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Coronavirus update - Education and Training Q&A

We recognise that students, trainees and law firms are concerned about the impact on their training and assessments.

Our aim is to help by being as flexible as possible in this area, while still making sure solicitors who qualify have met the required standard.

Here are answers to commonly asked questions.

Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) / Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

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Yes, we do not specify or approve the form that assessments take on these courses. However, some form of assessment is required, for example online, open book or remote assessments. Training providers should let us know (for our information, not approval) if they are introducing alternative assessment arrangements.

No, there must be some assessment for Foundation of Legal Knowledge (FLK) subjects. We do not specify the form it needs to take, but an assessment is required. For example, online, open book or remote assessments.

We are also content if you wish to postpone assessment of subjects into later academic years.  However, by the time your students graduate, they must be properly assessed in all FLK subjects.

We do not specify or approve the form that assessments take for the QLD and GDL. It is up to providers of those courses to decide how they assess the QLD and GDL, including whether a no detriment policy would be appropriate for those courses.

Universities can make their own decisions about assessing students through alternative arrangements, such as coursework assessments, or take-home, open-book examinations or online, timed examinations. However, some form of assessment for Foundation of Legal Knowledge (FLK) subjects is required. By the time students graduate they should have been properly assessed in all FLK subjects. All foundation subjects on a QLD must be passed with at least 40% to fulfil the requirements of the academic stage of training.

We do not specify or approve the form that assessments take for the QLD and GDL. It is up to providers of those courses to decide how they assess the QLD and GDL, including whether a no detriment policy would be appropriate for those courses.

 

Universities can make their own decisions about assessing students through alternative arrangements, such as coursework assessments, or take-home, open-book examinations or online, timed examinations. However, some form of assessment for Foundation of Legal Knowledge (FLK) subjects is required. By the time students graduate they should have been properly assessed in all FLK subjects. All foundation subjects on a QLD must be passed with at least 40% to fulfil the requirements of the academic stage of training.

Legal Practice Course (LPC)

We have a statutory duty to make sure that those who are admitted as solicitors have the knowledge and skills necessary for practice. This means we need to be assured that students who pass an LPC have the necessary knowledge and skills for the early stage of their career in practice.

One of the ways we do this is through our requirements for supervised assessments on the LPC. It will of course be challenging to meet these requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic and so for this period, we are relaxing our current assessment requirements for all parts of the LPC.

This means that for skills assessments and elective subjects, LPC providers may make alternative assessment arrangements.

For the core LPC subjects, we will maintain our requirements for supervised assessment, but we will consider applications for online or remote proctoring of supervised assessments.   

LPC providers must apply to us for approval before making any changes to assessments. We will consider changes to our current requirements on a provider by provider basis. Approval will be subject to review by us at any stage.

We will decide quickly on applications to make changes to LPC assessments.

In all cases, we will expect any application to us to set out how the proposed approach will maintain the security and integrity of the LPC qualification.

If you wish to make a change to your assessment arrangements, please apply to us using this form.

Trainees are also permitted to start their training contract before they have completed the LPC. Therefore training providers may need to consider and plan for trainees to complete the LPC later on.

Professional Skills Course (PSC)

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If you, or a trainee at your firm, may be in this situation, please contact us as soon as possible.

We are considering whether there is anything we can do to help trainees who need to complete the PSC for September admission.

We are also talking to training providers about the extent to which they can move their provision online – see further below.

Certain parts of the compulsory core subjects for the PSC require face to face assessment. We appreciate that it will be challenging to meet these requirements during the outbreak.

We have therefore decided to consider applications for online or remote proctoring of assessments for the PSC, or assessment of oral skills by video-link.

PSC providers must apply to us for approval before making any changes to assessments. We will consider changes to our current requirements on a provider by provider basis. Approval will be subject to review by us at any stage.

We will decide quickly on applications to make changes to PSC assessments.

In all cases, we will expect any application to us to set out how the proposed approach will maintain the security and integrity of the PSC qualification.

If you wish to make a change to your assessment arrangements, please apply to us using this form.

Trainees / period of recognised training

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We recognise that trainees and law firms are concerned about the impact on their training. Our aim is to help by being as flexible as possible in this area, while still making sure solicitors who qualify have met the required standard.

A firm may find that it is unable to provide the required level of training or appropriate supervision of a trainees’ work, during the coronavirus outbreak. It may be appropriate, in those circumstances, to put a trainee on furlough.

If your firm decides to put you on furlough, you do not need to do anything. When you are taken off furlough, your firm will discuss with you whether your period of recognised training needs to be extended. This will depend on the length of time you have been on furlough.  If your period of recognised training needs to be extended, your firm will need to notify us of the extension period and that this has been agreed with you.

Our regulations require trainees must be ‘appropriately supervised’. Therefore, we would accept firms putting sensible arrangements in place for supervisors to review trainees’ work remotely.

No, there is no maximum amount of time a trainee can be supervised remotely. As long as firms put in place sensible arrangements for supervisors to review trainees’ work remotely, an extended period of remote supervision, particularly in the current circumstances, we would not expect this to impact on the duration of a period of recognised training.  

Trainees may need to self-isolate due to COVID-19, in line with Government advice. If a trainee can work, then firms may put in place sensible arrangements for appropriate supervision of trainees self-isolating. We would not expect this to impact on the duration of a training contract.  If a trainee becomes sick during their period of self-isolation, they should be treated in line with any arrangements for sickness leave covered by their terms and conditions of employment (see below).

We would expect firms to treat any period of sickness leave due to COVID-19 the same as any other period of sickness leave during a training contract would be treated. Any arrangements for sickness leave should already be covered under the terms and conditions of employment.

The approach for any long-term sick leave related to COVID-19 is also the same as for any other period of long-term sick leave. In these circumstances, a training period may be extended where a trainee is unable to meet the requirements of the Practice Skills Standards. The duration of the extension is at the discretion of the training principal. If a training period needs to be extended, the training principal must email us to confirm the new end date.

Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS)

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These assessments are run by Kaplan. They have cancelled all assessments until July and have provided an update about this on their website.

We keep the situation under review, depending on how Kaplan decide to manage the cancelled assessments.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination

The first SQE assessments will be no earlier than Autumn 2021. We continue to work towards this and at this stage, we do not expect the COVID-19 outbreak to affect our timeline. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully.