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New High Sheriff of Derbyshire installed

New High Sheriff of Derbyshire installed

Derbyshire has a new High Sheriff who is promising to raise career aspirations of primary school pupils in the city and county.

Mike Copestake was recently installed during a ceremony at All Saints Church in Turnditch. The former corporate lawyer, who spent 26 years with leading solicitors Freeths, also wants to help charities that work with young people and support ex-offenders into work following their release from prison.

He said:

“When I was vice-chairman of inward investment agency Marketing Derby, we would visit Cannes for the annual MIPIM; a major international property investment show. Most people thought it was a jolly but one of my proudest moments was when the Financial Times voted Derby – little old Derby – as having the best investment strategy in the world, ahead of Hong Kong and New York.

“But while this was an incredible honour, one of the biggest weaknesses in our city and in certain parts of the county is social mobility and a distinct lack of aspiration.

“The Enterprise for Education (E4E) scheme which was launched in 2014 by Derby City Council and of which I was chair until recently, does a brilliant job in helping inspire secondary school pupils with its mock interviews, career talks, mock interviews and CV writing, led by manager Arshad Iqbal.

“However, through the E4E journey we came to realise that career aspirations start at primary school. The success of the London Challenge – a school improvement programme that went a long way in raising standards in the poorest areas in our capital – highlighted this and, starting with a visit to Cherry Tree Primary School in Chaddesden this month, I intend to visit as many primary schools as possible to hopefully inspire others.”

Mike hopes to visit 100 schools during his year as High Sheriff, where he will tell of a childhood ambition to become a firefighter and introduce youngsters to inspirational people from Derby and Derbyshire; people including Olympic gold medallist Hollie Webb – a former Turnditch Primary School pupil who also worked for HMRC – and ex-Alvaston Moor pupil Clive Lawrence, who grew up in a single-parent household and was awarded an OBE earlier this year for his services to education.

He has plans to become more involved with charities such as Safe and Sound, Enthusiasm and YMCA Derbyshire, who all work with young people, and the police youth engagement team. Mike is encouraging children and young people to enter the High Sheriff’s prestigious National Crimebeat Award for the most innovative and successful crime prevention projects carried out by young people.

Finalists will be invited to attend the National Crimebeat Awards Ceremony in London.

However, another passion for Mike is helping to transform the fortunes of others and following visits to Sudbury Prison in Ashbourne, he was inspired to help bridge the gap between ex-offenders leaving prison and finding employment.

According to the Centre for Mental Health, reoffending costs the economy somewhere in the region of £11 billion – but only 25% of men leave prison into some form of employment and the statistic for women in even lower at just 20%.

Mike, who is also a trustee for the Derbyshire Children’s Holiday Centre, said:

“As a corporate lawyer, you get to talk to an awful lot of people. If you ask employers in Derby if they would take in a prisoner, most say yes they would.

“However, that doesn’t seem to be happening, so people leaving the likes of Sudbury and Foston struggle to find employment. I’d like to speak to more employers in the city and county – the likes of Trent Barton, Cosy and David Nieper have already agreed to help – about helping to unlock what it takes to get prisoners out of prison and into the working environment.”

It’s clear that Mike is on a mission to leave a lasting legacy following his year as High Sheriff; a role which has evolved over time and is a far cry from what it was initially intended to be.

Dating back to Saxon times, the role of the High Sheriff is to act as the sovereign’s representative in their county. The High Sheriff would previously wield extensive powers to maintain law and order, often demanding taxes from civilians.

Now, though, those taking up the voluntary role take an active role in making a difference. There are currently 55 High Sheriffs serving across England and Wales, who are also required to attend Royal visits to their county.

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