Linlithgow school beaten finalists in Mock Court Project

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For many children the thought of copying from textbooks and scribbling notes from the smartboard can feel a bit underwhelmimg and sometimes like a chore.

However, an exciting project designed at “bringing real court room drama to the schools” has been introduced and pupils from a Linlithgow school experienced last month what it was like to present a case in front of real judges in a real court.

The initiative began in 2008 and the idea was to have a scheme in place where children enjoyed what they were doing without realising they were learning.

The founder of the programme, Gerald Murphy of Chamberlain McBain, said: “The desire was to integrate a project into the schools that would surpass what is not ordinarily available to inspire students.

“In this instance, appearing before a real sheriff in a real court, takes them away from the traditional classroom environment, and teaches the children a variety of skills they can keep with them for life.”

The Mock Court programme – which runs a junior P6-P7 and a seniors S3-S6 section across the Lothians, West of Scotland and Tayside and Fife – encourages students to display a number of their talents including their art, journalism and debating skills.

St Joseph's Primary School pupils recognised at Stellar Awards

St Joseph's Primary School pupils recognised at Stellar Awards

The pupils received some basic legal training to help them understand the workings of the justice system and took on a number of roles such as solicitors, researchers, journalists and witnesses.

Having won both their cases in the Lothian Regions, St Joseph’s P7s were paired up against Perth school Kinnoull Primary in one of the three finals on February 27.

The 50-minute trial through in Central Hall, Edinburgh, centred around the fictional case of an elderly lady versus a mobile phone company. Mrs Telfer had asked her grandson to get a new battery for her phone but ends up with a new phone and a new contract from Talk and Txt. So who is at fault the pensioner or the phone company?

Having prepared thoroughly in school for the case including work on questioning, cross examining witnesses, even making their own gowns and film making, St Joseph’s pupils were asked to be defenders.

It wasn’t necessarily about their knowledge of the law which earned them plaudits.

They had to convince judges that their client Mrs Telfer was in the right by extrapolating facts from fiction, telling a story without distraction or waffle, being articulate and concise, and using all available resources to convince the judges that the judgement should be granted in their favour.

It was a top class panel of professional judges hearing the case, with Judge Ian Forrester from the General Court of the European Union jetting in from Luxembourg to sit for the final alongside The Rt Hon Sir David Edward and The Hon Lord Iain Armstrong.

Naturally, it was a pretty daunting experience for the pupils but they handled the pressure impressively.

The school project was overseen by Mrs Mclean and student support teacher Miss Redmond.

In the end, St Joseph’s were beaten finalists but it was more than a worthwhile exercise.

Mrs Mclean said: “We really loved this topic and it really helped up to become successful learners.

“We all had to work together, every persons job depended upon someone else so we were all effective contributors, and we learned a lot about the law and how it works to help us become responsible citizens.

“Standing up in court and arguing our case against other schools was nerve wracking and helped us to become confident individuals.”

The project has been lauded by the most senior judge in Scotland.

The Lord President, Lord Carloway said: “The Mock Court project is an excellent initiative, as it provides an opportunity for primary and secondary school pupils to learn about the role of the court within the justice system, and to develop their presentation and communication skills by appearing before real judges and sheriffs in a real court.

“I am pleased to express my support for the project, and hope that some of the young people who participate will be inspired to become solicitors, advocates and perhaps judges.”

Registrations for the 2017-18 academic year will open in early April for both the junior and senior sections.