£1m funding boost opens up Sutton Trust social mobility programme to 14 and 15 year-olds

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Nearly 2000 youngsters to benefit from Pathways to Law over next four years, but no corresponding hike in number of undergrad mentors

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The Sutton Trust has announced today that funders have pledged an extra £1m into one of its leading social mobility programmes, meaning more support for disadvantaged aspiring lawyers, but unfortunately no extra mentoring opportunities for undergraduates.

For the first time, the Pathways to Law programme will be offered to Year 10 and 11 school pupils — instead of just Year 12s — meaning that participants could benefit from four years of support from the Sutton Trust.

The programme — which aims, over the next four years, to inspire 1,800 state school kids from low and middle-income backgrounds to pursue a career in law — is delivered by 12 UK universities. Universities in Bristol, Leeds, Oxford, Exeter, to name a few, organise workshops and conferences for the school goers and sixth formers, as well as arrange work experience placements at top law firms such as Clifford Chance and Hogan Lovells.

For those on the programme in years 12 and onwards, they will also receive e-mentoring from current undergraduate law students. This has been a rewarding and often paid opportunity for law students to share their experiences, to provide much-needed encouragement to pupils as well as to earn a bit of spare cash. Unfortunately, there is no planned expansion of the e-mentoring element.

Law career-focused events and workshops may be a hard sell to younger pupils who have barely started their GCSEs, but Matthew Smerdon — chief executive of the Legal Education Foundation — argues reaching out earlier may actually be just what is needed. He commented:

By reaching students at an earlier stage, we hope to encourage more bright young people from poorer homes that a career in law is open to them.

Funding for the expansion has come from the Legal Education Foundation (established from the sale of the College of Law in 2012), twelve top-notch law firms and the Law Society.

Given the legal profession’s undeniable (and shocking) social mobility problem, pro-diversity initiatives like Pathways to Law can only be welcomed, and the more kids they help the better.