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Coronavirus update - Education and Training Q&A

We recognise that students, trainees and employers 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 tell us if they are introducing alternative assessment arrangements (for our information, not approval).

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 the course providers 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)

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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 what is necessary 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 is of course challenging to meet these requirements during the outbreak. Therefore, until the end of the 2020/21 academic year, we are relaxing our current assessment requirements for all parts of the LPC. This means that for skills assessments and elective subjects, providers may make alternative assessment arrangements.

For the core LPC subjects, we have maintained our requirements for supervised assessment, but we have approved applications from providers for online or remote proctoring of supervised assessments.

Before making any changes to assessments, providers have had to apply to us for approval. This approval may be subject to conditions and is subject to review by us at any stage.

In all cases, where we have approved alternative assessment arrangements, we have asked providers to us to set out how their proposed approach will maintain the security and integrity of the LPC qualification.

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.

LPC providers wishing to make changes to assessment arrangements must apply to us using this form.

All other requirements of the LPC remain in place.

Trainees are also allowed to start their period of recognised training before they have completed the LPC. Therefore, training providers may need to consider and plan for trainees to complete the LPC later on.

Our approval of alternative assessment arrangements is temporary. However, where we have approved alternative assessment arrangements for the LPC, Higher Rights of Audience or Professional Skills Course, education providers may continue with these until the end of the academic year 2020/21.

We expect the alternative assessment arrangements to continue for all courses that will be completed by 31 August 2021.

Where a course which started in the 2020/21 academic year is being taken on a part-time basis, or in January 2021 or later, we will allow these to proceed on the basis of the alternative assessment arrangements approved for 2020/21.

We expect education providers to be clear with students starting any course due to complete after 31 August 2021 that assessment arrangements may change after the end of the 2020/21 academic year.

We will continue to keep our position under review, considering Government guidance, and will contact education providers before the end of the academic year to confirm arrangements for the 2021/22 academic year.

We recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak has presented significant challenges to LPC students and course providers. We have supported them by allowing changes to teaching and assessment methods for the LPC during the outbreak.

While we have relaxed our requirements around assessments of the LPC due to Covid-19, the LPC requirements remains in force.

This states that for good reason, a student can request that an attempt be disregarded after the assessment, overriding the fit to sit:

'If, exceptionally, an examination board agrees that a student has mitigating circumstances that might have affected their performance in a particular assessment, despite their confirmation that it was appropriate for them to attempt the assessment, that attempt can be disregarded for the purposes of the information recorded on the transcript and for the operation of the three attempts rule.'

We recognise that the impact of Covid-19 could be a mitigating circumstance that may affect performance in an assessment. However, this impact would still have to be considered on an individual, case by case basis.

While we do not state how an provider chooses to grade or classify an LPC – before, during or after the Covid-19 outbreak. We would though expect any decisions they make about classifications during this period to maintain the integrity of the LPC qualification.

As set out in the LPC information pack, the pass mark for all core and elective assessments of the LPC is 50%. A candidate cannot be awarded the LPC unless they have scored at least 50% in all assessments. A pass/fail award decision must be calculated based on all assessments. This includes those taken in the current outbreak and course providers can therefore not apply any policy that undermines this.

Marks for assessments, and the number of attempts at the assessment, must be recorded on separate transcripts. However, these should not include reference to any grading of classification system the provider has chosen to use, although this may be recorded on a certificate.

Therefore, training providers and employers should check LPC qualifications against a transcript when considering how individuals performed on the LPC, rather than the grade or classification on an award certificate, as how a distinction or commendation is calculated may vary between providers.

Professional Skills Course (PSC)

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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.

We are accepting applications from Professional Skills Course (PSC) providers to temporarily move to online or remote proctoring of assessments for the PSC, or assessment of oral skills by video-link. However, we know that it still may not be possible to complete the course in time for your planned admission point.

If you are not able to complete the PSC due to the Covid-19 outbreak, you can apply to us to defer completing the PSC for admission as a solicitor. You will still need to successfully complete this within 12 months of being admitted.

If you wish to complete the PSC after you have been admitted as a solicitor, you must first apply to us for a 'waiver', using this form (PDF 5 pages, 228KB). Your application will be for a waiver of part of regulation 3A.1(a) (ii) of the Authorisation of Individual Regulations.

One condition for granting this waiver is that there was not any other way for the course to be taken. We have now authorised some providers of the PSC to deliver it remotely, and we therefore expect trainees to be provided with the option to take the PSC where possible.

We expect training principals to make every effort to ensure that trainees complete the PSC.

If we decide to grant you a waiver in these circumstances:

  • You will need to provide evidence to us within 12 months that you have successfully completed the PSC. This could be a certificate or a note on headed paper from your PSC provider. We will then check this with them.
  • We may take regulatory action against you if you breach the conditions of the waiver.
  • Your training principal should contact us before certifying your period of recognised training.

Our rules require organisations to pay for a trainee's first attempt at the PSC. This obligation continues should you find that as a result of us having granted you a waiver, you must take the PSC after admission. You will therefore need to discuss the position with the organisation you are currently training with and confirm the payment arrangements with them.

We expect training principals to make every effort to make sure that trainees complete the PSC. If this has not been possible, we may allow trainees to defer completion the PSC (see the previous question).

If, despite every effort, your trainee has not been able to complete the PSC, please contact us to check whether the trainee has been granted a waiver to defer completion of the PSC for admission.

Please see the question above for more information on deferring the PSC completion.

Under the SRA Training Regulations 2014 - Qualification and Provider Regulations (2014 regulations) a trainee should be able to apply for admission when they are able to do so. They should not be delayed if they have met our requirements for admission. If necessary, we have the power to recognise the period of training under regulation 5.6 in these circumstances.

We can't comment on the terms and conditions of a trainee's contract of employment and we would suggest seeking employment legal advice.

If you are in this situation, you can apply for a waiver of our requirements for:

We would expect you to complete one application that covers all affected trainees (rather than one per trainee). This needs to include all relevant trainees’ names and SRA numbers (where available).

You will need to confirm in your application that these trainees will still meet the Practice Skills Standards, despite not completing three distinct seats.

If you cannot confirm this, you should discuss this with the individual(s) and consider whether their training needs to be extended. If you do extend a trainee's period of recognised training, you must email us to confirm the new end date.

Trainees / period of recognised training

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We recognise that trainees, law firms and organisations which employ trainees are concerned about the impact of furlough on 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.

We require a period of recognised training to:

  • Be for at least two years’ full time, or equivalent (unless there has been previous relevant work-based experience).
  • Make sure that the trainee has applied and developed the skills as set out in the Practice Skills Standards.
  • Be appropriately supervised by solicitors and other individuals who have adequate legal knowledge and experience in the practice area they are supervising and the necessary skills to provide effective supervision.
  • Have regular appraisal of the trainee's performance and development, and review of the trainee's record of training.

When you return to work after a period of furlough, either on a full- time or part-time basis, your employer should discuss with you whether your period of recognised training needs to be extended. This decision and the length of any extension is at the discretion of your training principal and would depend on:

  • the amount of time you have been on furlough, and whether you returned to your training on a full-time or part-time basis
  • whether your training principal can confirm to us that you have otherwise met our requirements for a period of recognised training by the time you apply for admission. If your training principal is not confident of this due to furlough, they should extend your period of recognised training.

In the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 outbreak, we will accept a period of furlough of up to three months (on a full-time equivalent basis) as counting towards completion of the period of recognised training. This is provided that your training principal is satisfied that you have met the requirements set out above.

We would usually expect a period of furlough lasting longer than three months (on a full-time equivalent basis) to lead to an extension of your training period. There will be a range of individual circumstances that may impact on this, for example whether you have had any previous relevant work-based experience that would, under our regulations, count towards a period of recognised training. Find out more about this on our trainee information page.

If your period of recognised training needs to be extended, your employer will need to tell us. Your training principal can do this through their mySRA, in the managing trainees section, by amending the end date of your training. There is no need to tell us in writing.

Our regulations require trainees must be ‘appropriately supervised’. Therefore, we would accept organisations 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 sensible arrangements are in place for supervisors to review trainees' work remotely, 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 period of recognised training.  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 employers to treat any period of sickness leave due to Covid-19 the same as any other period of sickness leave. 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 it needs to be extended, the training principal can tell us through their mySRA account, in the managing trainees section, by amending the end date of the training.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has announced a temporary relaxation in the requirements for a face to face ID check for standard applications. This change started on 24 March 2020.

The nominated solicitor can now complete the ID verification process via video using either scanned images of the ID documents or the applicant can present/show them to the nominated solicitor during the video call. View the DBS announcement.

We recognise the difficulty this presents for any trainee in this unfortunate position. We will consider requests for waivers from trainees who are reaching the end of their period of recognised training when their employer closes on a case by case basis. Anyone who is in this situation should contact us to discuss their options.

We will be as flexible as we can, for example, we may consider previous relevant work-based experience as counting towards a period of recognised training, but we will still need to make sure that solicitors who qualify have met our requirements. These include that a period of recognised training should:

  • Be for at least two years’ full time, or equivalent (unless there has been previous relevant work-based experience).
  • Make sure that the trainee has applied and developed the skills as set out in the Practice Skills Standards.
  • Be appropriately supervised by solicitors and other individuals who have adequate legal knowledge and experience in the practice area they are supervising and the necessary skills to provide effective supervision.
  • Include regular appraisal of the trainee's performance and development, and review of the trainee's record of training.

Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS)

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These assessments are run by Kaplan. Further information is available on their website.

No, but we have made some changes to provide more flexibility for individuals wishing to qualify under the QLTS route. Further information is available on our QLTS transitional arrangements pages.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination

We are still planning to introduce the SQE on 1 September 2021. We continue to work towards this and at this stage, we do not expect the Covid-19 outbreak to affect this timeline. We will continue to monitor the situation carefully.