Southampton 02380 482 482
Winchester 01962 679 777
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Education Law for Schools

Our Education team at Paris Smith has advised maintained schools, academies, independent schools and FE colleges for many years. We are committed to working along side our education clients to gain a clear understanding of the environment in which you operate. We focus on building long term relationships that allow us to deliver a first class service.

Our team of education lawyers lead by Nick Vaughan offer unrivalled expertise in the full gamut of education matters. We also have specialists that advise on a broader range of matters such as property, employment and commercial law. Please read our factsheet on our education experience and read more about the further education services we can provide.

Our Education team has significant experience acting for local authorities and Diocesan Boards of Education on a full range of education matters. We are passionate about working in the education sector (a number of our team are school governors) and over the years we have developed strong relationships with key stakeholders, including the Department for Education (DfE). Our regional offices allows us to deliver a high quality service to education clients across London and the south of England at a competitive price. 

We can provide you with support in the following areas:

Academy conversions

We place a high degree of importance on developing a close working relationship with the senior management team and governors of the schools we work with.  We are experienced in acting for schools that are converting as stand alone academies as well as schools converting together in an academy group.

We will provide guidance to your school on the legal steps involved in the conversion process.  This will cover the following areas:

  • Advice on consultation
  • Establishing the academy trust (including drafting the memorandum and articles of association)
  • Agreeing the Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State
  • Negotiating the Commercial Transfer Agreement with the local authority to transfer staff and assets to the academy and
  • Agreeing the land documentation (usually a transfer of the freehold title, a grant of a lease or a Supplemental Agreement depending on the former category of the school)
  • In order to ensure that the milestone dates during the conversion process are met, we will liaise directly with the key parties involved, including your contact at the DfE, the local authority and where relevant the local Diocese.  Our experience means that we can ensure that your academy conversion proceeds smoothly, allowing you to focus on running your school.

After the Coalition Government first introduced the Academies Act 2010, our Education team acted for many outstanding secondary schools that were converting as stand alone academies.  We are now increasingly acting for primary schools converting together in groups and existing academies that are expanding. The DfE has recently announced that the Primary Academy Chain Development Grant has been extended until the 31 November 2014. If you would like any further information on this grant please do not hesitate to contact us.

You do not have to be committed to the conversion process to speak to us! A member of our academy conversion team will be happy to attend your school, without charge, and meet the Head Teacher, Business Manager, Finance Officer and/or Governor(s) to discuss the various steps involved and answer any questions you may have, to allow you to make a more informed decision on how to proceed.

Following conversion we hope to build an ongoing partnership with your school. Our education services section contains information about the various support services that we can offer. We will be happy to discuss any requirement that you may have for legal assistance and to create a bespoke package for your school.

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Academy groups

If you are considering converting to academy status as part of a group or if you are an existing academy planning on expanding, our Education team are well placed to support you through the process. We can advise you on the options available, including establishing a Multi Academy Trust, an Umbrella Trust or a Collaborative Partnership.

Multi Academy Trust

In a Multi Academy Trust a single academy trust will be established for all the schools in your group. This provides the strongest form of governance and is the DfE’s preferred model if there are schools that are not performing well. A Multi Academy Trust allows the Board of Directors to employ an Executive Principal and allows for staff to move easily between the schools. Services will often be provided centrally by the Multi Academy Trust. As this model involves a loss of a certain degree of autonomy, it is important that you are confident that all the schools in your group share the same ethos and values.

Umbrella Trust

If you are interested in establishing an Umbrella Trust this will involve setting up an individual academy trust for each school and an overarching Umbrella Trust. This is a useful model for a group of schools that are not situated closely together and/or are in different categories. An Umbrella Trust allows schools to retain their own autonomy but also to formalise collaboration in areas such as finances and school improvement.

Collaborative Partnership

In a Collaborative Partnership individual academy trusts are established for each school in the group. It allows for the highest degree of autonomy as there are no shared governance arrangements. Schools may collaborate through a Collaborative Partnership Agreement on a wide range of matters including joint purchasing and sharing training and best practice.

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Establishing a Free School

Are you a group of parents, teachers or an existing school or charity considering setting up a new free school in your local area? If so, our team of education lawyers have the experience and track record to help you through this process. We can also advise you on setting up a studio school or university technical college.

Our Education team can assist you with the following:

  • Application to open a free school
  • Establishing a company
  • Pre-opening (dealing with the Funding Agreement, land and employment matters)
  • Post-opening support 
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Becoming an Academy Sponsor

Our Education team are experienced in advising individuals, businesses, charities and existing academies on the process involved in becoming a sponsor. We have significant experience in this area having acted for a number of Church of England Diocesan Boards on the first wave of sponsor academies in 2002.

Paris Smith’s education team are able to advise you in the following areas:

  • Applying to the Office of the Schools Commissioner
  • Securing funding from the Sponsor Capacity Fund
  • Role of the Regional Commissioner
  • Establishing the Sponsor vehicle
  • Establishing a Multi Academy Trust
  • Converting each school to academy status
  • Preparation of central staff handbook and school policies
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The DfE published the latest Admissions Code in February 2012 but this is now subject to consultation and a number of changes are expected that will impact on the admissions arrangements for maintained schools and academies. Admissions is of course a contentious area and the decisions of admission authorities are constantly being subjected to scrutiny.

Our education team are experienced in advising schools and local authorities on compliance with admissions law. We can provide support in the following areas:

  • Determining admission arrangements and writing admission policies
  • Advice on consultation
  • Representation for governing bodies at Independent Appeal Panels
  • Acting as a legal clerk for Independent Appeal Panels
  • Appeals to the Schools Adjudicator
  • Appeals to the Secretary of State against the admission of a child with challenging behaviour
  • Defending judicial review proceedings
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Behaviour and exclusions

In recent years Ofsted has been looking increasingly closely at standards of behaviour in schools. We are able to work with your senior leadership team and governors to support your school in developing and upholding behaviour and bullying policies.

Our Education team can advise on the following areas:

  • Bullying and behaviour policies
  • Exclusions policy
  • Discrimination
  • Advising the Head Teacher and governing body on responding to incidents of poor behaviour
  • Representing the governing body at Independent Review Panels
  • Judicial reviews
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Southampton Contact

Nick Vaughan
Senior LLP Partner

T: 023 8048 2252
Send an email

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Meet the Team

Claire Merritt
LLP Partner

T: 023 8048 2112
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Andrew Willshire

T: 023 8048 2160
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Clive Dobbin
LLP Partner

T: 023 8048 2370
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Crispin Dick
LLP Partner

T: 023 8048 2107
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Edward Power
LLP Partner

T: 01962 679 783
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Paris Smith LLP has provided St Edward’s School with advice for some years. We have drawn on their considerable expertise and experience at regular intervals, always to extremely positive effect. We are provided with options for any action and their advice is always clear. We have been very happy with the quality of the services provided by Paris Smith and it is our intention to continue working with them for the foreseeable future. We are very happy to recommend Paris Smith to other schools

- Larry Bartel, Headmaster, St Edward’s School

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