push back on challenge to ‘cultural bias’ in SQE

The Law Society Gazette reported on 19 May 2020 that SQE questions were to be reviewed for cultural bias to ensure that they do not disadvantage BAME candidates after pilots showed that white generally out-performed BAME candidates. It was reported that the SRA was seeking to recruit and train a ‘diverse pool’ of question writers and assessors. So far so unremarkable; even leaving aside the murky historical relationships between IQ testing and white racial supremacists, the High Court accepted in R (Bapio Action Ltd) v Royal College of General Practitioners & Anor [2014] EWHC 1416 (Admin) that differential pass rates for white and Black/ South Asian doctors in the entry exams for membership of the College raised a prima facie case of race discrimination which required justification. Depressing, then, that the comments responding to the Gazette’s article included the following:

  • (from ‘Anonymous’) ‘The SRA has a lithany [sic] of staff network groups to provide ‘support’. From what I can see the only group without support [within the SRA] is the white hetrosexual [sic] male without caring responsibility… An organisation that would view me as so weak on a number of grounds (that I would need special support in the workplace) is not an organisation whose interpretation of data I would trust.
  • (from ‘Anonymous’) A member of the “BAME” community, privately educated, and from a wealthy family, will take priority over someone from the “white” community from a poor, dysfunctional family and educated at state school?  
  • (from a Mike Kelly) ‘Another Lefty exercise of scratching about to find perceived victims to defend against imagined injustice…’
  • (from an Alan Meadows); ‘Why go to all the effort and expense, simply allow anyone from BAME who wants to be a solicitor be one. In this age of political correctness and positive discrimination it would be wrong to do otherwise surely’.

Comments on the LegalCheek website showed a greater diversity of opinion.