Future of the QLTS: SRA Research Finds Dual-Qualification Assessments ‘Robust’


Q1 2013 is set to coincide with the publication of significant reports and investigations concerning legal education and training, which will have an impact on the QLTS.

The QLTS milestone will be the three-year review of the scheme in March this year. However, we will also see the publication of the long-awaited LETR report, whose publication date has slipped from December 2012 to some time in January.

Here at QLTS School, we will do the reading for you and present articles that focus on research and reports that include the QLTS.

Independent research concludes that the QLTS assessments are ‘robust’, the rationale for the assessment methodology is ‘strong’ and having a single assessment provider ‘safeguards assessment standards’. But there is room for improvement, particularly in support for QLTS candidates.

The report, by ICF GHK for the SRA, was conducted in advance of the SRA’s three-year review of the QLTS assessments and the renewal of the contract with Kaplan as sole assessment provider. The report was commissioned to help the SRA assess, amongst other objectives:

“whether in order to enable the SRA to promote the regulatory objectives and principles of good regulation (and in particular the SRA‟s ability to set and maintain standards and to act in the best interests of the consumer), there is an optimum number of assessment bodies, or whether a sole assessment body is most effective in fulfilling this objective.”

ICF GHK conducted desk research and interviews with QLTS training providers (including us, the QLTS School), regulators for other professions and regulators for other legal jurisdictions. The report’s 6 recommendations to the SRA were:

“1. Maintain the current single assessment provider model in the short- to medium-term (for the next three years at least).

2. If possible, continue with the existing assessment provider relationship in the next phase, but, in doing so, consider setting an explicit timescale for re-tendering the contract on a competitive basis.

3. As part of the contract re-negotiation with the assessment provider, consider ways in which the risk the SRA of provider withdrawal can be minimised. Some of these options may already be included in the current contract, but in the next phase are likely to include penalty clauses for withdrawal and the possible transfer of some intellectual property for the QLTS to the SRA in conjunction with a future funding approach that ensures that the contract is commercially viable for the assessment provider based on current candidate volumes (which may be assumed to be something of a worst case scenario).

4. Provide additional help to candidates looking to navigate the QLTS training market through, as a minimum, the publication of a list of training providers offering QLTS training (couched as other regulators do by being clear that inclusion on the list is not an endorsement). Provide informal control over this list by ensuring that only providers engaging with the SRA (i.e. attending information sessions) are included on the list.

5. Continue to develop a relationship with training providers offering QLTS without regulating that market. Continuing to offer regular information sessions should be a core part of this activity, but the SRA should also consider offering to attend training sessions in an observer capacity.

6. In light of Recommendation #3, the SRA should consider whether it is possible to make more information about the QLTS assessments publicly-available. As a minimum, there should be a presumption of openness about the exams as seen in other professions and jurisdictions. While it is recognised that publishing multiple choice exams is problematic, a wider range of sample questions may possibly be made available.”

The SRA’s response (for consideration by the SRA Board’s Education and Training Committee (“the Committee”)) notes the report’s recommendation to retain Kaplan and renew the contract, which is a confidential business matter between the SRA and Kaplan.

In respect of the report’s other recommendations in relation to support for QLTS candidates, the response reminds the Committee that the nature of the QLTS is in line with the outcomes-focused approach of the SRA to regulation. In practice, this means a ‘hands-off’ approach to intervention, i.e. regulation of the training market.

As a short-term measure, the SRA proposes publishing a list of ‘engaged training providers’, whilst the more considered matters of the SRA’s relationship with training providers and the publication of further exam questions (beyond the samples already published by Kaplan) be dealt with as part of the SRA’s three-year evaluation of the QLTS, due by the end of March 2013.

Our view? QLTS School is a training provider; it is not our position to comment on whether or not the single assessment provider model is best for delivery of the QLTS: such considerations are a matter for the SRA, and their independent research supports the case for a sole assessment provider.

We certainly support and welcome the recommendations at 4-6 of the report! Each of the training providers

offer different approaches to delivering preparation courses. We feel that a publication of the small list of providers by the SRA, without any endorsement or recommendation, is important for the candidates. It’s only fair that candidates be aware of their choices so that they can conduct their own research and choose the provider whose offering best suits their needs and circumstances.

Many candidates, on signing-up, ask us for information about past papers. We have to give them the bad news that there is very limited information about the assessments as matters stand. At the very least, a wider range of sample questions for all three of the QLTS assessments, perhaps with a detailed answer explanation and some commentary as to the structure and approach for select questions will help candidates understand the format and how to prepare for the examination.

We look forward to the SRA’s consideration of the recommendations and await the LETR report and QLTS review with baited breath!

We’ll keep you posted with updates on the implementation of the findings of this report, the LETR findings and the QLTS review!