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Bates Wells Braithwaite has ‘a real feel for the education sector and a strong commitment to promoting better education for all young people’. It is praised for its ‘sharp focus and deep understanding of the complexity of the subject’. Mary Groom provides policy advice to academies and school sponsors, including assisting with school structures and governance matters. Paul Jennings and senior associate Caraline Johnson are other names to note.

Browne Jacobson LLP’s team has ‘a deep understanding of the legal framework associated with schools and academies’. In an illustration of its market-leading practice advising on academy conversions, the practice has assisted with over 1000 conversions, which accounts for 20% of the national figure. Mark Blois provides ‘clear advice’ and Nick Mackenzie is ‘very knowledgeable’.

Farrer & Co’s particular expertise lies in its work for independent schools such as Eton College, Charterhouse, Harrow School and Westminster School. It advises on safeguarding issues such as high-profile child protection matters and historic abuse cases. Charity law specialist Sam Macdonald leads the team, which includes the highly regarded David Smellie, Jonathan Eley and Paul Jones.

Stone King LLP has a strong track record advising faith schools, and bolstered its offering with the hire of Lee Coley from Lee Bolton Monier-Williams in July 2015. Recent highlights include advising ARK Schools on acquiring Golden Hillock Academy and Oldknow Academy, and handling St Joseph’s College conversion to multi-academy trust status and on its proposed sponsorship of Birches Head Academy. Roger Inman, Graham Burns and Stephen Ravenscroft are also recommended.

Veale Wasbrough Vizards is praised for its ‘gold-plated level of service’. Barney Northover and Yvonne Spencer head the independent schools and academies and maintained schools practices, respectively. In 2015, the team assisted with eight mergers between independent schools and handled several international school projects, including advising King’s College School, Wimbledon on establishing a series of licensee schools in China. Chloe Brunton, Emma-Jane Dalley, Naseem Nabi and Simon Bevan are recommended.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys advises on a wide range of matters including academy conversions, and employment and safeguarding issues. It has specialist expertise advising on the right to remove a child from an education provider as a result of unreasonable parental behaviour. The highly regarded Kristine Scott recently advised an independent school on registering as a charity with the Charity Commission.

Andrea Squires’ group at Winckworth Sherwood LLP has a strong faith schools practice and has seen a recent increase in instructions to advise schools dealing with the threat of radicalisation. Other highlights include advising Thomas’s London Day Schools, as the sponsor, and New King’s Primary School on the latter’s conversion to academy status. The group defended the STEP Academy Trust against a claim for disability discrimination.

Joanna Lada-Walicki’s team at Barlow Robbins LLP has a ‘thorough knowledge of independent schools’. It is frequently instructed to assist with safeguarding issues and historic sexual abuse cases.

Bircham Dyson Bell predominantly acts for independent schools on charity law, restructuring projects, public affairs and data protection. Clients include Box Hill School, Westminster School and Beachwood Sacred Heart School. Penny Chapman heads the practice.

Bond Dickinson LLP’s team is led by Kevin Robertson, who advised an academy on the governance and commercial arrangements relating to a land transfer. The team also advised on a number of academy conversions and assisted Education Funding Agency with the flagship Free Schools programme.

Lynn Povey at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP advised Merchant Taylor’s School on its merger with Northwood Preparatory School. The team is regularly instructed to handle the real estate aspects of academy transfers. Practice head Mike Scott is another name to note.

RPC’s ‘excellent’ team is led by the ‘experienced and efficientGeraldine Elliott, who successfully defended a school client in a claim for disability discrimination. Anthony Shatz acts for private equity firms active in the education sector.

Sharpe Pritchard has a strong track record advising local government clients on school expansion programmes, procurement matters and land issues arising from school construction projects. Annie Moy advised E-ACT Academies Trust on future funding and the potential closure of an SEN resource base. Senior solicitor Catherine Newman and Timothy Farr are also recommended.

Ashfords LLP advises independent schools, academies and local authorities on a wide range of matters. Helen Tucker recently advised on the commercial transfer agreements and property aspects arising from the transfer of two schools to academy status.

Eversheds LLP’s Ben Wood advises academy trusts on governance, real estate and regulatory issues, among others. Principal associate Helen Cairns is ‘very approachable and pragmatic’. Clients include The Midland Academies Trust, The Rowan Learning Trust and the Independent Schools Inspectorate.

Michelmores LLP’s Charlotte Antoniou advised Aspirations Academies Trust on its takeover of STEM Academy in Islington. Antony Power is ‘well connected’ and is ‘patient and thorough in his approach’.

At Mills & Reeve LLP, Stuart Pemble assisted GEMS Learning Trust with converting from a single academy trust to a multi-academy trust, and subsequently advised on the creation of two further schools.

Trowers & Hamlins LLP has been advising London Borough of Newham on the education vires issues pertaining to the proposed establishment of a new sixth form centre collegiate school as an academy Assad Maqbool, Amardeep Gill and Helen Randall are the main contacts.

Bird & Bird LLP’s team, led by Mark Abell, focuses on advising independent schools on expanding into international markets, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.

At Bevan Brittan LLP, Andrew Tobin has particular expertise advising local authorities on the construction and refurbishment of schools and academies. The team acted for the Education Funding Agency on the delivery of over 70 new schools, academies and free schools under the government’s priority school building programme.

Elizabeth Davis at Blake Morgan LLP assisted an academy with establishing a multi-academy trust company. The team also defended an independent school against a claim brought in the SEND Tribunal following the exclusion of a disabled pupil.

Irwin Mitchell’s team is co-led by employment law specialist Surinder Dhillon and Jenny Arrowsmith. Clients include Romero Catholic Academy, Waverley Education Foundation and Maltby Academy.

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    I have been asked to cover the topic of Employment law within my half an hour speaking slot today. I have narrowed my subject down to Transfer of Undertakings and Discrimination, with the focus on providing an update on the recent spate of cases on service provision change and on the important developments in the law of age discrimination. Needless to say, in my presentation I shall not be able to cover the level of detail which is contained in my written paper, which I will leave you to read.
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