Lawyers reach pact over Bar School

January 12, 1996

The Commission for Racial Equality has called off an investigation into Bar School course results showing white students gaining more passes than their black peers. Plans to launch a formal inquiry have been dropped and replaced with a new agreement between the Commission and the Council for Legal Education.

The 14-point agreement, to be published on Monday, requires the CLE to carry out a programme of research and investigation of any complaints of racial discrimination to pinpoint the reasons for any disparity in the results of students from different ethnic groups.

The commission and the CLE are to recommend to the Bar Council that the principles of the agreement should be enshrined in any future validation and monitoring arrangements adopted when the Bar School's monopoly on running the Bar Vocational Course ends in September 1997.

The move follows concerns raised over BVC results for 1991/92, which found that 84 per cent of white students had passed, compared with 55 per cent of black students. In 1993, the Barrow inquiry commissioned by the CLE found no evidence of discrimination, but recommended new measures to protect students, including a right to resit and the appointment of an equal opportunities officer.

Since then the disparity between pass rates has narrowed, with 90 per cent of white students passing in 1994/95 compared with 75 per cent of black students. But the commission and the CLE agree the disparity must be addressed.

Under the agreement, the CLE must review its admission, teaching and assessment procedures in consultation with the commission, as well as its compliance with the Barrow inquiry recommendations. It must research the causes of disparity in exam results and satisfy the commission that there are adequate anti-discrimination measures.

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