Lawyers mentor Sheffield schoolchildren in public speaking competition

The winning team from Fir Vale School
The winning team from Fir Vale School
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Sheffield schoolchildren have taken part in a public speaking competition to help them develop skills to help prepare them for their future careers.

Pupils from Chaucer School, Parson Cross; Fir Vale School, Fir Vale; Parkwood Academy, Shirecliffe and Sheffield Park Academy, Manor Park, battled it out in the final of the Speak Out competition.

The teams, judges, mentors and teachers

The teams, judges, mentors and teachers

The competition, run by Business in the Community’s flagship Education programme Business Class, which creates long-term school-business partnerships, involved pupils being paired up with business mentors from Irwin Mitchell, Carillion plc and DLA Piper, as well as University of Sheffield student mentors, to develop and present ideas for what they think the future of legal advice in their community looks like.

The challenge, launched in March at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield head office, asked students to consider when they might need access to legal advice, where the highest demands for legal advice in the community are, how they can currently access legal advice and preferred ways to access it in the future.

The final was held University of Sheffield’s Management School

A panel of judges, consisting of David Turner, Irwin Mitchell associate director, Dr Sarah Brooks, lecturer in organisational behaviour at the University of Sheffield and Julie Cullen, operations manager north – education for Business in the Community, and Sam Jackson, education reporter at The Star, quizzed the pupils on their presentations before deciding which of the four teams had won.

As well as all receiving goodie bags from Irwin Mitchell, the firm has sponsored the four trophies up for grabs which included an overall winner and runner up and awards for the most efficient and pioneering presentations.

The overall winners were a team from Fir Vale, with a Chaucer School team coming in second place. The IM Pioneering Award went to a team from Sheffield Park Academy, while a team from Parkwood Academy scooped the IM Efficienct Award.

Karen Codling, an Associate Director at Irwin Mitchell, leading the project for the firm, said: “We were absolutely blown away by the standard of the presentations, delivered by the students who are all aged between 11 to 14.

"We are passionate about making sure that all children are given equal opportunities when it comes to shaping their future career paths. It’s been inspiring to watch the months of hard work that the pupils and mentors have put in come together for the final presentations and prize giving.

“The feedback from the pupils and their teachers has been fantastic, and the high quality and innovation in all of the presentations is testament to the valuable new skills the groups have developed while taking part in the competition.

“We hope that the pupils will walk away from this experience with new role models from the worlds of business and higher education and renewed ambition and determination for their lives after school. It has certainly given me lots to think about.”

The launch of the competition saw two teams of pupils from each school, comprised of Year 7, Year 8 and Year 9 students, meet their business and university mentors for the first time, where they found out their challenge and discussed their initial ideas.

Since then pupils underwent mentoring sessions where they learned to work as teams, come up with a plan and identify the skills needed to implement it, practice lateral thinking and research within their local communities, while developing their communication, information sharing and public speaking skills in a competitive context.

Michelle Dickinson, from Business in the Community, said: “It is fantastic to see local businesses coming together to support this Business Class initiative, to ensure young people are provided with an understanding of local career options and opportunities to acquire the skills they need to build successful working lives.”