Pupil supervisors should reference their training programme and assess whether any elements can be completed remotely. The Bar Standards Board has also issued guidance about pupil supervision. As far as possible, pupillage supervision should continue.
If it is judged that all or part of the supervision can be carried out remotely, and it will be possible to meet the competences in the Professional Statement in the current timeframe, AETOs should:
- Ask current supervisors to complete a written report of the pupil’s progress to date. AETOs can review the training programme in line with this report.
- Set out in writing to the pupil which parts of the training programme can be completed remotely, and which parts will need to be put on hold. The BSB's guidance has suggested some activities that may be appropriate, such as setting written exercises and organising advocacy exercises by video. The Bar Council has also published guidance to assist pupil supervisors who are continuing pupil supervision during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Review current supervisors to assess whether they will be able to carry out remote supervision.
- Be mindful of putting undue pressure on pupils to accept instructions that are not appropriate for their competence or level of experience. Reference should be made to the Handbook: “You must not accept instructions to act in a particular matter if… you are not competent to handle the particular matter or otherwise do not have enough experience to handle the matter” (rC21.8). We recognise that there is significant disruption to work patterns at present, but it is not appropriate to ask pupils to take on that burden without sufficient training or support.
- The decision to send pupils to court depends upon the function of the pupil at the hearing. During non-practising pupillage and on other occasions when the pupil is not instructed in the case, the decision to send a pupil to attend court is one for individual AETOs. In these instances, the Bar Council suggests that AETOs should exercise caution, examining the need for the pupil to attend in person, and be aware of the concerns that might be raised by the pupil. During practising pupillage, when a pupil is instructed in a case and is required to attend court in person, the pupil should follow the guidance in the FAQ section “Do I have to go to court?”, discussing any concerns with their supervisor. In both instances, AETOs have a responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of their pupils and it is therefore important that they are reasonably satisfied of their pupils’ safety when attending court.
If it is judged that some of the supervision can be carried out remotely, but that it won't be possible to meet the competences in the Professional Statement in the current timeframe, and a decision is made to extend the pupillage, AETOs should:
- Give consideration to paragraph 1.28-1.29 in the Bar Qualification Manual:
“It is for the AETO and pupil supervisor to determine the impact of longer periods of leave (for example due to illness or bereavement) on the training programme and whether the period of pupillage should be extended to enable the pupil to meet the competences in the Professional Statement.
If the pupillage is to be extended, the AETO must notify the BSB of the new date that the pupil will be completing pupillage by completing the Notification of Material Change in Pupillage form”.
- Ask current supervisors to complete a written report of the pupil’s progress to date and set clear and measurable objectives as to what is expected of the pupil during the extended period.
- Give the pupils a date to which they expect the pupillage will be extended.
Please bear in mind that this is an uncertain and upsetting time for pupils, as it is for most members of the Bar. We would encourage AETOs to be as flexible as possible and discuss their updated plans (and any limitations) with their pupil(s). Extending pupillage should be a last resort, when all other options have been considered.
If pupils are self-isolating under Public Health England guidelines, we recommend that AETOs continue to provide a pupillage award for at least 14 days (or 10 working days), as per the guidance on self-isolation periods. Please note that consideration should be given as to whether the pupillage should be extended in these circumstances. If the pupillage is to be extended, the AETO must notify the BSB of the new date that the pupil will be completing pupillage by completing the Notification of Material Change in Pupillage form.
If you are a pupil supervisor or you are otherwise involved in pupillage within your AETO, and you would like further support or guidance, you can get in touch with the Pupils’ Helpline on 020 7611 1415 or email PupilHelpline@BarCouncil.org.uk. We are also keen to share good practice, so please get in touch if you would like to share your experiences.