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This blog is written by Tom Myatt who is on placement at the museum from Nottingham Trent University.
Whitemoor Academy were recently welcomed to the National Justice Museum for an educational project supported by Aspire Nottingham. Aspire Education Business Partnership brings together Nottingham’s schools and businesses to help prepare young people for the world of work. Aspire creates dynamic learning opportunities to help raise achievement and aspiration. I was given the job to follow the primary school group and report back about their exciting day at the museum.
To start off their day, the children took their seats in the museum’s youth court. Naomi, the Learning and Access manager at the museum, proceeded by asking the children a series of questions to do with both the court system and the people involved. Each question asked was reciprocated with a sea of raised hands as the pupils eagerly wished to respond; and generally they responded with correct answers too (even giving answers to questions I didn’t know the answer to!).
Next the children took part in a mock youth trial involving a young boy named Tyler King, who had been taken to court for allegedly setting fire to a skip. The trial was made as realistic as possible. Each child was assigned a court role (e.g. defendant, magistrate, witness, prosecution etc). This exercise allowed the students to picture accurately what an actual trial would be like and placed the children in the shoes of an actual court member. They were given items of clothing and props so they were distinguishable and the defendant was even placed in the dock to add that extra realism to the court case. After all the evidence was collated, the children came to a judgement on what sentence Tyler King should receive for his crime. The children engaged thoroughly and conscientiously with this exercise and I almost forgot it was only a mock trial it was that convincing!
Afterwards, the school party were joined by guest speaker and barrister Adrian Barnes from Premier Legal who came to the National Justice Museum specially to answer any questions from the Whitemoor students. Again the children were enthusiastic and unafraid to ask Mr Barnes questions, grilling him both on his job role and the trials he has encountered as a barrister. Questions such as ‘how and why did you become a barrister?’, ‘what is the biggest trial you have been tasked with?’ and ‘do you prefer defending or prosecuting?’ were all suitable and engaging enquiries which Adrian matched by replying with enlightening and useful responses for the children. The Q&A session was ultimately a success and it didn’t run dry of questions; the children could easily have quizzed Adrian all night! National Justice Museum education work with a number of legal professionals across their sites who volunteer time to help aspire young people towards a career in the law.
In the afternoon, the pupils were taken to the old Edwardian police station, at the museum, where they were met by costumed interpreter Harry, who was dressed in police uniform taking on a historic role. Harry informed the children about how the police station used to function. The pupils were then given a tour around the police station which included looking at the police cells and witnessing the transition of the police force, scaling from the peelers and bobbies in the Victorian era to the modern day police. Harry made it engaging and fun for the children and so there were a few laughs and smiles.
Later the children were taken back to the youth court where scattered on a number of tables they found objects and artefacts which associate with crime and the police. The items included truncheons, batons, handcuffs, shackles, helmets and old ropes (used for oakum picking). The students were split up into groups and then asked to identify the objects one at a time, trying to work out what their use was as they went along. The children visibly enjoyed handling and trying on the items and this process made it considerably more enjoyable for them. After gaining a bit of knowledge about each item, the children then had to choose an item, draw it and write a description about its use. This wrapped up what proved to be a jam-packed day for both the children of Whitemoor Academy, as well as the staff at the National Justice Museum.
All in all, the day was an educating, yet entertaining day for everyone and I only wish I’d experienced a school trip like this when I was younger! The Whitemoor pupils were excellent all day and were a credit to their school. Plus this trip demonstrates that the Aspire Nottingham partnership project is a productive and beneficiary programme which should continue to prosper.
Comments from pupils:
“I learned about the magistrates, ushers and about other people of the court”
“We did teamwork and sharing”
“My favourite part of the visit was when we played the characters of the court”
“My favourite thing was asking the lawyer some questions”