1. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is committed to ensuring that centralised assessments prescribed as part of Bar Training are as accessible as possible for all candidates. This document sets out how we will work with vocational Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) to ensure that every reasonable effort is made to enable all candidates to sit the centralised assessments whether they are delivered in person or remotely. A further section will be added in due course setting out our approach to the centralised assessment during pupillage that will be introduced from 2022, and where we will have a different set of responsibilities as the candidates will have a more direct relationship with us.
2. We will balance that commitment to accessibility with the need to ensure that the security of the centralised assessments is maintained. We will keep our approach under regular review and conduct lessons learned exercises with AETOs after each sitting of the centralised assessments. This, along with regular engagement with our Student and Pupil Liaison Groups and other stakeholders, will enable us to keep the needs and experiences of the student at the heart of our decision making on the accessibility of assessments.
Role of the BSB and the Vocational AETOs in the management of reasonable adjustments for candidates sitting the BSB centralised assessments
3. A key element of ensuring that the centralised assessments are accessible is the management of reasonable adjustments for candidates.
4. As a qualifications body, s.53 of the Equality Act 2010 (“EA 2010”) imposes duties on the BSB to make reasonable adjustments (“RAs”) and to not discriminate against, directly or indirectly, harass, or victimise persons in relation to any protected characteristic they may have.
5. As a public authority, the BSB is also subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty (“PSED”) under s.149 EA 2010.
6. AETOs are required to meet their own, similar duties under the EA 2010. The BSB recommends independent legal advice is sought by each AETO as to their duties under the EA 2010 and how those duties are to be discharged.
7. As both the BSB and AETOs have duties under the EA 2010, even where the centralised assessments are delivered by AETOs, the BSB has a role in ensuring that candidates' adjustment needs can be accommodated where reasonable. This means both the BSB and AETOs must work together to ensure reasonable adjustments can be made for disabled candidates.
8. The purpose of this note is to set out the practicalities of arranging reasonable adjustments for candidates, so that there is clarity over the respective roles and responsibilities of the BSB and AETOs.
The roles and responsibilities of AETOs
9. The roles and responsibilities of AETOs in relation to managing RAs for the centralised assessments are set out below.
EIAs and assessment processes
i. To conduct an Equality Impact Assessment (“EIA”), or equivalent analysis, to analyse the risks and impacts of any new policies and processes for the centralised assessments and set out steps to minimise any potential disadvantages to groups of candidates who share a protected characteristic.
ii. Where the form of assessment is likely to put disabled candidates at a particular disadvantage in comparison to non-disabled candidates, the AETOs should:
- consult with the AETOs’ disability support unit and any other disability experts;
- consult with disabled candidates; and
- work with the BSB;
to determine what steps are reasonable for AETOs to take (in light of the consultation) to avoid the disadvantage to disabled candidates.
Learning support agreements and RAs
iii. To ensure that there are learning support agreements in place for candidates requiring RAs and to keep those agreements up to date.
iv. To take all reasonable steps to accommodate the RAs specified in the learning support agreements.
v. To engage disability experts in support of the AETOs’ approach to the management of RAs (as necessary).
vi. Where the requested RAs relate to a provision, criterion or practice that puts disabled candidates at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled candidates, AETOs should:
- work with disabled candidates to identify what changes may be needed to avoid the disadvantage;
- make those changes where it is within the control of the AETO and it is reasonable to do so; and
- work with the BSB to identify any changes that may need to be made by the BSB to avoid the disadvantage, where the provision, criterion or practice stems from a requirement of the BSB.
vii. Where an AETO is of the view that a requested RA could put the disabled candidate at a substantial advantage compared to non-disabled candidates, they should work with the BSB to ensure that the BSB understands the nature of the potential advantage. It will be matter for each AETO to decide upon the reasonableness of the requested RA in those circumstances.
viii. Where the requested RAs relate to a physical feature of the AETOs’ premises (eg the need for wheelchair access or a lift), it is the sole responsibility of the AETO to put in place the necessary adjustments.
ix. Where the requested RAs relate to auxiliary aids or services (eg large print or Braille assessment papers for visually impaired candidates, specific coloured paper or screen background for candidates with dyslexia, the use of an amanuensis or a reader, or the use of a computer for certain kinds of disability) the AETOS are to work with the BSB and the candidate to:
- identify what changes are needed to the assessment process to avoid the disadvantage; and
- make arrangements to put that RA in place, unless it is more appropriate and practicable for the BSB to make the adjustment (such as changes to the physical assessment papers), in which case the division of responsibility should be clearly agreed.
- ensure that the BSB is notified of any adjustments within an agreed timeframe, otherwise, those that are dependent upon the BSB such as changes to physical papers, cannot be guaranteed and they in turn are dependent on third party suppliers
x. To inform the BSB of the candidates whose adjustment requests they are having difficulty accommodating and work with the BSB and candidates to identify reasonable, alternative options.
xi. To inform the BSB of any candidates that the AETO has not been able to accommodate and why and what steps they have taken to address similar RA requests should they arise again.
xii. To contribute to the lessons learned exercise conducted by the BSB after each diet of centralised assessments.
10. As part of the annual reflective review process to include information about the general accessibility of the centralised assessments, in line with the criteria set out in the BSB Authorisation Framework.
Roles and responsibilities of the BSB
11. The roles and responsibilities of the BSB are set out below.
EIAs and assessment processes
i. To set the strategic framework for the delivery of the centralised assessments and the approach to compliance with its duties under the EA 2010.
ii. To conduct an EIA that analyses the risks and impacts of any new policies and procedures concerning to the centralised assessments and sets out actions to minimise any potential disadvantages to groups of candidates who share a protected characteristic.
iii. To consider and provide guidance in relation to AETOs’ EIAs (as necessary).
iv. Where a form of assessment proposed by the BSB is likely to put disabled candidates at a particular disadvantage in comparison to non-disabled candidates, the BSB should, where necessary or appropriate, consult with:
- the AETOs;
- disability experts; and
- anyone else who may be able to provide expertise/insight;
to determine what steps are reasonable for the BSB to take (in light of the consultation) to avoid the disadvantage to disabled candidates.
Learning support agreements and RAs
v. To monitor, and hold to account, AETOs’ management of RAs.
vi. To provide guidance and support to AETOs regarding RAs (as necessary), which may include sharing the BSB’s experiences of accommodating RAs.
vii. To provide the questions for centralised assessments in a range of accessible formats (including Braille, different font sizes, and coloured paper or screen background) to meet various RAs of candidates (as necessary).
viii. Work with AETOs to identify any changes that may need to be made by the BSB to avoid a substantial disadvantage to disabled candidates compared to non-disabled candidates, where a provision, criterion or practice creating that disadvantage stems from a requirement of the BSB.
ix. Work with AETOs to identify RAs that may confer an advantage on disabled cand
x. To engage disability experts as appropriate in support of its oversight of the AETOs’ management of RAs, including in instances where an AETO reports difficulties in accommodating a candidate’s adjustment requests.
xi. To ensure that AETOs and candidates are clear about the timeline for notification of any RAs that are dependent on the BSB, such as changes to the physical assessment paper.
Review of the division of roles and responsibilities
12. The roles and responsibilities set out in this note will be reviewed periodically and at least once every calendar year. Any changes will be made in the light of lessons learned by both the BSB and AETOs.