DLA Piper sets up mentoring scheme to help GCSE pupils

DLA Piper sets up mentoring scheme to help GCSE pupils” />DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary has been working with two London secondary schools on an e-mentoring scheme for GCSE students.

The scheme matches pupils at Highbury Grove and Islington Green secondary schools in London with lawyers and staff at the firm. The DLA Piper volunteers write at least one email a week to the pupils, acting as role-models and offering everything from general support, advice and encouragement to help with CVs, planning schoolwork and revision advice.

Heidi Newbiggin, a solicitor in DLA Piper’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) team, says: “We have an education programme as part of our CSR agenda, but we were looking for something that people could get involved with if they were time poor. Because this project involves email it meets those criteria and it’s been great for the students.”

Islington Borough Council e-mentoring coordinator Wendy Tyrell says: “DLA Piper approached me about getting involved in one of the borough’s e-mentoring schemes. I suggested these two schools.”

The pupils email their mentors through the scheme’s secure website and, in addition to this regular email contact during the school year, a number of events are held that allow the pupils and mentors to meet.

The students from Highbury Grove meet their mentors once a term, while the scheme holds a breakfast club for the mentors and students at Islington Green.

In addition, other staff from DLA Piper have also held workshops for the Year 11 pupils. Most recently this included a workshop by the firm’s HR manager, giving tips on interview skills, filling out application forms and creating CVs. This has been particularly relevant as the students are preparing college applications for their post-GSCE education.

Seventeen lawyers and staff are currently involved in the scheme. All the volunteers were given half a day’s training, which set out the general principles of mentoring and the purpose of the scheme.

At the moment it is confined to the two schools in London, but Newbiggin says the firm has ambitions to spread the scheme to the rest of the country.

“The eventual aim is that we’ll roll the scheme out to all the UK offices,” she says. “We’ll wait and see what the project analysis reveals, but, as with all our education projects, we want to extend it to the rest of the UK DLA Piper network.”