22 June 2018

BSB agrees further key elements for the future of Bar training

Following our recent consultation, we have agreed in principle how we should move forward with several further aspects of its review into the training and qualification of barristers.

Last month we published a new Policy Statement setting out:

  • our position on pupillage and other forms of work-based learning
  • an updated version of the Authorisation Framework that we will use to assess proposals from training providers; and
  • a new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy which will introduce some important changes to the way in which prospective barristers are taught and assessed.

Pupillage

  • all prospective barristers will continue to have to complete this essential part of training in future in order to be authorised to practise;
    • the duration of pupillage will normally be for a minimum of 12 months but will be for Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to decide and for us to approve but will not be longer than 24 months (or 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.

The Authorisation Framework

Attached to our Policy Statement is the latest draft of our Authorisation Framework which will apply to all AETOs offering the vocational and work based components of training, including, for example, BPTC providers and chambers offering pupillage. They will have 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.                    

The Curriculum and Assessment Strategy

The Policy Statement also contains information about our new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy includes a number of significant changes 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, focusing on whether or not students have achieved the minimum threshold standard required while increasing transparency by publishing specific marks; and
  • removing the need to complete courses in Forensic Accountancy and Practice Management during pupillage, and introducing a new mandatory Negotiation Skills course to be completed during this component of training while retaining the compulsory advocacy course during pupillage.

As you may recall, we published another Policy Statement in March 2018 which summarised our  approach on the role of the Inns of Court in the future of Bar training.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.

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.