YOUNGSTERS from a Church school in Berkshire have been named as the national champions in this year’s Mock Trial Competition.

The contest is run by Young Citizens and aims to develop confidence, public speaking skills and knowledge of the legal system in Year 8 and 9 students. Pupils from Ranelagh School, a Church of England secondary in Bracknell, beat off competition from more than 260 teams to become the 2018 champions.

Preparation for the competition began when the team auditioned and were selected in December. Committing themselves to a packed rehearsal schedule, they first had to learn about a courtroom and how a trial in a magistrates’ court is conducted. Students were assigned roles of magistrates, lawyers, witnesses, court usher and legal advisor. They were then given four witness statements and some information about an imaginary crime. Supported by teachers and magistrates, the students had to write and deliver their ‘case’ arguing for the prosecution or defence side. After a few months of preparation, the team gathered at Reading Crown Court to argue their cases for the first time against other schools.

During two rounds in March, the defence and then the prosecution teams argued their case against Windsor Boys’ and Cox Green schools, emerging as overall winner of the local competition. This saw the team progress through to compete with a new case against teams from across the wider region in May.

Beverley Stevens, the headteacher, said: “The regional competition was tough, with the standard of the opposition much higher than the previous round. They were rewarded a well-deserved 2nd place and a position in the national finals, held in Birmingham.”

The final saw 16 teams compete. Mrs Stevens said: “The team showed amazing team work and confidence, winning both of their cases – which is unusual in this competition. After a tense wait, it was announced that Ranelagh were the National Champions, the first time a Berkshire school has ever achieved this. Throughout the competition, students have shown team work, commitment and resilience and all have grown in confidence.”

Lara and Charlotte, from Year 8 say: “We enjoyed mixing with Year 9s and found some new friends. It was a really supportive environment and we felt that we all had each other’s backs in the court room.” Caitlin from Year 9 says: “Mock Trial has been an amazing experience that’s given me a new-found confidence and love for law.”  Freya, also from Year 9, says: “Mock Trial has opened my eyes to new jobs, has been a great learning opportunity and has helped me gain confidence.”