‘This was beneficial to my education and important to my future’ was the comment made by a student from St Matthew Academy in South-East London this term as groups of lawyers entered the classroom in a number of schools across the country to start their Lawyers in Schools programmes for the year. It has not only been a busy few weeks for our volunteer lawyers but also for me as I have been dashing around schools in London to attend the first classes to support everyone involved.
There were nervous faces all round and not just from the students but once the ice had been broken and the sessions were underway students’ confidences grew and personalities shone through. As for the lawyers, they instantly developed a rapport with the students and it wasn’t long before classes were filled with the gentle sound of debate and the wonderful (and unexpected) sound of laughter.
Having joined the Lawyers in Schools team at the end of August I had been eagerly anticipating the start of these sessions in order to see both mine and everyone else’s work in action. More importantly it meant that I could meet the students that we work for. Listening to students debate issues such as whether you can ever be emotionally mature enough to have children at the age of sixteen or whether having legal ages at which you can smoke and drink alcohol just makes you more inclined to be rebellious was fantastic. There were no winning sides either: students learnt what the law states and that this is to be followed but they also began to learn that laws are not necessarily ‘right’ and can be changed if there is good reason to do so and again even this reasoning is open to debate.
For me, the most satisfying part of the whole experience was watching students that normally don’t speak up in class get involved and come out of their shells. The small group-work involved in the scheme really encourages even shy students to get involved in discussions. Time and time again over the last few weeks I have been told by teachers that shy and even boisterous students are being really engaged and showing a new side to their personality. I was shocked when at one school I walked into a room of what appeared to be model students working in their groups with the lawyers only to be told by the class teacher that this was normally one of the most challenging classes to work with in the year, but they were really engaging with the volunteers and participating in the discussions.
About Lawyers in Schools
Lawyers in Schools is a unique educational and corporate social responsibility programme in which lawyers enter the classroom in local schools to facilitate sessions that closely tie in with the citizenship syllabus, whilst also developing links with their community.
For more details about the scheme, please visit www.lawyersinschools.org.uk