The SRA has loosened the rules on LPC assessments during the coronavirus outbreak following complaints from students and lawyers about the exams being postponed. The decision by the SRA means that students will now be able to take exams at home.
Last week, the regulator ruled out remote exams saying that supervised assessments were needed "to ensure integrity and security", even if this "might mean some assessments could be delayed".
In response, over 950 angry LPC students signed a petition, sent to the SRA on Monday, saying that "in this extraordinary time of a global pandemic" LPC students should be given priority over the SRA's "rigorous regulatory obligations". The furious students said it was "inadequate" for the SRA to insist on supervised exams as this was likely to result in postponed sittings "until at least August 2020, or possibly indefinitely".
The letter complained that trainees due to start work in August/September would have to sit exams during their training contracts which "would place an additional burden" on them (see the stress on Tom Cruise's face in The Firm). Alternatively, firms would have to delay start dates. The letter stated that "nearly all LPC students" would be negatively affected by postponed exams, including international students set to leave the UK after July 2020, students with accommodation only up to that period, those with caring responsibilities and those with commitments over the summer such as jobs.
The letter also questioned whether exams in a public space would be safe to sit, even in a few months time, as "the virus is unlikely to have been totally eradicated" even after "the Government social distancing measures are relaxed".
The Junior Lawyers Division also wrote a letter to the SRA on Monday highlighting the concerns raised by the students petition. The JLD also put forward possible solutions, similar to some proposed by the students, including online software "capable of upholding the integrity of exams, and "video assessments for any 'live', practical exams still be taken such as advocacy or client interviewing".
After the mounting pressure, the SRA announced on Wednesday that it would now relax the assessment requirements for the LPC, due to the "current exceptional circumstances" and "having listened to feedback, including from training providers, law firms and other groups."
Students will be able to sit online or proctored exams, which are timed assessments that students take while software monitors their computer's desktop, webcam video and audio.
Jim didn't care if the webcam was still on, he'd finished his last exam
The SRA said LPC providers "must apply to us for approval before making any changes" and any application must set out "how the proposed approach will maintain the security and integrity of the LPC qualification". The regulator will allow LPC providers to make alternative arrangements for skills assessments and elective subjects, and it will "consider other proposed approaches" on a case by case basis.
"Trainees are also permitted to start their training contract before they have completed the LPC," said the regulator. "Therefore training providers may need to consider and plan for trainees to complete the LPC later on".