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Regulator apologises to BPTC students following exam booking chaos

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Some spent several hours on the line only to be hung up on or told to call back later

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has apologised after some bar school students were unable to book their places at test centres.

“Arranging to deliver these exams under current conditions is a challenging task and we apologise to those students who have experienced difficulty making their bookings,” the BSB said in a statement released yesterday.

The BSB has also pushed back today’s general opening of test centre bookings until Monday, to give more time for those needing reasonable adjustments to book in first.

The centralised Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) assessments — litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics — were due to take place in April but will now take place next month under remote online supervision. Candidates who require reasonable adjustments were told they would be given priority access to a physical test centre instead.

But some students needing reasonable adjustments were unable to enrol after problems with the telephone booking system. Some spent several hours on the line only to be hung up on or told to call back later. One BPTC student tweeted that she was kept on hold for hours and told to call an international number which charged £3 a minute.

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Others have also revealed that they’ve been allocated early morning exams in test centres far away from their homes, and in some cases in completely different cities.

The BSB then apologised and switched to email bookings for those with agreed adjustments.

In the statement released yesterday, however, the BSB said that it was making “good progress” with exam bookings overall since deciding to move to mostly online assessments for the BPTC in response to COVID-19.

The regulator explained that not all students are sitting all three assessments but in all 6,487 bookings need to be made of which 871 require reasonable adjustments to sit their exams. 4,300 bookings have been made so far, of which 338 have been made by those with agreed reasonable adjustments.

The regulator’s decision to move exams online has previously been challenged by students.

In an open letter to the BSB last month, ‘Students Against The BSB Exam Regulations’ (SABER) alleged the new format is “discriminatory” and “unfair”, particularly towards disabled people, women and those with caring responsibilities.

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