Pinsent Masons and Cockburn School

Education Award, supported by UKCES 2014, Big Tick, Reaccredited 2015, 2016.

Pinsent Masons works with Cockburn School in Leeds, helping raise attainment and prepare students for work, while motivating staff and raising its profile in the local community.

Social impacts

  • The school has steadily increased its GCSE performance during the 11-year partnership.
  • Employee volunteers help students prepare for the world of work.
  • Raised awareness of the importance of businesses and schools working together in the wider community.

Business impacts

  • Supported HR objectives of recruiting, retaining and motivating staff, and built cross team collaboration.
  • Offered skills-based volunteering opportunities, such as school governance, to support employees’ personal development.
  • Created opportunities to raise the firm’s profile in the local business community.

Pinsent Masons is committed to doing business responsibly and to making a positive contribution to the lives of our people, clients and the local and global communities in which we operate. Part of our expression of that commitment comes through our responsible business initiative, Starfish. One of the aims of Starfish is to galvanise Pinsent Masons’ people to support projects in our local communities through volunteering and fundraising. We believe that it is vital to support children in gaining key literacy and numeracy skills, and we are proud to see the results of our ongoing partnership with Cockburn School.

- Chris Mullen,
Senior Partner
Pinsent Masons has worked in partnership with Cockburn Secondary School in Leeds for more than 11 years. The partnership is part of Starfish, the firm’s responsible business programme, and focuses on reading and maths mentoring. It has recently grown to include career mentoring for Year 10 pupils.

Cockburn draws most of its pupils from deprived areas, where unemployment is higher than average for the city, and 48% of students are eligible for pupil premium (government funding for disadvantaged children). Staff from all departments within the firm volunteer to improve the level of academic attainment and aspirations of the children, providing role models and giving students more awareness of career and higher education opportunities.

In 2002, 16% of pupils achieved five or more GCSEs in any subject, compared to a national average of 52%. In 2013, 46.9% of students achieved five or more GCSEs at grade C or above (including English and Maths), compared to a national average of 59.4%. According to the school, Pinsent Masons’ support has helped it achieve this sustained improvement.

Pinsent Masons now also works with Ahead Partnership, a social enterprise which specialises in building relationships between business and the community. Its objectives include:

  • achieving external recognition for the partnership with Cockburn to inspire more businesses to work with schools

  • supporting pupils in achieving at least 12 months progress in their reading levels during the academic year

  • providing role model mentors to raise the aspirations of the most able students around higher education and employment.

The programme encourages increased interaction between Pinsent Mason’s different departments and supports staff motivation and retention. In 2013, all employee volunteers rated their experience at Cockburn as good or excellent and said they would volunteer again. The programme has gained positive media coverage and 70% of respondents to a student placement survey said the firm’s commitment to community investment was important in deciding where to apply for a training contract.