Following its recent consultation, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has agreed in principle how it should move forward with several further aspects of its review into the training and qualification of barristers.
The regulator has today published a new Policy Statement outlining its position on pupillage and other forms of work-based learning. The Statement also contains: an updated version of the Authorisation Framework that the BSB will use to determine whether proposals from training providers are fit for purpose for training during each component of the qualification process and whether they comply with four fundamental principles; and a new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy which will introduce some important changes to the way in which prospective barristers are taught and assessed.
In relation to the future of pupillage and other forms of work-based learning, the Policy Statement contains information about the regulator’s latest decisions, including confirmation that:
- the BSB considers pupillage or other forms of work-based learning to be essential elements of training for the Bar, so all prospective barristers will continue to have to complete this part of training in future in order to be authorised to practise;
- the duration of pupillage and other forms of work-based learning will normally be for 12 months but will be for Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to decide and for the BSB to approve. It will need to be for a minimum of 12 months and for no longer than 24 months (or a part-time equivalent);
- the minimum award paid to those undertaking pupillage or another form of work-based learning will be set in line with the wages recommended by the Living Wage Foundation, and will increase annually in line with that figure. (If the award were to have been made on this basis in 2018, it would have increased from £12,000pa to £17,212.50pa in London, and £14,765.63pa outside London);
- for the self-employed Bar, pupil supervisors will be permitted to supervise up to two pupils (one practising and one non-practising) with greater flexibility to be permitted in the structure of pupillage supervision for the employed Bar; and
- mandatory outcomes will be introduced for pupil supervisor training and refresher training will be made compulsory.
Attached to today’s Policy Statement is the latest draft of the regulator’s Authorisation Framework which the Board has agreed should give effect to the BSB’s policy positions on the future of Bar training. The Authorisation Framework will apply to all AETOs offering the vocational and work based components of training, including, for example, BPTC providers and chambers offering pupillage. It will require them to show that their proposals offer one of the permitted training routes underpinned by the four core principles of flexibility, accessibility, affordability and sustaining high standards, and that they will enable prospective barristers to meet those requirements of the Professional Statement which are appropriate to the component of training being delivered.
Today’s Policy Statement also contains information about the BSB’s new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy which the Board has agreed should be adopted to ensure that prospective barristers meet the competences of the Professional Statement and that they are assessed in the most appropriate way during each training component in their route to qualification. The new Strategy means a number of significant changes will be made to the way in which prospective barristers are taught and assessed including:
- allowing greater flexibility for AETOs in the way that aspects of the vocational component of learning are delivered, for example by removing prescriptive requirements in areas such as class size, the need to always offer Options, and session design and delivery;
- splitting the way that Civil Litigation is assessed into two papers – a closed book “Civil Litigation and Evidence” exam and an open book “Civil Dispute Resolution” exam;
- splitting the assessment of Professional Ethics between an assessment set by AETOs during the vocational component and a BSB centrally set and marked examination during pupillage or work-based learning, and changing the centralised assessment of Professional Ethics to be an open book exam, thus better reflecting the real-life environment in which ethics must be adhered to during practice;
- increasing the number of sittings each year for the centralised assessments from two to three, in April, August and December, and changing the rules to permit an unlimited number of attempts at each assessment within a maximum period of five years;
- removing the current “Very Competent” and “Outstanding” grade boundaries from centralised assessments and thus focusing the outcome of a student’s performance on whether or not they have achieved the minimum threshold standard required; and
- removing the need to complete courses in Forensic Accountancy and Practice Management during pupillage or another form of work-based learning, and introducing a new mandatory Negotiation Skills course to be completed during this component of training; retaining the compulsory advocacy course during pupillage or work based learning.
The regulator published another Policy Statement in March which summarised its approach on the role of the Inns of Court in the future of Bar training – the other matter discussed in the October 2017 consultation. All of these policy decisions remain subject to the final approval of any resulting rules that will be consulted on during the summer and then agreed by the Board before subsequent approval by the Legal Services Board is sought.
BSB Director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen MacLeod, said:
“Our Future Bar Training programme has been a comprehensive review of all aspects of the training and qualification process for barristers. The further policy decisions that we have agreed today about the future of pupillage and other forms of work-based learning, the Authorisation Framework and the adoption of our new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy are important milestones in this review and will inform the new training regulations for barristers in the future.”
Any new rules are expected to come into effect in 2019, although the earliest that the changes relating to centralised assessments can come into force will be September 2020.