Welcome to Vocalise! We are a Gray’s Inn mentor based prison and primary school education programme administered by the Inn’s Education Department. Vocalise is the first initiative of its kind in the UK and in 2012 we won the Attorney General’s Award for Best Student Pro-bono Initiative.
Founded in 2010, Vocalise aims to harness the enthusiasm of current law students to bring the benefits of debating and debate training to prison inmates and primary school children. The skills and experience gained by both sides are invaluable as students also benefit by receiving debate mentor training.
For the first time, somebody is really listening to what I’m saying.
The involvement of the Inn’s Education Department allows us to take advantage of the large pool of talent amongst law students training to be barristers, whilst giving students a unique and challenging volunteering opportunity.
We plan to build upon our success to date, furthering our objective of giving prisoners and primary school students a voice. To that end we have formed a Board to act as a steering committee. The Board will hear an annual forecast, mid-term reviews and an end of year report. Board members will use their diverse experience to advise on and support the programme.
Vocalise was founded in September 2010 by two of the Inn’s student members, Alex Just and Florence Iveson, as a pro-bono initiative supported by the Inn. It was inspired by a Cornell University programme that taught debating to maximum security prisoners in New York state.
In its first year, 24 mentors taught weekly in H.M.Ps Pentonville and the programme was an instant success. The prisoners responded extremely well to this new method of teaching, the topical issues raised, and the listening, communication and team-work skills on offer. A local primary school, St. Alban’s, was invited to be part of the programme and the debate final took place in Hall at the Inn.
In its second year, under the leadership of Georgia Hicks and Jessica van der Meer, Vocalise recruited an even larger team of mentors, (33 in total), which included student members from the other Inns of Court. The prison programme expanded to include H.M.Ps Wormwood Scrubs. A weekly Vocalise debating club was initiated at St. Alban’s which continues to provide the school children with regular training in debating and an introduction to the legal world.
Today Vocalise recruits an average of 65 mentors per year and has since expanded to include H.M.Ps Isis, Send and Feltham.
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