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Deregulating education: BSB proposes to put barristers in charge of pupillage

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today (20 February) announced in a new report that chambers and employers are best placed to decide how to plan and provide pupillages and should be put in back in charge of designing the experience for aspiring barristers.

The body is concerned by evidence of increasing costs throughout Bar training, which is ‘worrying because it has a significant influence on the range of people who might consider a career at the Bar.’ The cost of the BPTC in London is now typically in excess of £17,500 for a one year course.

The report said: ‘The cost of training is inevitably high – as it is for any profession. But there is a risk our own requirements might add to that cost. We want to minimise that risk. We can make sure our own regulations do not constrain the training market unnecessarily – so that training providers have the flexibility to innovate.’

The BSB is keen to shift responsibility for structure of pupillages away from the regulator and back to pupillage training organisations (PTOs) which ‘have a better understanding of what works and what does not.’ The report further stated that the regulator seeks to make it easier for PTOs that are unable to provide certain aspects of pupillage to offer alternative arrangements to pupils, including secondments.

Set to be consulted on this summer, the proposals constitute a significant move away from the current system in which the BSB must approve pupillages that deviate from the standard format. The body is further eager to explore how pupils – most of which are self-employed, can be protected in the same way as employees or other trainees.

Simon Thornton Wood, director of education and training for the BSB, said: ‘Pupillage is incredibly important in providing the next generation of the Bar with the exposure and expert advice they need to become barristers. 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.’

Less popular moves by the BSB includes the hugely controversial Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA), a scheme proposing that barristers may only accept trials on a par with their assessed and graded advocacy abilities.