Gray's Inn

The Training and Programme

Training to become a mentor takes place in two phases. The first phase gives you a solid grounding in the principles of parliamentary debating. The second phase focuses on teaching-skills and ensuring you can navigate the challenges presented by working in a prison environment.

Vocalise operates an annual timetable based on the academic year. Each year committed mentors are chosen to manage the programme the following year. New mentors are trained during Michaelmas term before the teaching which runs from January. Exact dates for both the training and teaching are usually finalised in early autumn at the start of the academic year.

Mentor training

Mentor training takes place one evening per week from the beginning of October until Decembre. You will complete an intensive debate training programme where you will gain experience from participating in two public debates held at the Inn. Secondly, from January you will teach this debating programme in small teams in prisons and in a local primary school which has particular emphasis on teamwork. Some sessions also provide the opportunity to gain Qualifying Sessions.

Mentor training sessions are mandatory and you will be asked in advance to commit to the weekly training dates. We cannot allow you onto the programme if you know in advance you cannot attend more than two training sessions. Exceptional circumstances are dealt with at the Vocalise Directors and Board’s discretion.

At the end of the mentor training all mentors will be invited to attend an all-day weekend ‘boot camp’ session where the ability to teach the debating syllabus will be assessed. . You must pass boot camp to be allowed to teach at a prison. 

Prison programme

Mentors are usually divided into small teaching teams of two to four and visit a selection of prisons. This provides each prison with a season of weekly lessons.

 It’s great that we get a chance to really challenge ourselves.

The prison programme ends with a final debate between the prison team and a debate team from either Oxford, Cambridge or London. The final debate is judged by by Benchers of the Inn and other highly regarded legal professionals.


Find out more

  • Become a Mentor
  • Student Members
  • In The Guardian

    Read this article in The Guardian written by Gray's Inn Vocalise mentor, Zehrah Hasan, for some insight into the benefits of debating and debate training in prisons.

    Read the article