Back to C2 Responsibilities of AETOs

1. Pupil Supervisors

This section sets out the requirements that AETOs must have in place for supervision of pupils. It is also of interest to individuals who wish to become pupil supervisors. It covers the eligibility criteria, training requirements and registration of supervisors with the BSB.

Registered pupil supervisors

1.1) The role of the pupil supervisor is to provide the pupil with:

  • a suitable training programme that enables them to meet the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard, in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy; and
  • all necessary assistance in complying with their regulatory obligations eg. registering their pupillage with the BSB, applying for any necessary waivers and obtaining a provisional practising certificate.

1.2) Pupil supervisor contact time with pupils will vary, depending on the way that pupillage training is structured at the AETO. It will be for the AETO to determine how contact time with the registered pupil supervisor is structured and the AETO must be able to demonstrate to the BSB how a high standard of supervision is maintained.

Ratio of pupils to pupil supervisor

1.3) Supervisors at the self-employed Bar can supervise up to two pupils at the same time, one non-practising and one practising. Specific authorisation does not need to be obtained to do so.

1.4) Greater flexibility is permitted in the structure of pupillage supervision for the employed Bar. It is for the AETO to propose an alternative organisational structure of pupil supervision as part of its authorisation application, if it chooses to do so. Each case will be assessed on its merits, recognising that larger employers might have the organisational resources to support bespoke arrangements. A change in pupil supervision arrangements previously authorised must be reported to and authorised by the BSB.

Case study: alternative supervision arrangements in the Employed Bar

We piloted alternative arrangements for pupil supervision with the Government Legal Department (GLD) for the autumn 2017 intake of pupils.

The GLD is a very large organisation with approximately 1,500 lawyers.

In the pilot, three experienced pupil supervisors each had responsibility to oversee the training of three pupils.

The pupils also had seat supervisors, so they could get specialist training in specific areas of law that their pupil supervisor was not an expert in. The seat supervisors are trained in-house on management skills and on the regulatory aspects of the Bar. Seat supervisors supervise and support the pupils day-to-day. They are overseen by the pupil supervisors, who are usually senior lawyers working in a different part of the business. The pupil supervisor takes a close interest in how the pupil is getting on, discusses progress with them and their seat supervisor, and considers work diaries.

The GLD found that this arrangement worked well:

The pupil gets the benefit of training with subject specialists and experiences life in a busy litigation team, which helps in gaining case management and other core skills.

At the same time, they get the benefit of discussing progress and expectations with a suitably experienced pupil supervisor.

The pupil supervisors report to the Training Principal at intervals to advise whether pupils have satisfactorily completed periods of pupillage.

This approach also enables feedback to be captured and discussed at Steering Group level. 

From a business perspective, the GLD finds it more efficient than allocating a single pupil supervisor to each pupil:

  • There is greater efficiency for the individual pupil supervisor. Having three pupils means heightened familiarity with the regulatory and GLD frameworks. It also means less time is spent per pupil on completion of forms and dealing with common issues.
  • The Training Principal gets better assurance about quality and consistency of training. Organisationally, it is more efficient liaising with three and not nine pupil supervisors.
  • GLD like this flexibility and consider it is consistent with the overall emphasis on an employer being able to work out for themselves what sort of training programme enables barristers to demonstrate the competences in the Professional Statement, subject to demonstrating this to the BSB through the Authorisation and Supervision processes. They think that this structure, for them, leads to a better experience and training for each pupil.

Eligibility and suitability to become a pupil supervisor

Authorisation Framework

The Authorisation Framework requires AETOs to maintain high standards. The following indicators are relevant:

46.4 Sufficient and appropriate human…resources to provide every pupil…with an equal and effective opportunity to develop and demonstrate the Competences as set out in the Professional Statement and implemented in the BSB’s Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

49.1 Compliance with appropriate standards, requirements and quality assurance processes as relevant and proportionate to the nature of the organisation and prescribed by the BSB.

The following are conditions of authorisation that the applicant must confirm:

  • I agree that while the AETO will be responsible for appointing pupil supervisors the BSB may, in its absolute discretion, designate an individual as unsuitable to be a pupil supervisor.
  • I confirm that all pupil supervisors will be trained in accordance with the outcomes and frequency specified by the Bar Standards Board in the Bar Training Manual.

In addition, as a condition of authorisation, the AETO must maintain training records for pupil supervisors.

1.5) Our rules were very prescriptive about who could be a pupil supervisor. We no longer prescribe the eligibility criteria for pupil supervisors except that a pupil supervisor must normally be a practising barrister. If alternative supervision is proposed, the AETO needs to set this out in an application for authorisation to the BSB.

1.6) It is for the AETO to decide who is suitable to be a pupil supervisor and to ensure that they have received (and continue to receive) appropriate training that meets the outcomes specified by the BSB.

1.7) In considering the suitability and competence of a barrister to act as a pupil supervisor, AETOs should check the disciplinary record of the barrister with reference to the Barristers’ Register on the BSB website and seek a declaration from the barrister that no other disciplinary action is in progress. Other considerations are likely to include:

  • professional experience;
  • nature of their practice and whether it offers appropriate learning opportunities;
  • the time they can devote to a pupil;
  • aptitude to create an appropriate learning environment; and
  • competence to provide effective feedback.

1.8) While pupil supervisors no longer have to apply to their Inn for approval, AETOs may, if they choose, seek references from the relevant Inn or others. AETOs should be clear what information, relevant to being an effective pupil supervisor, they are seeking to obtain from any references sought.

1.9) AETOs are required to demonstrate (through the authorisation process under the Authorisation Framework and through ongoing supervision by the BSB) how they ensure high standards in their pupil supervisors.

1.10) If any matter which appears to affect the suitability of a barrister to act as a pupil supervisor comes to the notice of the BSB, the BSB will assess the matter in accordance with its risk-based approach to regulation and take appropriate action. The BSB may designate an individual as unsuitable to be a pupil supervisor.

Training of pupil supervisors

1.11) AETOs must ensure that their pupil supervisors have received appropriate training before supervising a pupil and continue to receive appropriate training. This must be confirmed by the AETO when the pupillage is registered. Training records should be maintained by the AETO for the purpose of supervision by the BSB.

1.12) Pupil supervisors play a critical role in Bar training during the work-based learning (pupillage) component. We seek, on the one hand, to ensure that all pupils receive the necessary training and guidance in meeting the requirements to successfully complete this final component of training and, on the other hand, to provide organisations that deliver pupil supervisor training with enough information to design and deliver training which meets the outcomes that we specify here.

1.13) The outcomes that we prescribe provide a broad framework of what the training should achieve. AETOs must ensure that their supervisors’ training meets these outcomes.  Together with guidance, they have been developed to help AETOs ensure that they and their pupil supervisors maintain high standards of pupillage training. They will also assist those who deliver pupil supervisor training courses or events to structure their training programmes.

1.14) Attendance at formal training events can only cover a certain amount of ground in one session; in practice, the outcomes are likely to be met by a combination of self-study (reading the relevant BSB documentation), briefing by the AETO (AETOs will need to ensure that their pupil supervisors are familiar with, and can apply, their own policies and procedures that are relevant to pupillage in their AETO) and attendance at training provided by third parties (where not available in-house).

1.15) The BSB does not prescribe who can deliver training. Supervisor training is open to any provider and can be delivered in-house. Providers are not accredited by the BSB and can include:

  • Training provided by the AETO. This might be delivered by those who have responsibility for appointing pupil supervisors, managing the pupillage training programme, developing materials and the training programme for pupils. Or it might be delivered by in-house support functions or others with relevant skills and experience.
  • Attendance at courses delivered by others with particular expertise in pupillage and the Bar, such as the Inns, the Circuits, the Bar Council or others that train pupils and barristers. For example, the Bar Council’s wider training programme for barristers and chambers includes topics that are relevant, eg. Managers Harassment Training.
  • Attendance at courses delivered by other trainers specialising in particular fields such as equality, diversity and inclusion, bullying and harassment, learning styles, coaching skills, giving effective feedback and wellbeing.

1.16) The training that an individual pupil supervisor needs may vary according to their prior experience. Pupil supervisors who do not have prior experience may need additional support to ensure that they are able to deliver effective feedback to pupils. In contrast, barristers who have come to the profession after a career elsewhere and barristers in the employed Bar may have had experience in a managerial capacity where they have received appraisal and feedback training and applied it in practice. Barristers in the employed Bar and larger chambers may have had access to internal training on managing others or equality and diversity in the workplace.

1.17) Refresher training is mandatory every five years, or after three years if the individual has not been a pupil supervisor during that time. We expect to publish a timetable shortly for achieving this, following consultation with the Inns and Circuits. In the meantime, pupil supervisors can continue to supervise pupils but can attend training offered by the Inns, Circuits or own AETOs, provided that training meets the outcomes specified here. There are no separate requirements for the content of refresher training.

1.18) Barristers also have an obligation under the Continuing Professional Development rules to reflect annually on their training needs and should, when considering practice management, reflect on their competence as a pupil supervisor or as a member of the pupillage committee, or equivalent.

Outcomes for training pupil supervisors

1.19) The following outcomes must be met. Further guidance is provided below. As a minimum, we would expect the outcomes marked * to be met by attending a training course or courses. Training courses must meet these outcomes by 1 September 2020.

1. The regulatory requirements

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Be familiar with the current version of the following BSB documents and the relevant regulatory requirements:

  • The BSB Handbook
  • The Bar Qualification Manual
  • The Authorisation Framework and supporting guidance for pupillage
  • The Professional Statement, Threshold Standard and Competences
  • The Curriculum and Assessment Strategy

+ Be familiar with and able to apply the Equality and Diversity Rules of the Code of Conduct and the Equality Act. *

+ Understand the BSB’s administrative procedures for registering pupillage, applying for the Provisional Practising Certificate and Full Practising Certificate.

+ Understand the role of the pupil supervisor. *

2. The AETO’s training programme, policies and processes

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Be familiar with their AETO’s training plan for pupils and able to apply it, such that pupils are able to meet the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard.

+ Be familiar with their AETO’s policies, procedures and standard documentation in relation to pupillage, and able to apply them.

3. Effectiveness as a pupil supervisor

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Understand what makes an effective supervisor, including understanding how pupils learn effectively and being able to assess the learning needs/learning styles of their individual pupils. *

+ Understand the time commitment that is required to be effective as a pupil supervisor. *

+ Understand the behaviours which constitute unacceptable supervision practices.*

+ Be competent to conduct assessment of their pupils’ progress in meeting the required competences and to conduct effective one-to-one appraisal and feedback, and continuing feedback to pupils throughout the duration of the pupillage. *

+ Be able to identify and act on their own development needs as an effective pupil supervisor. *

4. Pupil wellbeing

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Be familiar with the AETO’s policies and support mechanisms that enable all pupils to complete their training and support those who experience difficulties.

+ Be able to signpost pupils to where they can find help externally if needed. *

+ Be able to apply appropriate policies and support mechanisms that enable all pupils to complete their training and support those who experience difficulties. *

+ Be able to create a positive relationship with pupils, such they feel comfortable to speak up without fear of reprisal. *

Guidance on the outcomes for pupil supervisor training

1.20) The following information is designed to provide AETOs with guidance on areas that training should, as a minimum, cover in order to ensure that training for their pupil supervisors meets the outcomes that we specify.

1. The regulatory requirements

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Be familiar with the current version of the following BSB documents and the relevant regulatory requirements:

+ Be familiar with and able to apply the Equality and Diversity Rules of the Code of Conduct and the Equality Act.

+ Understand the BSB’s administrative procedures for registering pupillage, applying for the Provisional Practising Certificate and Full Practising Certificate.

+ Understand the role of the pupil supervisor.

BSB Document Relevant content that pupil supervisors need to know
The BSB Handbook

Pupil Supervisors should have an up to date knowledge of:

Part 2, The Code of Conduct: Core Duties and Rules that barristers, including pupils, are required to adhere to. This will be relevant to day-to-day practice and the Ethics exam that pupils will take in pupillage. It also includes Equality & Diversity requirements.

Part 4, The Qualification Rules. This sets out the regulatory framework for qualification as a barrister, including pupillage.
The Bar Qualification Manual

This sets out how the Bar Training Rules must be applied. Supervisors must know the contents of parts 2C and 4.

Section 2C3.4 sets out the administrative procedures for registering pupillage, applying for the Provisional Practising Certificate and Full Practising Certificate.

Section C2 sets out the role of the pupil supervisor, which is to provide the pupil with:

  • a suitable training programme that enables them to meet the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard, in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy; and
  • all necessary assistance in complying with their regulatory obligations eg. registering their pupillage with the BSB, applying for any necessary waivers and obtaining a provisional practising certificate.
The Authorisation Framework and supporting guidance for pupillage Supervisors should have a broad understanding of the four key principles: Flexibility, Accessibility, Affordability and High Standards.
The Professional Statement, Threshold Standard and Competencies

The Professional Statement describes the knowledge, skills and attributes that all barristers will have on “day one” of practice. Pupils must meet the competences in order to complete their training and apply for a practising certificate. Pupil supervisors must be fully familiar with the competences in order to assess whether pupils are ready to apply for the provisional practising certificate at the end of the non-practising period, and successfully complete pupillage at the end of the practising period.

The Curriculum and Assessment Strategy

This describes the curriculum for pupillage, including the compulsory courses that pupils must attend and exams they must pass.

The competences in the Professional Statement are mapped to the components of training, including pupillage, and describe which competences must be demonstrated in order to apply for the provisional practising certificate and to complete pupillage successfully.
Equality and Diversity

The key requirements relevant to pupillage are found in:

  • The BSB Handbook, Part 2.
  • Section C2 of the Bar Qualification Manual.
  • The accessibility criteria in the Authorisation Framework and supporting guidance for pupillage.

In addition to a knowledge of the rules and relevant aspects of the legislation, pupil supervisors must understand how to apply considerations of equality, diversity and inclusion as a pupil supervisor, with particular reference to the following:

Their role in creating an appropriate learning environment.

Understanding unconscious bias.

Pupil supervisors must understand their role as it applies to their particular AETO. In practice, the role of the pupil supervisor will vary between AETOs.  For example, in a small AETO or in an Employed Bar setting, there may be only one pupil supervisor that is also responsible for all aspects of pupillage.  In contrast, in a large chambers that offers a number of pupillages each year, there may be a pupillage committee that has responsibility for managing all aspects of pupillage from recruitment, to development of policies, processes and the pupillage training programme, and training of supervisors; in this setting, there may be many pupil supervisors who each have responsibility for a pupil during a “seat” rotation that is limited to three months. In a larger Employed setting, there may be a bespoke arrangement for pupil supervision that has been approved by the BSB as part of the authorisation process.

2. The AETO’s training programme, policies and processes

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Be familiar with their AETO’s training programme or plan for pupils and able to implement it, such that pupils are able to meet the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard.

+ Be familiar with their AETO’s policies, procedures and standard documentation in relation to pupillage, and able to apply them.

The pupil supervisor must be familiar with the Professional Statement and satisfied that the AETO has a training programme in place, supported by appropriate policies, procedures and documentation, that provide the pupil with the necessary opportunities to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes to enable them to meet the competences to the threshold standard by the end of pupillage. The pupil supervisor should be able to provide constructive challenge to the AETO in these areas where appropriate.

3. Effectiveness as a pupil supervisor

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Understand what makes an effective supervisor, including understanding how pupils learn effectively and being able to assess the learning needs/learning styles of their individual pupils.

Every pupil is different and will have had different experiences before pupillage. Each pupil brings their own combination of knowledge, skills and attributes to day 1 of pupillage. The pupil supervisor will need to be able to recognise those differences at an early stage of the pupillage and adapt to the individual their own supervision style, their way of communicating with the pupil and the training plan.

For example:

  • Some will have received a waiver from the BSB for a reduced pupillage because of their prior experience, and the pupil supervisor will need to identify which of the competences in the Professional Statement remain areas of focus for the pupillage period.
  • Some will come with a great deal of knowledge about the way that the Bar works, because of their connections or prior experience. Others will not.
  • People learn in different ways. A pupillage training plan is likely to involve a combination of observing the pupil supervisor and other barristers, practising written work, scenario-based exercises, attending classroom-based courses and practising as a pupil barrister.
  • People respond differently to the style in which feedback is given – what works for one pupil may not work for another. Pupil supervisors must be prepared to adapt their style to the pupil.
  • Some individuals will require specific reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act and may not yet have had the courage to ask for them.

+ Understand the time commitment that is required to be effective as a pupil supervisor

The pupil supervisor will need to understand that effective pupillage supervision requires them to commit sufficient time to the role, including in the practising period of pupillage.

+ Be able to understand the behaviours which constitute unacceptable supervision practices.

It is expected that pupillage will be a demanding experience for pupils and can be somewhat stressful. Pupil supervisors must ensure that their actions do not unnecessarily or unreasonably increase that stress. Rigorous but constructive feedback is appropriate; bullying is strictly prohibited. Pupil supervisors need to be able to clearly differentiate the two. Unacceptable behaviours would include:

  • Personal comments and/or jokes about pupils’ appearance, race, religion, sex, marital status, background, education, age, weight, etc.
  • Exclusion of certain pupils from social events, social media groups, etc.
  • Unjustified exclusion of pupils from certain types of work or experience.
  • Criticism of Bar Training.
  • Unjustified threats to withdraw, extend or not sign off the pupillage.
  • Unreasonable expectations of work volume and/or working hours.
  • The way in which feedback is given (see below).

Case scenarios and role play to encourage discussions and ensure understanding in this area is likely to be the most effective way of training in this area.

+ Be competent to conduct assessment of their pupils’ progress in meeting the required competences and to conduct effective one-to-one appraisal and feedback, and continuing feedback to pupils throughout the duration of the pupillage.

It is for the AETO to ensure that the necessary documentation is in place to evidence the monitoring of the pupil’s progress against the competences in the Professional Statement, in a way that is transparent to the pupil. The pupil supervisor will need to be familiar with, and able to apply, the AETO’s policies and processes about the manner in which feedback will be provided and the frequency with which formal feedback and appraisals will be conducted. The pupil supervisor will need to be able to explain them to the pupil.

The skills required to deliver effective, regular and consistent feedback, and the impact on pupils of poorly delivered or insufficient feedback are critical to the success of pupillage. Those in the Employed Bar, or those who have come to the Bar after a change of career, may have had the opportunity for training in this area as part of an employee management training programme and have developed these skills as managers themselves. However, this is a skill that may not have been acquired as a practising self-employed barrister and should therefore be an important area of focus for training.

+ Be able to identify and act on their own development needs as an effective pupil supervisor.

Pupil supervisors should be confident in identifying and acting on their own development needs for the role. For example, this could be achieved by seeking feedback from pupils and reflecting on their competence as part of creating and implementing their annual CPD plan.

4. Pupil wellbeing

The pupil supervisor will:

+ Be familiar with the AETO’s policies and support mechanisms that enable all pupils to complete their training and support those who experience difficulties.

Pupil supervisors should read the contents of section C8 of the Bar Qualification Manual. They should also be familiar with the AETO’s formal policies and processes, including the grievance policy, and able to advise pupils of the process by which they can raise any issues either formally or informally. The pupil supervisor is often identified as the first point of contact in the grievance process and so they will need to be ready to act in line with the policy.

Many AETOs have a system in place whereby the pupil is assigned a buddy or junior tenant for the duration of their training. The aim is for the pupil to have someone within the AETO to speak to informally about matters which they may not feel comfortable to raise with their supervisors or more senior members. The pupil supervisor should be aware of who this person is and ensure that this means of support is operating.

+ Be able to signpost pupils to where they can find help externally if needed.

Pupil supervisors should read the contents section C8 of the Bar Qualification Manual and be aware of the range of external support mechanisms that are available to pupils in cases where they do not feel confident to raise their problems internally or where issues have not been resolved internally.

+ Be able to apply appropriate policies and support mechanisms that enable all pupils to complete their training and support those who experience difficulties. Be able to create a positive relationship with pupils, such they feel comfortable to speak up without fear of reprisal.

The pupil supervisor should understand the importance of their role within the AETO in helping to foster a culture in which pupils feel that if they have any concerns, these can be raised formally or informally with either their pupil supervisor or other appropriate individuals within the AETO.

Pupil supervisors should have an understanding of the impact that pupillage can have on the wellbeing of their pupils. They need to know how issues relating to wellbeing manifest themselves and they need to know how to have conversations about stressful or distressing situations, and other wellbeing issues.

Registration of pupil supervisors

1.21) Pupils must have a named pupil supervisor who is responsible for confirming that the non-practising and the practising periods of pupillage have each been satisfactorily completed in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy. The supervisor responsible for signing off each period of pupillage must be registered in relation to that pupillage when the pupillage is registered (or notified promptly if there is a change in circumstances).

1.22) We are no longer maintaining a “register” of approved pupil supervisors, as such. But we are maintaining a record of which pupil supervisor is responsible for signing off each particular pupil, when that pupillage is registered.

1.23) Although pupillage is arranged as two distinct periods for the purposes of regulation by the BSB (non-practising and practising periods – see Part 2C (C1) of the Bar Qualification Manual) AETOs may rotate pupils through two or more placements or “seats”. Such rotations can be within the AETO or with external organisations. This approach exposes pupils to a wider range of experience and offers opportunities for a more rounded assessment of their pupillage. It is for the AETO to ensure that all supervisors are appropriately trained and to determine how pupils are supervised during such seat rotations or external secondments, including how the consistency of supervision and the quality of training is maintained, and how effective handover between supervisors is ensured.

1.24) Supervisors that have responsibility for signing off a period of pupillage must be registered and trained. Where more than one supervisor has this responsibility during a pupillage, each must register as a supervisor for the pupillage with the BSB, either when the pupillage is first registered or subsequently.

1.25) There is no specified maximum amount of time that a supervisor may be absent or unavailable before an alternative supervisor must be registered. It is the responsibility of the AETO to ensure that the BSB is contacted when a material change occurs and alternative arrangements are made where necessary. See Part 2C (C3) of the Bar Qualification Manual for requirements to notify the BSB of changes in pupillage arrangements.

Back to C2 Responsibilities of AETOs