BSB eyes loosening constraints on design of both BPTC and pupillages

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23 February 2015

Dr Simon Thornton Wood

Thornton-Wood: More flexibility could mean more pupillages

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said that there is no need for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to be delivered as “one, integrated course”, and is also set to give chambers and employers more freedom to design pupillages.

The BSB said that if it introduced flexibility into the , it might be able to “exert some control” over the cost.

In an update on its Future Bar Training plans, the BSB said the cost of the BPTC in London was currently “in excess of £17,500 for a one-year course”.

The regulator described the cost of training as “worrying” in that it had a “significant influence on the range of people who might consider a career at the Bar”.

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In the update, the BSB explained that it currently administered the BPTC as a single course and it was delivered by various universities according to a “detailed set of requirements”.

The regulator said it was concerned that this approach was “unnecessarily prescriptive” and it did not think “a regulator should determine the course’s delivery to quite such an extent”, when others were “better placed” to anticipate what was needed.

“Building on what we have learned from running centralised assessments for the BPTC, we are investigating the potential to focus more on the final assessment of a candidate’s knowledge, rather than defining how knowledge should be taught.”

The BSB argued that there was a “strong case” for it to be more involved in those parts of the BPTC relating to “skills training, including advocacy”. A consultation on the BPTC will be launched early in the summer.

On pupillages, the BSB said it was not convinced that there was “only one way” to organise them.

The regulator, which currently requires anything other than the “standard format” for pupillages to be separately approved, said chambers or other employers “should be best placed to decide how the objectives of pupillage are best achieved” and “our own focus must be to make sure barristers attain appropriate standards at the end of the process.”

The BSB said it wanted to make it easier, if training organisations were not well equipped to provide some aspects, for them to “make alternative arrangements – such as secondments”.

Dr Simon Thornton-Wood, director of education and training at the BSB, said: “At a time of great change across the profession who better to design and deliver the pupillage experience to aspiring barristers than professionals themselves?

“Of course, we must safeguard standards, but we’re not convinced that means we can’t introduce more freedom and flexibility into the system so that it continues to provide vital preparation for practise.

“And if this greater flexibility means that there can be more pupillages on offer that is also a good move.”

The BSB said consultations on the future of both the BPTC and pupillages would be launched early this summer.

The moves mirror the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s shift to focusing on training outcomes, rather than the route by which a student reaches them.

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