Posted by:25 January, 2013
Nicola Hartley, pictured, solicitor for South Lakeland DC updates us on how the volunteer lawyers programme working with school children is developing in Cumbria as they enter their second year of the programme.
After a very successful 1st year of running Lawyers in Schools in Kendal, we returned again to Kirkbie Kendal in October 2012 for our second year. Due to the success of our first year we have grown in numbers. We have generated more volunteer lawyers keen to take part and more pupils which is a testament to the success and enthusiasm for the scheme amongst the lawyers and amongst the pupils. All the pupils, all aged 14/15 years old, have asked to take part and are all keen to be there which is great.
We continue to be motivated by a desire to give something back to the community we serve. To tell young people about the law and different aspects of it, to encourage young people to consider the law as a career. To learn from the pupils in terms of hearing their interesting and stimulating ideas on different aspects of the law. To generate debate and discussion on different aspects of the law with young people.
The best part of being involved for me and I am sure that I speak on behalf of all the volunteer lawyers is 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, and it continues to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a lawyer and as Coordinator of the South Lakeland site of Lawyers in Schools, I am immensely proud.
The ‘Human Rights’ module was the most enjoyable in our first year as it generates such interesting and challenging debates amongst the young pupils. We always wish we had more time than our allotted hour as we could continue to discuss the topics over several hours, the young pupils engage so well. We could indeed spend many hours with the pupils talking about different human rights issues, it definitely leaves you wanting to have longer and more classes!
Joanna Williams Solicitor at Cumbria County Council and volunteer with the scheme said of last years sessions “The pupils in my group have engaged in the subject material and offered intelligent answers. Hopefully they have also learnt one or two things about the legal system in England. The pupils in my group are well behaved and a credit to the school”.
One of our pupils from the last academic year said “I enjoyed the human rights lesson because there was a lot to think about and discuss. There was also lots of different opinions.” Another student said “I enjoyed learning about police powers because we could talk about different police cases which was interesting.”
We have had 2 sessions so far in this academic year, October was ‘Learning the Law’ when we talk about ages at which the law says people can do certain things, such as drink alcohol, vote and we discuss amongst other things, the age of criminal responsibility. In December, we tackled ‘Police Powers’, and we are back in February to look at ‘Consumer Law’, so more from the blog then.
Nicola Hartley, solicitor-advocate (Higher Courts Criminal Proceedings) South Lakeland DC, coordinator of South Lakeland Site of Lawyers in Schools-Citizenship Foundation
Lawyers go back to school in Cumbria - 21st May 2012
Nicola Hartley, pictured, solicitor for South Lakeland DC updates us on how the volunteer lawyers programme working with school children is developing in Cumbria for the final session of the current academic year.
We returned to school on Thursday 26th April for our last session looking at Human Rights.
This topic generated the most discussion and debate of all 6 sessions. The materials given to us by the Citizenship Foundation are excellently devised to stimulate such debate. For example we gave the pupils various statements to consider such as “Killing is wrong” and then asked the pupils to say where they think this statement should sit on a matrix containing key points such as “in every case”, “in almost every case” and “in some cases”. What is fascinating is observing how the pupils (and volunteer lawyers) often have a gut reaction to say “killing is wrong”, “in every case” section of the matrix.
As the discussion develops, pupils and lawyers may shift slightly and may move their position on the matrix. Indeed one of my pupils immediately insightfully commented, “does this mean killing of humans? or does this include killing animals?” This is a really interesting point and often can shift the emphasis of the debate. It is easy to talk for a full hour just on one issue! What has been so interesting and stimulating about the Lawyers in Schools Scheme has been the committed interaction and participation of the pupils in each and every session, the time flies by and is so enjoyable and the lawyers learn so much from it. Being able to hear the pupils perspectives on various aspects of the law and hearing what the pupils think of human rights and other issues is the key to the scheme’s success.
We went on to consider the 3 absolute human rights and those human rights that may be affected by particular circumstances such as the right to respect for home and family life and considered different practical examples of where 2 parties may have competing human rights. The pupils were all spot on in identifying the competing human rights each time.
Our Celebration Event took place in the Town Hall of South Lakeland District Council on 1st May at 1:30. All 24 pupils attended, including Carla Barker, Head of Life Skills and the Head Teacher of Kirkbie Kendal, Mr Philip Hyman. Mrs Hilary Stephenson, Acting Leader of South Lakeland District Council thanked all the lawyers and pupils who had taken part and thanked Kirkbie Kendal School for making all the volunteer lawyers feel so welcome. The Chair of Cumbria County Council also attended and thanked everyone including both Council’s and all volunteer lawyers for taking part.
Councillor Stephenson talked about the great example of both SLDC and Cumbria County working together for the good of the community each serve and giving something back to the community by lawyers giving up their time for free to engage with pupils to talk about such diverse subjects as human rights, employment, police powers and youth justice.
The pupils were each presented with a certificate to commemorate their participation in the scheme. South Lakeland District Council also purchased ‘Young Citizen’s Passport’ books from the Citizenship Foundation in order to give to the pupils as a keepsake from the scheme. These great little books contain a really useful guide for young people relating to the law in England and Wales. I’ve attached a few photos from our Celebration Event, including one of me, Carla and one of our pupils and a group one of everyone, I’m the only on the group photo with my eyes closed!
I would encourage anyone interested in getting involved in the scheme to do so, you won’t regret it and it is immensely rewarding and so very enjoyable.
Fantastic news, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria County Council are joining together again with Kirkbie Kendal school in the next academic year to run the Lawyers in School scheme for the next batch of willing and eager pupils, so more from the blog then.
Nicola Hartley, solicitor, South Lakeland DC
Lawyers go back to school in Cumbria - 29th February 2012
Nicola Hartley, solicitor for South Lakeland DC, pictured, updates us on how the volunteer lawyers programme working with school children is developing in Cumbria.
After our Christmas and New Year break, myself and the volunteer lawyers went back into Kirkbie Kendal School in Kendal, to teach our class of 14/15 year olds about Youth Justice on 26th January. Youth Justice is designed to stimulate discussion on the general procedure surrounding arrest and questioning of young people by the police, how young people should be treated by the police and about the various types of punishment for young offenders.
As always, all pupils fully engaged in the discussions, asking intelligent, searching questions which illustrate how they really do think about the subject matter. The materials provided by the Citizenship Foundation are designed to stimulate debate and interaction by the pupils and they succeed in doing just that. The result is that the law is not a dry subject, read on paper, but rather is part of everyday life and school, being discussed by the pupils, allowing the pupils to express their views freely and openly. The subject matter sinks in as it is so interactive. During each session, we do an interactive quiz, which enables the pupils to really think about each question and fully consider, not just what the answer is but also if there could be any alternatives to that, if they don’t; agree with the current legal position.
The following week on 3rd February we returned to look at Consumer law which is designed to open and develop discussion about the kinds of situations that may happen when shopping, such as returning goods, the position re sale items and what arguments pupils could use when complaining about a faulty item bought in a shop for example. All the pupils had practical examples of their own which greatly added to the learning experience, for the lawyers too!
The materials provided to us for our 26th January session, included an exercise whereby the pupils had to fold a sheet of paper containing the references to the correct answers in the shape of a toblerone. I did mention to my group that they would probably prefer a real toblerone rather than the do it yourself, blue peter style, paper ones. As soon as I said this, my group agreed with me wholeheartedly! This led to me buying 5 giant toblerones, one for each of our 5 groups, which I handed out at our next session on 3rd February, which despite our class being straight after lunch were soon all gobbled up!! One of my pupils did kindly point out to me that I could have got the same large toblerone for £1 each in Poundland as opposed to the £2 each I paid in Asda!
The school also very kindly offered to take over cutting out materials ready for each session, which is greatly appreciated. When I did them, they were a little rough around the edges! I would definitely not have won a blue peter badge for ones I made earlier!
Its also that time of the programme for mid point feedback. The Citizenship Foundation provides us with feedback forms for both the school coordinator and for each volunteer. Carla Barker, Head of Life Skills dutifully emailed me her mid point feedback form on the Friday night after our 3rd February session, setting a fine example. Carla has commented in her feedback “Students have had to work with peers that they would not ordinarily have worked with. This offers a new experience as well as having lawyers delivering the information. The result is more confidence and self-esteem as well as an increased awareness of the law. Some students now want to go onto study law at degree level”
Joanna Williams, one of our volunteer lawyers and a solicitor at Cumbria County Council said that the pupils in her group had all engaged in the subject material and offered intelligent answers. Joanna also commented that the school is making a real effort to make us all feel welcome and target pupils most likely to benefit. Joanna went on to say that the pupils in her group are very well behaved and a credit to the school, which I can safely say that all the volunteer lawyers agree with. Mark Glouchkoff and Zaheer Bashir, volunteer lawyers, have also commented that the school could not have been more helpful in facilitating the sessions.
Carla Barker has been so very kind and so positive in her feedback. Myself and my fellow volunteer lawyers are all indebted to her and the school for making our time in the school so enjoyable. Carla has even commented that she can see me as a future teacher! Praise indeed! Carla went on to say in her feedback that my group has loved having me as their leader. As Carla will tell you, I am very protective of my group of 4 girls. Indeed when one volunteer lawyer could not make it, my colleague Zaheer Bashir dutifully took over another group, with typical patience and dedication whilst I kept my group! I must also say my fellow volunteer lawyers have also done a sterling job of covering different groups of pupils for colleagues without hesitation. A fantastic example of great team work.
Each session is a joy and we definitely get as much out of it as the pupils, we are learning too from the materials and from the pupils themselves. It is an incredibly rewarding experience and we are all thrilled to be a part of it. I think we come away from each session enriched by the experience without a doubt.
We are next in school for our last 2 sessions on 20th March when we will cover Employment law and on 26th March when we will cover Human Rights, so more from the blog then.
Nicola Hartley, solicitor, South Lakeland DC
Lawyers go back to school in Cumbria - 20th December 2012
A group of volunteer solicitors from South Lakeland DC and Cumbria CC are engaging with school children in Cumbria, teaching them about law, democracy and society. Nicola Hartley, solicitor for South Lakeland DC, pictured, explains why she was deteremined to get a scheme up and running in her area.
I coordinate the South Lakeland Site of the Local Lawyers in Schools Scheme working in partnership with Cumbria County Council. This innovative scheme is funded by the Citizenship Foundation, which is an independent educational charity whose aim is to engage young people with the law, democracy and society.
I have a group of 7 volunteer solicitors including myself from South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) and Cumbria County Council.
We directly delivers elements of Citizenship, a National Curriculum subject, to a class of year 10 pupils, ( aged 14 and 15) at Kirkbie Kendal School, Kendal, Cumbria with the aim of developing young people’s awareness and understanding of the law.
Throughout the academic year pupils and volunteer lawyers will be involved in discussions and debate on a range of topics including Police Powers, Youth Justice, Human Rights and Employment Law. These sessions are often the first time that young people have had the opportunity to discuss their thoughts on the law, justice and democracy.
I first heard about the scheme on the Solicitors in Local Government (SLG) website. I wanted to do some pro-bono legal work and was keen to give something back to the community which SLDC serves. The scheme had begun with large private law firms and the introduction of the scheme for local authorities is relatively new so I was determined to try and get a site organised. In order to qualify for the scheme, 2 local authorities need to work together and there needs to be a minimum of 7 to 10 lawyers on board.
I first made enquiries of neighbouring local councils in 2010 but due to work commitments of colleagues in neighbouring councils, I was unable to persuade people to join up. When SLG advertised the scheme again in 2011, I made a second attempt to get a group of volunteers together, this time, success! I persuaded my colleague Zaheer Bashir, Solicitor, to join me and Christine Wilson, Group Solicitor at Cumbria County Council very helpfully drummed up support at County for me and obtained 5 volunteer lawyers to join us, Joanna Williams, Barry Devlin, Helen Sowerby, Mark Glouchkoff and Anthony Murphy.
I made contact with 2 local schools to enquire if they would be interested in the scheme and Kirkbie Kendal School came back to me very quickly saying they would love to be involved. We are very lucky indeed to have such an enthusiastic and dedicated Head of Life Skills Carla Barker who oversees the scheme in the school. When I first went to see Carla in her office in school to try to persuade her to join up, I walked back to my office along the beautiful river Kent in Kendal with my fingers firmly crossed that the school would agree. Carla ran the details of the project past the Head and Deputy Head and gave her agreement by the end of the week!
David Raeburn of the Citizenship Foundation came up to Carlisle to train us over 2 hours on the materials on 14th October which included a really enjoyable role play scenario where we pretended to be a disruptive pupil, a shy pupil, a pupil talking about what was on TV last night! We then got stuck straight in and had our first session at the school on 1st November 2011 when we covered differing legal ages to vote/ drink/ drive etc. and the difference between criminal and civil law. We got to school an hour early and Carla treated us to a buffet lunch in the staff room and yes it did look like the staff room on the original series of Grange Hill!
When the school bell rings, it is a surreal experience, bringing back memories of bye gone school days. We all came out of the first session buzzing, volunteer lawyers and pupils! It was such a rewarding experience to discuss the law with young people and share thoughts and ideas. I think I can safely speak for all my volunteers that we all enjoyed it so much and got just as much out of it as the pupils.
We organised the class of 24 into 4 groups of 5 and 1 group of 4 and each volunteer remains with the same group of pupils throughout the year in order to build up a positive relationship and encourage open and frank discussion. The pupils all really participate in the discussions and it is fascinating to listen to their views on the law. The debate is always lively and the feedback so far from the pupils has been really positive.
Carla Baker, Head of Life Skills, Kirkbie Kendal School, said at the start of the scheme “We are really excited about the opportunity to embark on this unique initiative. 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 will do. Who better to speak to our students about the law than lawyers and solicitors?”
We returned to school on 11th November and had a really interesting and enjoyable debate in our groups on police powers, again all the pupils got involved. The materials produced by the Citizenship Foundation are really well structured to encourage debate and discussion and there are more materials than you can actually get through in an hour, so the Citizenship Foundation provide more than enough to get us though.
We are back in school in January to cover Youth Justice so more from the blog then.
Nicola Hartley, solicitor, South Lakeland DC
Anyone wanting to learn more about the Local Lawyers in Schools Programme can contact Nicola Hartley at South Lakeland DC on 01539 717 427 or
Share your scheme
Does your council have an example of best practice you can share with your counterparts in other local authorities?
Get in contact now and tell me about them
From The Little Things
LGC’s blog series from local councils on the schemes that make a real difference to their community. Best practice examples from councils for councils.