We are Pleckgate pupils who live in a small part of England, a town called Blackburn. We are a diverse group of Year 10 pupils who are looking towards our future. We participated in the ‘Bar Mock Trial’ hosted by Young Citizens in November 2023. We are hard working enthusiastic pupils, who saw an opportunity to show our talents. Layla Almaz says of her experience “this was an amazing learning and bonding opportunity, everyone involved was supportive,encouraging towards each other. I remember standing there, the air was filled with tension and when our school name was announced as the winning team, I just remember my heart exploding with joy and pride”.
We took part in this because it was an intriguing opportunity that we took interest in as a group. We felt that we had the skill set that would help us succeed in this competition. It was a great chance to strengthen our teamwork and we also acknowledged that this would help us with future prospects. As a school we try to devote as much time as we can to extracurricular activities that showcase our skills and help us in the future. Participating in this event brought new interests in potential jobs and as Year 10 pupils, who are currently thinking about the next stages, this served as a good opportunity for us to experience law as a bigger picture. Additionally, as one of the oldest year groups in school, we wish to serve as role models to those younger than us and spread our hard working spirit. Two of the pupils described their experiences as a “brilliant, mind opening experience and learning opportunity’.
On the day of the competition, we went to Minshull Street Court, in central Manchester, and interacted with the other schools; we felt a lot of pressure, as we were facing colleges, and grammar school pupils, all of which were older than us. We did 3 trials, we had to defend two cases and prosecute another, competing against other schools. We argued our cases and at the end of each round we would tell each other about the cases and considered the possibilities of who may or may not win due to their prowess and our nervousness, but in the end we (the youngest) won, proving that “even if you think it is impossible, with the right effort, the right people, and the right passion, it is possible” says Hussain Hanif from Year 10.
We were successful for multiple reasons, we had spent weeks preparing for the competition, after school and during the school holidays. We had to prepare at home to make sure that our opening and closing speeches were the best they could be. Our efforts, teamwork, communication and support for each other led to us being successful. By taking part in this experience it has boosted our confidence and speaking skills. Throughout the lead up to this opportunity, we all worked together after school and built on our relationships by supporting each other. We, as a group, have learnt how to present ourselves in the best way possible and to not be intimidated by older and more experienced pupils around us. This incredible opportunity has taught us more about the law, the protocols in court and has given us an insight into the legal framework work which can help us in future prospects when we leave school. Anam Istiaq says of her experience, “My confidence has grown and I feel proud of what I’ve achieved. The friendships that I have developed have made me a better person and I’m so lucky to have had this opportunity.”
As we have made it through to the national finals, we are now preparing for our next case. We are very excited to have been told that Dr Sally Penni MBE who is a respected criminal barrister wants to support us in our preparations for the next stage of the competition. We are waiting to hear details of the cases we will defend or prosecute and where the final will take place. We know that the competition will be demanding and challenging, however we have developed the skills of public speaking, confidence, understanding of the rule of law and teamwork, so we know that we will represent our school well.
We are very proud of our success so far, we were mentored by Miss Niamh McGinty, from 18 St John Street Chambers who provided advice and guidance to help us prepare. Most of us had never been inside a court before and to present cases in front of working judges at Minshull Street Court was intimidating, however our support for each other and ability to rise to the occasion meant that we were successful. Aishling McGinty, Headteacher of Pleckgate who worked with the pupils as part of their preparations, said “I could not be prouder of the Pleckgate pupils, who have shown commitment, determination and hard work as part of this competition. I am very much looking forward to our preparations for the national finals.”