 2009. Over the past five years the partnership has gone from strength to strength with 2013 seeing Freshfields invite their client Prudential into the partnership, both increasing and enhancing the pool of legal volunteers taking part in the programme.
About the School
Haggerston School is a slightly smaller than average-sized secondary school located in Hackney, London. It changed from being a girls’ school in September 2010 to being coeducational. The number of students who are eligible for free school meals, have a statement of special needs, or have English as an additional language, is above the national average.
Approximately 150 students at the school have benefited from the Lawyers in Schools programme since the partnership began.
This academic year 14 volunteers from Freshfields (a mixture of trainees and associates) and 12 volunteers from Prudential (varying in background and seniority) delivered six Lawyers in Schools sessions to a class of approximately 30 students selected from Years Nine and Ten (aged 13 to 15 years old). The volunteers facilitated sessions on: Learning about the Law, Discrimination, Human Rights, Police Powers, Social Media and the Law and Applying the Law.
Unlike most Lawyers in Schools partnerships, sessions at Haggerston School are run after the school day has finished. The programme is advertised by the school in assemblies and students are asked to complete an application form if they would like to take part.
Highlights from this year’s impact evaluation include that 72% of Haggerston School students felt more involved in classroom discussion during Lawyers in Schools sessions than they did in regular classes. There was a 31% increase on pre-programme levels (taking the total to 100%) in the number of students who agreed that they would know when they could deal with a law related problem alone and when they would need expert help.
‘Lawyers in Schools taught me about lots of useful things and I learnt many skills and extended existing ones.’ - Mohammed
‘I really enjoyed it.’ - Sarah
*Names changed for students’ anonymity.
Akilah Jeffers, class teacher and school coordinator for the programme told us:
‘Students’ engagement throughout the Lawyers in Schools programme has been a delight to see. They have benefitted from being able to discuss ideas about their rights and responsibilities with lawyers and fellow students. Their increased awareness of the law has manifested itself in lessons, where students have been keen to ask ‘what would a solicitor say about that?’, or ‘is that acceptable from a legal standpoint’.
Hannah Tye, Solicitor and Pro Bono manager at Freshfields explains that:
‘The Freshfields' volunteers have very much enjoyed participating in this year's Lawyers in Schools programme at Haggerston, alongside Prudential lawyers. They have enjoyed the challenge of bringing the law to life and showing how it can be relevant and useful to young people's daily lives - as well as engaging with enthusiastic young people and hearing their views on a variety of issues connected with the law.’
The Lawyers in Schools team thank Freshfields, Prudential, and their volunteers for their support and dedication to the programme, which makes it the continued success that it is.
We also give special thanks to Haggerston School and class teacher Akilah Jeffers for her hard work coordinating the sessions, selecting the students and ensuring that parents and staff were kept up-to-date, and for making the volunteers feel welcome.
Thanks also goes to the students that took part for their valuable contributions and commitment to attending sessions after school.
We look forward to continuing this partnership in 2015.
The Lawyers in Schools programme is traditionally delivered in a series of six sessions spread across the academic year. However, on occasions (with the agreement of all parties involved) the delivery model is changed. The National Grid and Ernesford Grange Community Academy partnership is one such example.
Lawyers from National Grid (Warwick) have just enjoyed their second year as Lawyers in Schools partners. Their volunteers choose to deliver the programme in one full school day at their partner school, making their commitment to the school and programme more manageable for their small team.
This year five volunteers (two lawyers, one trainee, one legal secretary and an assistant) from the Warwick office’s legal department signed up to facilitate sessions on: Learning about the Law, Employment Law, Human Rights, Social Media and the Law, and Discrimination, with a class of approximately 20 students from Year Nine (aged 13 – 14 years old) at Ernesford Grange Community Academy in Coventry.
A school day is typically six hours long including breaks. This means that when the programme is delivered in a single day it is usually reduced to five sessions of approximately 50/60 minutes in length each. Ernesford Grange Academy was able to be flexible with their school timetable and took a selection of students out of their regular classes to take part in the programme. On other occasions when the programme has been run on a single school day it has been done so on what is known as a suspended timetable/drop down day. This means that the whole school will not be following its regular timetable and that students will be taking part in a variety of activities onsite - often run by outside agencies.
About the School
Ernesford Grange Community Academy is a much smaller than average –sized secondary school with a sixth form. An above average proportion of the students are known to be eligible for the pupil premium. The proportions of disabled students and those who have special educational needs supported through school action, at school action plus or with a statement of special educational needs is above average.
The school officially became an academy in January 2014.
Students worked in four small groups within the school’s conference room for this single day event. All students undertook the first session of the day, our compulsory unit, Learning about the Law, which is designed to introduce the students to the basics of the law and how it applies to them. It focuses on the ages at which they gain the right to legally do certain things such as learn to drive, buy alcohol, leave home. Following this session the students rotated tables to join a new legal volunteer and undertake a session on one of the other choosen units (listed above). Every 55 minutes the students rotated groups to join a new volunteer/s and undertake a new topic - only stopping for break and lunch.
The Lawyers in Schools Project Officer that attended the day commented that:
'It was great to see the students excited - and a little bit nervous! - to meet the volunteers. As the sessions progressed the students became more confident and it was fantastic to hear the students applying the knowledge they had learnt in their earlier sessions. The school was very welcoming, making sure that tea and coffee was provided for the volunteers throughout the day. The school dinner provided for the volunteers brought back happy memories for many of school days gone by, but I think all were in agreement that school meals are definitely much better today!'
'The day flew by and the students had a lot to contribute and discuss with the volunteers. By the end, the volunteers were brimming with positive comments about the students and their experiences from the day.'
In the words of the students*:
‘I felt more involved because there was enough time for everyone to have a say in what they thought as we were in groups.’ Lucy
‘It improves various skills and expands your knowledge of law.’ Tom
‘It was good to understand the law and learn new things and understand more in general about law.’ Wayne
*Names changed for students’ anonymity.
Volunteers told us that they feel Lawyers in Schools is ‘a very worthwhile programme and not only helps encourage others to consider a career in law, but also can challenge certain preconceived ideas about the profession.’
Another volunteer commented on what they saw as one of the programme’s real benefits…’the opportunity for the children to speak to professionals in careers that they may not be familiar with'. Stating, ‘I think the benefit seems greatest where children’s family and friendship circles do not incorporate these types of professions so they have not necessarily been given the opportunity to have more informal interactions with professionals.’
The teacher explained how she felt that the programme has helped to overcome barriers explaining that ‘many of the students remarked how ‘nice’ the professionals were and I think it has helped to break down barriers which may have previously existed.’
The Lawyers in Schools team thank the volunteers from National Grid’s Warwick office for their continued support and commitment to the programme. Special thanks to school coordinator Carol Carroll and staff at Ernesford Grange Community Academy for making the necessary arrangements within the school and for making the volunteers and Lawyers in Schools team very welcome. And we of course thank the wonderful students that took part for their hard work and contributions.
Olswang joined the Lawyers in Schools programme in 2008. They brought lawyers from BBC Worldwide and the BBC on board in 2009 and lawyers from Amey in 2010 - to join forces with them at Burlington Danes Academy in Hammersmith and Fulham.
Last year, the Olswang partnerships saw 79 volunteers including - trainees, associates, partners, senior partners, in-house lawyers and barristers working on the programme.
Olswang and BBC Worldwide continue to work with Burlington Danes Academy and over the years they have seen Lawyers in Schools go from strength to strength. More than 225 students have benefitted from the programme at Burlington Danes since 2008.
Highlights from last year’s partnership evaluation report revealed…
Eighty per cent of Burlington Danes students felt more involved in classroom discussion than normal during the sessions.
‘The sessions allowed us access to actual lawyers experienced in the law and they helped us to understand our rights and responsibilities in certain situations.’
The Director Learning commented that…
‘The opportunity to interact with legal professionals was such a privilege and the students were really motivated to succeed at school so they could be in a better position academically in the future.’
A partner from Olswang expressed the sentiment shared by many volunteers about their own enjoyment of the sessions…
‘I can say nothing more than my sessions were often the highlights of my week. I found them inspiring and rewarding.’
As for BBC Worldwide volunteers…
One hundred per cent of them reported that their job satisfaction had increased as a result of taking part in Lawyers in Schools.
We owe thanks to the enthusiastic and hardworking Corporate Responsibility team at Olswang and the dedicated lawyers from Olswang, BBC Worldwide, the BBC and Amey for the time and effort that they put in to making fantastic impacts at Burlington Danes in 2011-12. In addition, we’d like to thank assistant principle Janina Aitken and teachers from Burlington Danes for their continued support and commitment to the programme. We look forward to celebrating the impacts made in 2012-13.
Olswang also currently work with Haverstock School in Chalk Farm where they deliver sessions with barristers from Blackstone Chambers.
To find out what students and volunteers at Burlington Danes Academy made of their first session this year - read our blog 'My first Lawyers in Schools' session...'
The Lawyers in Schools programme works with many different lawyers and organisations in a growing number of places in the country and now even internationally.
Local Government lawyers for South Lakeland District and Cumbria County Councils have been involved in the Lawyers in Schools programme for two years and work in partnership with Kirkbie Kendal School in Kendal Cumbria. Approximately 50 Year Ten students in total will have benefited from the programme at the School by the end of this academic year.
During this time Lawyer Nicola Hartley has been the volunteer co-ordinator for the two Councils. She recently explained that their lawyers were motivated to take part in the programme in order to give something back to the community that they serve; to educate young people and to generate discussion and debate about different aspects of the law and to encourage young people to consider the profession as a career option.
The programme has also helped their lawyers to develop links between the Council and community for the good of the people they serve.
When asked what the best thing about taking part had been, Nicola told us…
‘Engaging with the young people and hearing their views on the law and the legal system. The young people’s views are always fascinating and intelligent and we generate really interesting discussions each time we meet. The lawyers get just as much out of the sessions as the young people, it is one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a lawyer…
I am immensely proud of what we have achieved in working with the talented and immensely bright and eager pupils at Kirkbie Kendal; it has been an absolute joy to work with them. The volunteer lawyers get just as much out of the scheme as the pupils and every session generates lively and fascinating debates on all aspects of the legal system. The school and Carla Barker (Head of Life Skills) in particular have been brilliant in terms of welcoming the volunteer lawyers into the school and our partnership between the school and the volunteer lawyers is a resounding success which reflects positively on the school, the legal profession and our respective Councils who all take part.’
Joanna Williams, a volunteer lawyer from Cumbria County Council, further highlighted what a pleasure it has been working with the students, explaining how they were ‘well behaved and a credit to the School’.
It’s not just the lawyers themselves that are enthusiastic about the programme at Kirkbie Kendal School; Carla Barker was ‘really excited about the opportunity to embark on this unique initiative.’
She explained that…
‘For Citizenship to be a successful subject in schools it needs willing organisations to come and speak with students to make it a ‘real’ subject that is relevant to them and this is exactly what this scheme [does]. Who better to speak to our students about the law than lawyers?’
Carla’s comments demonstrate the huge support that programmes such as Lawyers in Schools has from Schools and how important they view such activities for their young people. A massive thank you to Nicola Hartley and her team of volunteers for their dedication and support of the programme: without lawyers like them the Lawyers in Schools programme would not exist. In addition, we are also massively thankful to Carla Barker for her co-ordination within the School and her continued commitment to the programme.