Bar Professional Training Course
Kaplan Law School
Monitoring Visit, 12 May 2011
Name of Institution Date of Visit
Kaplan Law School 12 May 2011
Title of Course/award Nature/status of the course
Bar Professional Training Course Monitoring for the year 2010-11 and to consider for
approval an increase in numbers to 120 FT from 2012
Numbers Term Dates
Approved for: September 2010 – June 2011
60 Full-Time in 2010
90 FT in 2011
Proposed: 120 FT from 2012
53 at time of visit
Panel Members Role and area of primary responsibility
Ms Emily Windsor (Chair) Barrister, Vice-Chair of BPTC Sub-Committee
Mr Stuart Weinstein Senior Academic Lay Member
Education and Training Committee, BSB
Dr Victoria Stec Education Manager, BSB
Miss Rosie Faulkner Education Officer, BSB
HEI Team Role and area of primary responsibility
Mr James Wakefield BPTC Course Leader, Kaplan Law School
Ms Lynda Gibbs BPTC Deputy Course Leader, Kaplan Law School
Dr Giles Proctor Head of Kaplan Law School
Mr Peter Anderson Managing Director, Kaplan Law
Mr Ian Fox BPTC Course Leader, Nottingham Law School
Ms Marina Catovsky BPTC Tutor (Criminal), Kaplan Law School
Mr Stephen Wells BPTC Tutor (Criminal), Kaplan Law School
Ms Alexandra Frith BPTC Tutor (Civil), Kaplan Law School
Ms Andrea Ursprung BPTC Tutor (Civil), Kaplan Law School
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011
The Rationale for the visit
This is the first year that Kaplan Law School has operated as a BPTC Provider following successful
accreditation in 2009. The first purpose of the visit was therefore to monitor the operation of the course in its
The second purpose of the visit was to consider whether the number of full-time validated places at the school
should be increased to 120 from 2012. At the follow-up to accreditation visit on 14 July 2010 it was agreed that
the School should recruit 60 students in 2010-11, 90 students in 2011-12 and that at the present monitoring
visit in May 2011 a decision would be made regarding the proposal that the School should be approved to
recruit up to 120 students in 2012- 13.
Context: The HEI/Provider
Kaplan Law School, London, offers the BPTC course that is delivered at Nottingham Law School. Students
have access to identical BPTC course materials, and the Kaplan Course Leader and Deputy Course Leader
are both former members of staff from Nottingham Law School. Kaplan Law School London also offers the LPC
1. Adherence to course aims, philosophy and standards
The panel was satisfied that the course is being delivered in accordance with the course specification
requirements and guidance (the ‘Blue Book’) and that standards are appropriate. Recommendations for areas
to focus on for future improvement are contained in the report below.
2. Quality management systems
Students spoke warmly of the Student Staff Liaison group. There were two representatives from each group
and students felt that it was a worthwhile forum in which their views were treated seriously and issues
addressed. With current numbers being so small, it was also very easy for individuals to raise any matters of
concern with relevant staff or with the Course Leader.
Students were acutely aware of the Attendance Rule and its implications, to the extent that they felt it was
occasionally applied too severely and could inhibit participation in FRU or mini-pupillage activities because of
the difficulty of finding an alternative class to attend.
3. Staffing and staff development
The management team indicated that they believed that students were largely happy with both academic and
administrative staff and with the attention to detail that had been shown from the start of the course, and this
was borne out by the meeting that the panel had with students (see 8 below). The management team also
echoed views expressed by students in acknowledging that the body of teaching staff had been on a steep
learning curve since the start of the academic year, and there had been some inconsistencies but also much
enthusiasm and willingness to learn. Recruitment of staff had resulted in the appointment of 4 experienced
practitioners in 2010. The School was currently in the process of recruiting two further tutors to take account of
the approved increase in student numbers (up to 90) from September 2011. The panel recommended that in
recruitment of new staff with the increase in student numbers, to give very careful consideration to the balance
of experience and expertise across the team in order to cover both practice and experience of higher
education, and to cover all areas offered as options (recommendation 1).
It was also acknowledged that with 6 tutors and 7 options to deliver, some tutors would necessarily be teaching
outside of their comfort zone. One option tutor had been mentored and provided with opportunities to shadow
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011
when teaching outside their areas of experience. Freelance tutors were not used at Kaplan; the panel
appreciated the reasons behind this policy, but suggested that where delivery of options was concerned it might
be preferable to use experienced freelancers: a capable and demanding body of students needed exceptional
teachers. The panel recommended that in future, Kaplan should try to ensure that options are taught by tutors
with direct practical experience in the relevant area (recommendation 2).
The panel was pleased to meet the team of tutors at Kaplan and to note their great enthusiasm for their work.
Staff were particularly pleased to be using realistic materials with a practical application and to be able to see
the results of capable students applying their minds to their work. The relationship with Nottingham Law School
was felt to have improved substantially through the course of the year. At first Kaplan staff had felt a little
awkward and had had the impression that Nottingham staff might be feeling that time spent with them was an
inconvenience, but as the relationship had become more collegial it had developed into more of a two-way
Tutors had felt challenged and that there had been a steep learning curve, especially when teaching outside of
their comfort zone, as had been necessary in the case of one option, however they had felt extremely well
supported in terms of induction and further training and support; no requests for additional training had been
refused. Discussions about teaching also resulted from the fact that tutors regularly filmed their classes to be
able to review their own teaching. Tutors would welcome more in the way of peer observation by experienced
colleagues and understood that the Course Leader had it in mind to arrange this. Tutors welcomed the
induction they had had at Nottingham Law School, and might also be interested in the possibility of pursuing
PGCEs through NT. The panel recommended that greater emphasis should be placed on ongoing peer
observation for tutors and opportunities for pedagogic development provided (recommendation 4).
Tutors felt that the VLE was probably underused and although they had been discovering its possibilities
through the year they would welcome more training to enable them to develop their use of it further.
Staff commented on the fact that space in the shared open plan office was very cramped, and that if the body
of staff were to increase in line with increased student numbers, as it undoubtedly would, then alternative
accommodation would be needed. There was no objection to sharing the office, in fact having everyone
(including the Course Leader and Deputy Course Leader) in one room had been very beneficial in terms of
building and supporting the team in the first year. There were skills rooms available for confidential discussions
whenever these were needed.
4. Curriculum content and structure
The management team indicated that there is liaison at every level between Nottingham Law School and
Kaplan, including regular pre-meets before each teaching session, and two days’ induction for Kaplan staff at
Nottingham Law School, plus subject updates each year. Nottingham Law School have been quite frank with
regard to the fact that Kaplan creates additional work that must be done and the earlier deadlines for production
of materials. In spite of this, the relationship was felt to be working well at all levels and there are also benefits
to Nottingham in having opposite members of staff at Kaplan with whom to discuss things. It is also possible
that Kaplan staff may play an increasing part in making recommendations for the planning and development of
the course as time goes on.
Although there is a clear aim for parity of courses across sites, it is possible that some options subjects may be
more appropriate on one site than another, so in this respect the curriculum may vary between Providers in
5. Admissions and student profile
Around 25% of students had already secured pupillage before commencing, and at this stage of the course the
figure was around a third. Some students had done a masters degree before commencing the course, and
some intended to do so afterwards.
The panel was keen to understand the rationale behind the proposed increase in student numbers, and the
extent to which these could be accommodated in the existing set-up without compromise in terms of the
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011
student experience at a Provider that regarded itself as a high quality, low volume destination. The
management team indicated that although permission was sought for validation of up to 120 students (full-
time), there was no intention to fill places simply for the sake of doing so, and the intention was to increase the
number of students and staff gradually. Anywhere between 95 and 115 students, with a teaching staff of around
10, was thought to be a good number, as had been proved at Nottingham Law School. Numbers beyond that
would be likely to change the dynamic of the Provider. In the first instance, in the coming academic year, it was
likely that 75-80 would be recruited. Recruitment would still be within the BSB’s required student-staff ratio but
would be more sustainable financially for the School. The dedicated BPTC quiet room could accommodate
additional study spaces and still have a ratio of 1:3 for availability of PCs and 1:5 for study spaces.
The panel learned that although the GDL and LPC were delivered in the same building, the plans for expansion
on those courses were not large scale; furthermore, there was additional accommodation within the building
that could be given over to the BPTC when necessary (five rooms on the ground floor, for example), with more
rooms of an equivalent standard available for small group sessions. At present there were two rooms with court
furniture but should more be needed, this would not be a problem. For all these reasons, the planned
expansion would not compromise the ethos of the School.
The management team indicated that there were no plans to reduce the funds available for scholarships,
although neither was it yet clear whether available funds would be increased in line with an increase in student
numbers. One option to be explored was the possibility of awarding more scholarships for smaller amounts in
conjunction with the introduction of a needs-based hardship fund.
6. Teaching and Learning (knowledge and skills areas)
Tutors were very enthusiastic about teaching the course, particularly enjoying the opportunity to use realistic
materials and enabling students to see the practical application of the law. The sessions that the panel
observed achieved their stated aims and objectives and students were highly engaged and mostly extremely
well prepared for class.
The management team acknowledged that there had been some over-reliance on tutor notes while new tutors
gained confidence but that there was an increasing awareness of how to go far enough beyond the ‘script’ to
stretch capable students. However, as Kaplan delivers the Nottingham Law School course, there are clear
limits to how far tutors can depart from the designated course so as to ensure consistency of experience for
students on both courses. If Kaplan wished to introduce a handout in a session for example, they would only do
this if they and Nottingham had agreed it was right to do so. A collaborative approach is taken to teaching
across the two sites, and tutors’ experiences of sessions could be fed back through evaluations following each
7. Standards and assessment strategy and methods (including progression data)
Moderation of marks is done in conjunction with Nottingham Law School. Examination papers from Kaplan are
sent to NLS by courier. Regular pre-meetings throughout the course ensure that Kaplan and NLS cover the
same things in teaching sessions.
As this is the first year of the course, there are no previous results on which to base any comments. External
Examiners have submitted interim reports and these have not raised any issues regarding standards or
assessments. Full comment will, of course, be possible next year.
8. Student support and quality of student experience
The panel was pleased to meet with a group of current students whose views of their experience at Kaplan
were in the main exceptionally positive. Students were very aware that they were the first cohort and that it was
likely that the School would be finding its way during the first year. However, any start-up issues that had arisen
had been dealt with well, and students were confident that as Kaplan and the staff at the School gained in
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011
experience, things would settle down well.
Students were very impressed that from the outset all academic and administrative staff knew their names, and
from that point onwards students felt that the level of commitment shown by staff and by the Course Leader in
particular, was deserving of the highest praise. This also gave students confidence in the fact that references
would be based on a real in depth knowledge of each individual, which was felt to be a real bonus. Kaplan was
seen as an attractive option because of its highly selective admissions process and small numbers of students.
Students acknowledged that they were aware that some staff were experienced practitioners rather than
teachers, but they felt that these individuals were growing in experience all the time, and that this was not a
matter from concern. There were some concerns, however, where tutors had been asked to teach options
subjects that were outside their areas of practice.
Some students reported having found Advocacy teaching less successful at the start of the year, and had
gained more from sessions at their Inns, but this had improved significantly as the year went on. The panel
recommended that the School should continue to develop advocacy teaching strategy and skills so as to
ensure best practice and effective use of the Hampel method across all classes.
All of the students that the panel met would recommend the School to others wishing to study for the BPTC.
The best aspects of the School were listed as the size; the fact that the course had for the most part fulfilled
expectations in terms of the anticipated student experience; the relationships with teaching staff and the fact
that they genuinely cared about students as individuals; and finally the Course Leader who was cited as a
leader who inspires confidence.
Aspects that students found less positive were that the promised engagement with practitioners and
programme of visiting speakers had not occurred to the extent that had been hoped in the first year; teaching
staff were concerned not to give away anything about assessments to an excessive degree to the point where
this meant that it could affect students being able to know what to do to prepare (however, it was recognised
that this was probably due to inexperience and would improve).
The availability of scholarships at the School was felt to be a good marketing mechanism, and those in receipt
of scholarships were expected to arrange various activities. However, this had not quite worked as it had
proved difficult secure attendance and the role of scholars had been changed. Students were extremely
enthusiastic about the support that the School had given to extra-curricular activities: mooting teams had visited
Heidelberg and Vienna funded by the School, and the budget for external events had been increased in
response to demand. Students were of the opinion that scholarships should definitely continue and should be
The panel asked current students whether they thought that the School could cope with an increase in numbers
as proposed. It was thought that the School could cope but there was some concern that a significant increase
in numbers might mean that the essence of what was best about Kaplan might start to be diluted, however it
was also acknowledged that even 120 was not in the class of a large Provider and it would still be possible to
know everyone. However, students believed that the building would start to feel very full with 120 BPTC
students as well as LPC/GDL students. It would also be the case that once the full cohort exceeded the number
of people who could be accommodated in the lecture theatre (100) there would be no point at which everyone
on the course could be together as lectures would have to be split.
Students felt that there were sufficient opportunities for pro bono activities but that these tended to be
oversubscribed and the criteria for selection were not always as clear as was desirable. The panel
recommended that Kaplan Law School should work on expanding the excellent pro bono opportunities and be
clearer about the selection processes for these opportunities (recommendation 3).
Careers resources are being built up at Kaplan, and in addition to a series of talks from practitioners, students
benefits from a Careers Clinic run on two days each fortnight.
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011
9. Learning resources (Library and IT)
The panel found students to be extremely satisfied with the physical and learning resources of the School.
Students were particularly appreciative of the dedicated BPTC quiet study area which was sometimes used for
discussions and where self-regulation in relation to noise worked well. Students reported very good availability
of PCs, and also good administrative support for provision of replacement toner/paper etc. In common with
other Providers, students at Kaplan are somewhat reluctant to use hard copy materials available in the
Professional Resources Centre, preferring to use materials online.
Some intermittent problems in provision of WiFi were reported and these had yet to be resolved, however the
networked computers in the Library had been reliable throughout.
SD cards had initially been used for recording and playback for advocacy performances but cards had become
corrupted quite easily so were not found to be successful and DVDs had therefore been used for mock
examinations. Students said that they would expect to see fixed cameras in teaching rooms given the nature of
the course but the management team indicated that this had been considered and rejected as too constricting.
10. Equality and diversity
Students reported that pastoral and disability support was made clear at the outset. The management team
indicated that there had been no adjustments needed that could not be accommodated.
Good practice, distinguishing features
The panel wished to commend:
The highly motivated and committed administrative and teaching staff;
the leadership and enthusiasm of the Course Leader;
Kaplan, for investing in and developing such a high quality course and excellent educational
environment in a measured way;
the facilities, and pleasant and positive working environment;
the extremely high level of student satisfaction;
the rigorous and effective admissions policy;
the commitment to providing scholarships and funding for mooting.
Conclusions: recommendation on accreditation/approval/continuing approval
To recommend continuing approval.
To recommend to the BPTC Sub-Committee that the School be approved for 120 validated places from
academic year 2012-13.
Where recommendations are additionally made, please detail below:
Recommendation 1 In recruitment of new staff with the increase in student numbers, to give very
careful consideration to the balance of experience and expertise across the team
in order to cover both practice and experience of higher education, and to cover
all areas offered as options.
Recommendation 2 In future, to try to ensure that options are taught by tutors with direct practical
experience in the relevant area.
Recommendation 3 To work on expanding the excellent pro bono opportunities and be clearer about
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011
the selection processes for these opportunities.
Recommendation 4 Place greater emphasis on ongoing peer observation for tutors and provide
opportunities for pedagogic development.
Recommendation 5 Continue to develop advocacy teaching strategy and skills so as to ensure best
practice and effective use of the Hampel method across all classes.
Response by the Provider (maximum one page)
We would like to thank the BSB Monitoring Panel for their report and for their commendations which are a great
encouragement to us. Without wishing to sound complacent, we do regard this our first year as a success; all
credit to the hard work and enthusiasm of both the Kaplan staff team and the Kaplan students. We are also
grateful for the support and encouragement of our colleagues at Nottingham Law School and of many
practitioners, chambers and the Inns.
We welcome all of the recommendations. As mentioned at the monitoring visit, almost all of the points made
had already been recognised and discussed by the staff and students. Work has already begun to put the
recommendations into effect.
Kaplan Law School, 12 May 2011