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

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.


Previously:

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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10 Comments

Anonymous

BPP and Uni of Law flexing their displeasure here.
Shame.
SHAME.

(1)(5)
Anonymous

“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.” What they meant to say was they only contacted those who provided comments that fitted with their proposals, or whose criticism was fairly limited/minor.

Who regulates the regulator? The way the SRA are going, they won’t actually be regulating anything at the rate they are washing their hands of their current responsibilities.

(5)(0)
Anonymous

““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.” What they meant to say was they only contacted those who provided comments that fitted with their proposals, or whose criticism was fairly limited/minor.”

Any proof that they didn’t ask for permission to publish comments from those who gave negative comments?

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Not everyone who provided much more negative feedback and analysis on their proposals and agreed that they could be cited has been included in their papers.

The SRA have selected specific comments to fit their agenda and push this through despite overwhelming feedback from the profession that they are concerned.

Even those comments they have included, a lot of the SRA’s responses to them have basically been the equivalent of a petulant child sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending not to listen.

(9)(0)
Anonymous

The “Association of Law Teachers” would be all for the SQE if the SQE required compulsory attendance at prep classes. As it is, prep classes will be optional for the SQE, meaning a potential decrease in demand for law teachers, meaning the Association of Law Teachers is dead-set against it.

Kind of like black cab drivers against Uber.

(3)(8)
Anonymous

Except a lot of academics don’t want the responsibility of teaching the prep course for the first stage but think they might be lumbered with them anyway when they get embedded into undergraduate courses and post-graduate courses to make them more marketable to students and keep the Chancellors at their universities happy.

So it is more like asking Uber drivers to undertake The Knowledge, when they might not even be driving in London.

(5)(0)
Anonymous

The elephant in the room is that the standard of legal education has plummeted as the number of providers proliferated. Returning to a single standard (which was the case within living professional memory) might rid the profession of trainees who don’t know what “QC” means or can’t define a contract (both recent real examples).

(0)(2)
Anonymous

“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.”

Not true. I gave permission for publication and my response was not published. I chased the SRA about this, who promised to update the online document. Looks like I might not be the only one.

(6)(0)
Nick

Every country with a reputable law society/bar association has an entry exam all trainees/students must pass to become lawyers.

Can someone please explain why it seems that everyone is against the SQE proposals so strongly?

[Clearly BPP and UoL are going t lose fortune because of the discontinuation of the LPC – but the motivations of all the other stakeholders are not clear]

(0)(1)
Andrew

If the new exam covers all the relevant components of the GDL and the LPC and it is offered in a cost effective way then I really don’t see an issue. It works for the ICAEW, which is a prestigious institution itself.

Some of the attacks I’ve seen on the SRA have been absurd too. A particular favourite has been the outrage that one might become a solicitor without a degree. Perish the thought that someone doesn’t spend three years getting pissed up, playing sport and reading Classics first!

(0)(0)

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