Law lecturers accuse SRA of ‘disingenuous reporting’ over super-exam consultation responses

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By Thomas Connelly on

But regulator says it’s published everything it can

The Association of Law Teachers (ALT) has fired shots at the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over what it describes as the “disingenuous reporting” of its super-exam consultation responses.

In a statement released earlier today, the ALT — a group of academics, professionals and practitioners involved in legal education across the United Kingdom — said it “continues to have strong reservations about the Solicitors Qualification Examination (SQE) as a suitable form of assessment for aspiring solicitors”. It said:

Our particular concerns relate to the disingenuous reporting of the consultation responses by the SRA. The SRA indicates that 253 responses were received to their consultation but only 148 are included in the published responses.

The regulator confirmed earlier this month it will kill off both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in favour of a centralised super-exam. In prep for doing so, the SRA undertook two public consultations last year.

Legal Cheek reported at the time that 200 responses raised some degree of unease about the proposals, while 50 were described by the SRA as “mixed”. Despite this, the SRA continues to claim the new solicitor assessment will guarantee all entrants to the profession “meet consistent, high standards” and will put an end to aspiring solicitors being forced to hand over large up-front costs “with no guarantee of a training contract”.

Dr Jessica Guth, chair of the ALT and a senior law lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, is sceptical. She said:

Given the overwhelming lack of support for the SQE in the responses that have been published and the many concerns raised throughout this consultation process, it is important that a proper analysis of ALL responses received can be undertaken and we therefore urge the SRA to publish the missing 105 responses or indeed explain the discrepancy in numbers.

Meanwhile, Professor Elaine Hall — who undertook an initial analysis of the SRA’s consultation responses on behalf of the ALT — suggested that “the SRA conflates ‘support for an independent professional assessment in principle’ with ‘support for the SQE’.” Hall, a researcher at Northumbria University, continued:

This [support] is a stretch, since the second consultation looked at specific questions about the SQE only. The assessment principle was partially addressed in the first consultation with 209 respondents, published in 2016: 41 agreed, 33 were neutral and 135 disagreed. The ‘support in principle’ is not evident anywhere in this data.

In response to the ALT’s statement, a spokesperson for the SRA told us: “We have always been clear that views on the SQE were mixed, and open about the fact that those organisations that supported centralised assessment in general said they were concerned about the detail. We agree that there is more work to do on the detail of the SQE and, as we have said, we are committed to looking to working with everyone over the coming months to get it right.”

Addressing the ALT’s concerns over the “missing consultation responses”, the spokesperson added:

The SRA always asks all respondents to consultations for permission to publish their comments. The responses published on the SRA website are the ones where permission was given.


Legal Cheek talks… how will the new solicitor super-exam affect you? [Legal Cheek]

Super-exam: Frequently Asked Questions about the SQE [Legal Cheek]

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