1. Using the Professional Statement to assess the competence of pupils

This section should be understood by AETOs, pupil supervisors and pupils.  It covers the competences and standards that the BSB requires pupils to achieve and how they are assessed.

AETOs are required to assess pupils in line with the threshold standard and competences specified in the Professional Statement for all pupillages commencing on or after 1 September 2019. This is a change to the previous requirement to complete the pupillage checklists.

1.1) The Professional Statement describes the knowledge, skills and attributes that all barristers should have on “day one” of practice. The components of Bar training are designed to ensure that prospective barristers meet the threshold standards in the Professional Statement. It helps prospective barristers to understand the standards they need to meet, and it helps AETOs to understand what the outcomes of Bar training must be.

1.2) AETOs are required to assess pupils in line with the threshold standard and competences specified in the Professional Statement. This is a change to the previous requirement to complete the pupillage checklists.

1.3) AETOs must develop their own training plan and records in place of the old checklists, to provide evidence to the BSB that pupils have met the competences, successfully completed each period of pupillage and are eligible to apply to the BSB for a Provisional Practising Certificate and a Full Practising Certificate. We do not prescribe templates for training records.

1.4) Since September 2017, it has been a requirement for vocational training providers to ensure that students understand how their learning relates to the Professional Statement, so pupils will be familiar with it.

Guidance on implementing the Professional Statement

1.5) The Professional Statement was rolled out with a group of early adopters for the 2017 and 2018 intakes of pupils in order to learn and share lessons before implementation to the Bar as a whole. The pilot group included 8 chambers and 4 organisations from the employed Bar (not otherwise regulated by the BSB). They provided a good cross-section of the Bar in terms of size, location and practice area.

1.6) The feedback from the early adopters about transitioning from the checklists to the Professional Statement was consistently very positive.

Feedback from the early adopters group about transitioning to the Professional Statement:

  • They found that they did not have to make significant changes to the content of their training programme; they felt that an AETO providing a high quality of training will already be addressing the range of competences covered by the Professional Statement. However, they found that they were more robust in documenting the training programme and providing transparency about how each competency is covered in the training programme, how it is assessed and how feedback is given to pupils.
  • AETOs found that the Professional Statement better reflects the training they were already delivering because it provides a more rounded framework of the competences needed to become a barrister.
  • AETOs in the employed Bar found good alignment with competence frameworks already in use in their own organisation.
  • In contrast, the checklists (previously mandated) focus on tasks to be completed and not on the competence of pupils. Some felt that the checklists are overly-long, providing a list of everything that might be seen in a particular area of practice, rather than focusing on what is important for a pupil and a newly qualified junior barrister. The documentation referred to in some checklists is out of date.
  • Using the Professional Statement competences was a trigger to develop more robust and transparent documentation of the assessment of pupils.
  • Some of the competences relating to expected behaviours provide a useful framework to tackle difficult conversations about development needs that were not addressed by the checklists.
  • Pupils bring with them different levels of experience and different strengths. The BSB’s flexible approach allows pupil supervisors to focus time on areas for development, rather than ticking off a list of activities to be completed. This is particularly useful where we have authorised reduced pupillages, based on prior experience.
  • Use of the Professional Statement helped to create a more balanced relationship between pupil and pupil supervisor. Whereas the onus before was on the pupil to tick off items on the checklists, AETOs found that it put a much clearer onus on the pupil supervisor (to actively assess competency), and the pupil (to reflect on their own development).
  • It helps pupils to get used to self-reflection, consistent with the CPD requirements, and QC and judicial appointments processes.

1.7) They also welcomed flexibility to develop their own documentation to suit their circumstances. However, they felt that guidance in the following areas would assist others. The feedback from the participants has helped to inform the guidance below for AETOs, pupil supervisors and pupils.

Training programme

1.8) Before pupillages start, AETOs should plan ahead to consider how their training programme will enable pupils to meet the competences to the threshold standard in the Professional Statement and how the pupil supervisors will assess competences.

1.9) The early adopters found that they did not have to make significant changes to the content of their training programme; they felt that an AETO providing a high quality of training will already be addressing the range of competences covered by the Professional Statement. However, they found that they were more robust in documenting the training programme and providing transparency about how each competency is covered in the training programme, and how it is assessed.

Case study:

An AETO maps each competence in the Professional Statement to identify:

a) the learning opportunities that are relevant, for example:

  • Sitting with the pupil supervisor
  • Interactions with the clerks
  • Interactions with solicitors
  • Observation in Court
  • In-house training course
  • Practising drafting
  • Completing work for the pupil supervisor and other barristers in the AETO
  • Practising as a pupil
  • Secondment

b) how they are assessed, for example:

  • oral and written feedback (solicitors, clients, clerks, pupil supervisors, other barristers)
  • assessment of in-house advocacy exercises
  • attendance at internal training

1.10) This process can help to identify where it may be difficult to support the pupil in meeting certain competences, eg where pupils are not on their feet in the practising period, due to the complexity of practice area.

Competences that need to be met in order to apply for a Provisional Practising Certificate (PPC)

1.11) The BSB has not previously specified what threshold in relation to the checklists that pupils need to have met in order to apply for a Provisional Practising Certificate, other than to specify which of the compulsory courses during pupillage needs to be completed during the non-practising period of pupillage. 

1.12) The competences that need to be met to the threshold standard during each component of Bar training, including those that need to be met to the threshold standard before a pupil can apply for a Provisional Practising Certificate, are now set out in the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

Ensure that all pupil supervisors are familiar with the Professional Statement

1.13) Where an AETO has a number of pupil supervisors, ensure that they are all familiar with the training programme and the Professional Statement before their pupils start. This could be achieved by:

  • Holding a briefing session
  • Preparing a briefing pack for supervisors

Ensure that pupils understand how they will be assessed and when

1.14) Some pupils in the pilot were uncertain how they knew when they had done enough to meet the threshold standard. Pupil supervisors should discuss the training plan with their pupils as early as possible and agree how they are going to measure whether the competences are being met and what methods will be used to assess them, so that pupils are clear what is expected of them and how the supervisor is expecting them to demonstrate the competences.

Case study: formal review meetings

An AETO requires its pupil supervisors to hold formal appraisal meetings with their pupils every three months. A template is used to document progress in each of the four areas covered by the Professional Statement (barristers’ distinctive characteristics; personal values and standards; working with others and management of practice) and areas to focus on before the next review. The formal process reflects the discussions that are held, and the feedback given, on an ongoing basis during the quarter.

The record is reviewed by the Head of Pupillage, who is also available to meet pupils in the event of problems.

This approach:

  • provides transparency about whether the pupil is on track to meet the threshold standard in order to apply for a Provisional Practising Certificate or complete pupillage;
  • provides structure to focus on development needs and the plan to address them on a timely basis;
  • provides consistency between pupil supervisors;
  • alerts the Head of Pupillage to any problems;
  • enables effective handover between seat supervisors.

Self-reflection by pupils

1.15) The early adopters found that pupillage diaries continue to provide a useful record of training but wanted to ensure that it provided a clear link to the competences in the Professional Statement. Some pupils felt that they were spending too much time cross-referencing each case to the competences in the Professional Statement and wanted clearer guidance about the level of detail that their supervisors needed. On discussion, it was felt that an appropriate balance needed to be struck to enable pupils to self-reflect on their progress effectively.

Case study: encouraging self-reflection by pupils

An AETO devised a pro-forma pupillage diary that includes a column for self-reflection on the learning from the case and the key competences that were engaged.

Feedback from pupils and pupil supervisors

1.16) The larger early adopters in the pilot brought together their pupils and pupil supervisors, to discuss their experience of using the Professional Statement. This was helpful in reflecting on the first year of implementation, what worked well and what lessons were learnt.

Ensuring consistency of assessment

1.17) AETOs need to ensure that all those involved in assessing pupils take a consistent approach to assessment of the competences in the Professional Statement. This particularly applies to the following circumstances:

  • Where a pupil has more than one pupil supervisor over the course of their pupillage - Good quality record keeping will ensure that supervisors take a consistent approach to monitoring progress in meeting the required competences.
  • Where a pupil will be completing work for other barristers or others in the AETO - Structured feedback in relation to competences in the Professional Statement (perhaps focussing on those identified for development) provides a consistent and transparent framework for feedback.
  • Where the pupil will be undertaking a secondment outside of the organisation as part of their pupillage (see Section 2, below).

Continued use of the specialist checklists

1.18) The BSB is no longer mandating the use of the checklists for pupillages and they are no longer maintained on the BSB’s website. However, opinions amongst the pilot group varied about their continuing value. Some of the early adopters found that the specialist checklists provided a useful reference point when planning the training programme and working with the clerks’ room to ensure that pupils were exposed to an appropriate range of work. Others thought that the checklists were too out of date and attempted to cover every possible type of document or procedure that a barrister might encounter, at the expense of focussing on those most often encountered at that stage of a barrister’s career.

1.19) It is for the AETO to decide with their Specialist Bar Associations (SBAs) whether there continues to be a demand for the checklists. A list of SBAs is available here.

Monitoring, evaluation of progress and feedback

1.20) Monitoring, evaluation of progress, and regular feedback during pupillage are crucial. This enables pupils to understand their progress and what difficulties, if any, they face in successfully completing pupillage and tenancy selection. The form that this takes is a matter for the AETO and pupil supervisors to define.

1.21) The Authorisation Framework places specific requirements on AETOs in relation to evaluation, assessment and appraisal.

Authorisation Framework

Indicator 46.9. All AETOs must provide evidence of a variety of fair and objective evaluation, assessment and appraisal methods that support the development and demonstration of the Professional Statement Competences and are appropriately timed.

Indicator 46.11. All AETOs must provide evidence of the promotion of self-reflection that fosters the profession’s approach to Continuing Professional Development from an early stage

1.22) Giving constructive feedback and conducting an effective appraisal requires the pupil supervisor to develop the necessary skills and experience. AETOs should consider how they ensure that their pupil supervisors are equipped to do this, and pupil supervisors should reflect on this when planning their CPD for the year.

1.23) Formal appraisals, scheduled periodically, in addition to regular feedback and informal monitoring of progress, help to ensure that appropriate progress is made by pupils and that pupils understand the progress they are making and the areas for development. They give pupils the opportunity to address areas for development during the remaining period of pupillage. Pupil supervisors should ensure that they have regular meetings with pupils throughout the year to discuss progress and follow up any action that is agreed.

1.24) The appraisal process should provide a structured means of reviewing a pupil’s performance, providing objective feedback, identifying strengths and areas for development, and setting objectives to develop skills and competences. Appropriate documentation and forms should be developed by the AETO.

1.25) It is also an opportunity for pupils to provide feedback on their progress, the work they have done and the way they are being supervised. To enable the appraisal to be productive, both pupil and supervisor should take time to reflect before the appraisal takes place. Pupils can be encouraged to do this by completing an appraisal preparation form.

1.26) It is important that pupils begin a habit of self-reflection on their own progress that should continue throughout practice, with a view to shaping a barrister’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD). During the first three full years as a practising barrister, barristers must comply with the CPD rules within the New Practitioners Programme (NPP). Once they have practised for more than three full years, they must comply with the CPD rules within the Established Practitioners Programme (EPP).

1.27) People other than the pupil supervisor may also contribute to the evaluation of pupils’ performance, eg clerks, solicitors, members of the judiciary or clients. AETOs should establish appropriate mechanisms to do so, with transparent assessment criteria that are based on the competences in the Professional Statement.

1.28) Some AETOs develop their own structured written and oral assessment exercises. Again, these should reflect the competences in the Professional Statement

1.29) The Head of Pupillage, or equivalent, should monitor the appraisals so that the AETO is aware of the progress of all the pupils and can identify where there may be emerging issues.

Remedial work and extension of pupillage

1.30) Where it is not considered that the defined standards and competences have been met, the pupil supervisor must not sign off the pupil as having completed the non-practising or practising period of pupillage. This should not come as a surprise to the pupil. A transparent, effective and documented appraisal process should identify problems at an early stage, and the pupil should be clear what action is required to address them. The Head of Pupillage, or equivalent, should be kept informed.

1.31) Where a pupil is not signed off by their supervisor, opportunities may be provided for additional or remedial work to enable the pupil to attain the required level of competency, but there is no obligation for this to be provided by the AETO.

1.32) If a pupil is not signed off, the BSB should be informed by emailing authorisations@barstandardsboard.org.uk

Plagiarism and cheating

BSB Handbook

Core Duty 3 requires that you (including pupils) must behave with honesty and integrity.

Rule C8 says that you must not do anything which could reasonably be seen by the public to undermine your honesty, integrity and independence.

Rule C65.7 says that you must report promptly to the BSB if you have committed serious misconduct.

Rule C66 says that other barristers, if they have reasonable grounds to believe that there has been serous misconduct by a barrister, must report it to the BSB.

1.33) Plagiarism or cheating (eg plagiarism of another pupil’s work, submitted for an assessment) must be properly investigated and reported to the BSB by the pupil or somebody else in the AETO, if the pupil has been Called to the Bar. It must also be reported to the pupil’s Inn and may be a reason for disciplinary action by the Inn.

Transferring pupillage

1.34) If the need arises for a pupil to transfer from one AETO to another during any stage of their pupillage, it is likely that the new AETO will need to apply for a waiver of the pupillage advertising requirements. If the funding for the remainder of the pupillage is not to be provided by the new AETO, the new AETO will also need to apply for a waiver of the pupillage funding requirements.

1.35) The former AETO must make available copies of their training records to date to the pupil and the new AETO. The pupil supervisor at the new AETO will need to be able to access these records in order to ascertain what skills and experience have so far been gained by the pupil, allowing them to plan the remainder of the pupillage accordingly.

2. Secondments and training delivered by another organisation

This section should be understood by AETOs who intend to second their pupils to another organisation for part of their pupillage. AETOs must ensure that appropriate governance arrangements are in place and that the BSB has been informed.

Authorisation Framework

Indicator 47.1 requires AETOs to provide evidence (where applicable) for the governance arrangements reflecting their responsibility for any components of training delivered in collaboration or association with other organisations.

2.1) The BSB encourages flexibility in the delivery of pupillage, in order to ensure that pupils can get the range of experience that is necessary to demonstrate the requirements of the Professional Statement. Secondments may be arranged to help pupils meet specific competences for which the AETO cannot provide the necessary experience or to give a broad range of experience that may assist the development of the pupil's chosen field of practice.

2.2) All secondment arrangements should be reported to the BSB for authorisation. Recurring arrangements should be approved through the AETO authorisation process. One-off secondments should be reported to the Authorisations Team by emailing authorisations@barstandardsboard.org.uk to consider whether this constitutes a variation in the terms of authorisation as an AETO.

Governance arrangements

2.3) When a pupil is seconded, the AETO will ultimately be responsible for their training while on secondment. AETOs should consider and document respective responsibilities in an agreement with the host organisation. Considerations include:

  • what the objectives of the secondment are and specifically what training will be delivered to meet those objectives;
  • what arrangements are in place to monitor the quality of training received by pupils while on secondment or where training is delivered by another organisation;
  • opportunities for pupils to provide the AETO with feedback about the standard of training;
  • how pupils will be assessed while on secondment, particularly in relation to the competences in the Professional Statement, and how that will be communicated to the pupil and the AETO;
  • funding arrangements;
  • insurance arrangements; and
  • what clients of the host organisation will be told about the pupil’s status. 

Conflicts of interest

2.4) If there is any risk of a conflict of interest between the AETO and the host organisation (for example secondments between chambers and the Crown Prosecution Service), the agreement should ensure that:

  • While seconded, the pupil barrister owes all relevant duties to the host organisation and the client;
  • Responsibility for assessing performance during the secondment lies solely with the host supervisor;
  • Information that the host organisation has that might create a conflict of interest within the originating AETO is not shared; and
  • While seconded, the pupil barrister will not be able to access the originating AETO’s digital systems or confidential information.

2.5) Such arrangements are intended to mitigate the risk (or the perception) that a seconded pupil might act otherwise than in accordance with their regulatory obligations – in particular that they act independently and in their clients’ best interests. The existence of such secondments, appropriately arranged, will not be viewed by the BSB as a breach of any BSB Handbook requirements. However, pupils should ensure that they comply with Handbook rules in the normal way in relation to each client.

2.6) The BSB must consider any complaint, if one were made, on a case by case basis; we take a risk-based approach, taking into account the level of harm caused and the extent to which a pupil has taken all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the BSB Handbook. If the BSB were to receive a report that a secondment constitutes a breach of Core Duty 5, we would not consider the existence of a secondment alone to be a breach of the core duty. The BSB would only seek to take enforcement action if we were satisfied that there had been a substantive breach of some other rule or core duty (for example, if the pupil barrister had acted in circumstances where there had been a breach of rules regarding conflicts, acting in the client’s best interests or acting independently). The BSB believes it is possible for such risks to be overcome by ensuring appropriate protocols are in place and ensuring that the instructing solicitor is satisfied that the arrangements are in the client’s best interests.

3. Compulsory courses and assessments during pupillage

During pupillage, all pupils must attend certain compulsory courses and pass certain assessments to build on training received during the vocational component and to supplement work-based learning in an AETO during pupillage, so that pupils can meet the Competences in the Professional Statement.

The compulsory courses and assessments during the pupillage component are changing. This section summarises the current requirements and when the new requirements will take effect, as set out in the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy. Pupils must ensure that they sign up for courses and assessments that they are required to take.

Summary of requirements and changes

3.1) The Curriculum and Assessment Strategy published on 1 April 2019 is complete for the academic and vocational components of training for the Bar.

3.2) The Curriculum and Assessment Strategy also contains information relating to the pupillage/work-based learning component of training. This includes a mapping document which outlines which competences in the Professional Statement should be covered at each stage of a prospective barrister’s training journey.

Since 1 September 2019, it has been a requirement that any AETO delivering pupillage or work-based learning must adhere to the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy, and ensure pupils cover the relevant competences as outlined in the mapping document.

Since 1 September 2020, it has been a requirement that any new vocational courses delivered by AETOs from 2020 must adhere to the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

Future requirements...

  • There will be some further changes to pupillage, including the introduction of a compulsory course and assessment in Negotiation Skills and a centralised assessment in Professional Ethics. More information about these requirements will be confirmed in due course and the details will be added to the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

Course

When it must be completed

Method of delivery

Timing of changes

What has not changed

Advocacy Course

The non-practising period of pupillage cannot be signed off until this course has been satisfactorily completed.

Course and assessment provided in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

N/A

New requirements

Professional Ethics examination Pupillage cannot be signed off until this assessment has been satisfactorily completed. A BSB centrally set and marked open book examination during pupillage. The BSB will not prescribe a course, but it will be open to anyone who wishes to provide one. This will come into effect for pupils starting on or after 1 September 2021.

Negotiation Skills

The non-practising period of pupillage cannot be signed off until this course has been satisfactorily completed.

Course and assessment provided in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

This will come into effect for pupils starting on or after 1 September 2022.

Advocacy

3.3) A fundamental objective of pupillage is that the pupil should develop and practise the skills necessary to be an effective advocate.

3.4) The standard of advocacy required was established together with the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (“ICCA” - formerly the Advocacy Training Council). The Advocacy Course provides training on core aspects of advocacy, including case preparation, witness handling, speeches and pleas in mitigation in accordance with the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.

3.5) Courses consist of a minimum of 12 hours’ advocacy training, in the following compulsory elements (based on the Dutton criteria):

  • Skeleton arguments
  • Oral submissions
  • Examination-in-chief
  • Cross-examination
  • Preparation

3.6) Details of advocacy courses can be obtained from the relevant Inn and/or Circuit.  Pupils in London or on the South Eastern Circuit are required to attend the course run by their Inn and pupils on Circuit are required to attend the course run by that Circuit.

3.7) Competences 1.13 to 1.15 of the Professional Statement relate to advocacy. This course, together with the advocacy training and practice that occurs during pupillage, is designed to enable pupils to meet competence 1.15 – “Have persuasive oral advocacy skills” to the threshold standard in order to complete the non-practising period of pupillage, at which point they can apply for their Provisional Practising Certificate.

3.8) The Advocacy Course must be satisfactorily completed in the non-practising period of pupillage. If the course is not satisfactorily completed, the non-practising period of pupillage can be extended.

3.9) In the event that a pupil fails to satisfactorily complete the Advocacy Training Course at the first or second attempt, a Stage 3 procedure will be invoked at the request of an Inn or Circuit. This is administered on behalf of the BSB by the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA). Details of that procedure can be found on the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) website.

Guidance

Pupils must be given adequate time to prepare for compulsory advocacy training. Concerns have been raised in the past by ICCA about the preparation time made available for pupils. It is recommended that pupils are given at least a day for preparation.

Professional Ethics

3.10) Professional Ethics will be assessed via an open book examination during pupillage that is centrally set and marked by the BSB.

3.11) Candidates must have been in pupillage for a minimum period of six weeks to sit the assessment in Professional Ethics, to ensure they have the benefit of context from their experience. It will not be a mandatory requirement to attend course in order to prepare for the exam but it will be open to anyone to provide a course.

3.12) Candidates will have three opportunities per year to sit the centralised Professional Ethics assessment (in December, April and August).

3.13) AETOs will not be able to sign off the practising period of pupillage unless the examination has been passed.

Negotiation Skills

3.14) Competence 1.7 of the Professional Statement relates to negotiation. This course and assessment, together with the negotiation training and practice that occurs during pupillage, is designed to enable pupils to meet competence 1.7 – “Negotiate effectively” to the threshold standard in order to complete the non-practising period of pupillage, at which point they can apply for their Provisional Practising Certificate.

3.15) It will be a requirement that the Negotiation Skills course and assessment must be satisfactorily completed in the non-practising period of pupillage. If the course is not satisfactorily completed, the non-practising period of pupillage can be extended.

3.16) More information about the course and assessment, including who will provide it, will be available in due course

Extension of training in the event that a pupil fails to pass required assessments

3.17) If a pupil fails to satisfactorily complete a compulsory course or to pass an exam, it will be for the AETO to decide whether funded pupillage will be extended. This must be set out in a written agreement at the commencement of pupillage (see Part 2C (C1) of the Bar Qualification Manual).

Additional requirements set by AETOs

3.18) Some AETOs provide additional compulsory training courses as part of their training programme for their pupils. The provision of supplementary in-house training is not required by the BSB. It is for the AETO to decide how to enable pupils to meet and demonstrate the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard.

Public Access Training

Good practice

Pupils who intend to intend to provide public access once qualified should have this supported during their pupillage. Some AETOs fund their pupils to attend public access training so that they can apply for accreditation for public access work promptly upon full qualification.