Minorities suffer under 'fairer' bar school system

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The Independent Online
A NEW 'fairer' selection system for trainee barristers has resulted in fewer women and black people getting places at law school, writes Jason Bennetto.

This follows a dispute last year in which four students from ethnic minorities took the Bar's school in London to court claiming unfair discrimination in their final examinations.

An independent inquiry was also set up to find out why black students in 1991-92 had a failure rate nearly three times as high as white pupils.

Results of the new anonymous entrance exam, which was devised by occupational psychologists, were published yesterday. The proportion of people from ethnic minority groups who have been accepted has dropped from 14 per cent in 1993 to 10 per cent of this year's 760 intake. About one-third of the successful interviewees were women compared with 40 per cent in 1993.

The Society of Black Lawyers yesterday condemned the new selection system as biased against ethnic minorities. It warned that legal action might be taken.

The Council of Legal Education, which runs the Inns of Court School of Law, said it took advice from equal opportunities groups and had produced an examination free of cultural and sexual bias.

A spokesman for the school said: 'Great care was taken to remove cultural and gender aspects. It was designed to select people who were not just academically able, but also had other skills which would enable them to become good barristers.'

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