City University and 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square have launched a School Exclusions Project to provide pro bono representation to parents of children who have been permanently excluded from school.
The project was originally proposed by City senior law lecturer Dan Wilsher during a lecture on pro bono work. Tom Ogg, a student on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at City, said he leapt at the chance to get involved.
“I’ve previously worked with excluded children and I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “It allows children a fair hearing and gives those who don’t have the resources to put forward their case articulately.”
Ogg and Wisher set up the project with 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square barristers Sarah Hannett and Anna Bicarregui, who provide support to the 27 student representatives who have already handled half a dozen cases.
Ogg said the experience had been invaluable for City students. “It’s very challenging and provides great training in hardcore advocacy,” he said. “Where else would you have the opportunity to cross-examine a head teacher?”
After acting on a special educational needs case, Ogg was hooked. “I was the most sure then that I’ve ever been that I wanted to do adversarial litigation. It really teaches you how to prepare before a hearing and how to cross-examine,” he said.
At a time when the legal aid budget is being slashed, Ogg said it was “important for the legal profession to make available as many pro bono routes as possible”.