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Irwin Mitchell Sponsors Final Of Competition To Help Sheffield Students ‘Speak Out’

Lawyers Mentor Pupils In City Wide Public Speaking Initiative


Kate Rawlings, Press Officer | 0114 274 4238

Law firm Irwin Mitchell, in partnership with Business in the Community, have celebrated students who’ve taken part in a city wide public speaking competition to help Sheffield school pupils develop skills to help them prepare for their future careers.

On Wednesday pupils from Chaucer School, Fir Vale School, Parkwood Academy, Sheffield Park Academy battled it out at the University of Sheffield’s Management School in the final of the ‘Speak Out’ competition.

The competition, run by Business in the Community’s (BITC) 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.

A panel of judges, consisting of David Turner, Irwin Mitchell Associate Director, Dr Sarah Brooks, Lecturer, Organisational Behaviour, University of Sheffield, Julie Cullen, Operations Manager North – Education, Business in the Community, and Sam Jackson, Schools Reporter, Sheffield 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 winners were: Overall Winners – Fir Vale, Runners Up – Chaucer, IMPioneering Award – Sheffield Park Academy, IMEfficient Award – Parkwood Academy.

Karen Codling, an Associate Director at Irwin Mitchell, leading the project for the firm, said:

Expert Opinion
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.
Karen Codling, Associate Director

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.”

Speaking about their experience one student from Chaucer said: “I have never presented or had the opportunity to talk publicly before. I am shy at school and I was encouraged by my teacher to put myself forward to take part in the Speak Out Competition. I really enjoyed researching the brief and standing in front of lots of new people to speak out. I also enjoyed working on both my communication and team work skills.”

A student from Fir Vale said: “When we were planning for the competition, my communication skills improved, this is because I worked with other people from different year groups. I learnt that to be successful in business you need to let other people say their opinion. Presenting with my group boosted my confidence and made me more resilient.”