Education: schools in London

Bates Wells

Bates Wells has one of the leading education practices servicing the schools and academies landscape. Now led by Abbie Rumbold, the team handles a variety of education matters for a mix of both state and private sector clients, and is particularly skilled in restructuring mandates. The firm has a cross-practice approach and its wide-ranging offering spans charity law, real estate (which Mark Traynor is the key contact for) and regulatory expertise. Emma Dowden-Teale has experience of safeguarding and historical sexual abuse cases, while associate Jean Tsang is recommended for school mergers. Elsewhere, Caraline Johnson retired from the partnership to take up an in-house position, however, she remains affiliated as a consultant.

Practice head(s):

Abbie Rumbold

Key clients

Raine’s School Foundation

Mulberry Schools Trust

Guildhall School Trust

Pen Green Children’s Centre

The Charter Schools Education Trust

Core Education Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising Raine’s School Foundation on a very complex title matter involving ownership of a school site in east London, which is shared between the client and two other parties.

Browne Jacobson LLP

Browne Jacobson LLP has a 'palpable depth of understanding across the practice' in relation to education sector matters. Reflective of its market-leading reputation, the firm acts for more than 1300 schools and academies. The team, which is led by Mark Blois, acts on complex merger and restructuring matters for academies and multi-academy-trusts, and also advises schools on safeguarding issues. Adrian Shardlow is particularly noted for his expertise in academy conversions, while Richard Freeth is the key contact for advice on pastoral issues. The group is also skilled in handling sensitive mandates and frequently advises schools on counter-terrorism and abuse matters. The core team is comprised of Nick MacKenzie, Julia Green, and Dai Durbridge. Ian Deakin and London-based Heather Mitchell provide employment law advice.

Practice head(s):

Mark Blois

Testimonials

‘Richard Freeth has excellent knowledge and provides clear, concise advice. He is able to weigh up practical considerations vs the legal requirements.’

‘The Browne Jacobson team are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. They provide clear, concise guidance that allows the non-expert to make informed decisions.  As of equal importance, they respond swiftly to requests.’

‘They are responsive and knowledgeable. They understand the context in which schools work and the complexity of the issues school leaders face.’

‘The team at Browne Jacobson feel like an extension to the in-house team. They are client-focused and deliver without fail. They make you feel very special as a client. They are very fair when it comes to billing and generous in providing time and free support by way of a helpline and training.’

‘Richard Freeth is always available to provide advice advice and guidance and does so in a timely, informed manner. He is extremely pragmatic and having worked with him for a number of years, I completely trust his advice. ‘

‘Nick MacKenzie has great all-round knowledge and appreciation for peculiarities of the client. He has a genuine interest in probing the governance of a client.’

“Nick MacKenzie – a critical friend; always keen to push the boundaries and encourage you to think more broadly or differently; not afraid to ask the right questions in a frank way rather than beat around the bush. He is invaluable to me, personally and professionally.’

‘Richard Freeth’s day-to-day knowledge of education law makes him an invaluable support to the school.’

‘Julia Green’s expertise is manifest. An added bonus has been her previous work (both paid and voluntary) in the education sector.’

‘Dai Durbridge stands out for his no-nonsense, common sense advice and guidance.  He makes it so easy to follow and presents things in ‘non-legal’ way, even if of course it is based on sound legal advice. I have valued this and have questioned advice from other experts on things such as safeguarding and GDPR. To be able to have quoted Dai’s advice and guidance to others has given me a sense of empowerment, knowing someone who is an expert in the field has my back.  Despite the fact that he is obviously extremely busy he is always there and responds quickly to any queries I may have, no matter how small.’

Key clients

Academy Transformation Trust

Arthur Terry Learning Partnership

Association of School & College Leaders

Brooke Weston Academy Trust

Community Inclusive Trust

Confederation of School Trusts

DfE (Academies Risk Protection Arrangement)

Dixons Academies Trust

E-ACT

Greenwood Academies Trust

Loxford School Trust

Nottingham Catholic Diocese

Oasis Community Learning

Outwood Grange Academies Trust

Teaching Regulation Agency

The Elliot Foundation Academies Trust

Thomas Deacon Educational Trust

Work highlights

  • Representing the Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) in the first case in which a teacher was prosecuted for failing to comply with the Prevent Duty within the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015. It was established that the headteacher had allowed Khurum Butt to teach pupils at her school in circumstances where she ought reasonably to have known he was linked to an extremist group. Butt was subsequently shot dead during his involvement in the London Bridge terror attack in 2017. The Panel prohibited the Headteacher from teaching indefinitely
  • Providing extensive support to an academy trust in relation to the ‘No Outsider’s’ programme and related protests. The firm advised on the legality of what the school was teaching through the programme, which consisted of the key elements of the Equality Act taught in an age-appropriate way that was embedded in the curriculum.
  • Advising a school in relation to a landmark disability discrimination claim from a former pupil which ultimately was the subject of an Upper Tier Tribunal hearing which led to the widely publicised decision in ‘C&C v The Governing Body of a School, The Secretary of State for Education, The National Autistic Society [2018] UKUT 269 (AAC)’ which found that the provisions of Regulation s4(1)(c) (exclusion of requirement to make reasonable adjustments for a tendency towards physical abuse) are incompatible with Article 14 of the ECHR and hence unlawful.

Farrer & Co

The 'exceptional' practice at Farrer & Co has a market-leading reputation in the schools arena, with a particular strength in advising independent schools. The team is particularly skilled in handling disputes, safeguarding measures and child protection issues. Jonathan Eley, who heads up the schools practice, advises on sensitive matters such as peer-on-peer abuse and transgender rights. Real estate transactions are another driver of activity. In addition, the firm advises on international expansion programmes and mergers. Maria Strauss and Paul Jones both act for schools and trusts.  Sam Macdonald is the overall head of education. David Smellie leads the safeguarding unit.

Testimonials

They use their own qualifications and experience and recruit others with a different skill set to augment the lawyers. This gives the client a very rounded service of advice and guidance.

Paul Jones – concise, knowledgeable, experienced and rapid with advice if required. Ben Longworth – extremely experienced and effective in dealing with insurance topics David Smellie – sector leading in child protection and safeguarding.’

‘I always feel the quality of the advice and information given is of the highest calibre and the team’s knowledge of the sector, the issues and potential future trends is excellent. It feels like they are a practice that is at the centre of national safeguarding policy-making and one is assured that their advice is authoritative. Additionally, the events that the practice hold for us as professionals within the safeguarding and education sector are a really outstanding aspect of the service they offer.’

Their unrivalled knowledge of legal matters affecting the education sector, from family law, safeguarding, data protection and education is second to none. Their a responsive, pragmatic and value for money.

Sam Macdonald is a leader of the charity and education fields. His depth of knowledge and experience is enormous. He is client-focused and always pragmatic. Jonathan Eley’s employment is top-notch with a pragmatic approach. David Smellie’s safeguarding advice is the best you are likely to get.’

Farrer has a highly qualified team which operates well as a unit. All our queries have been properly and promptly answered and have no doubt that the legal advice offered is of the highest quality. The team works well together, supporting and learning from one another, while retaining individual areas of expertise. There is significant collective experience. The regard with which the company is held in the education sector means that the team is called upon to handle queries from a wide variety of schools, which in turn means that it remains current and can offer detailed and relevant advice.

David Smellie is superbly well versed in issues pertaining to abuse and safeguarding. His approach is careful, considerate and kind. I have every faith in his judgement. He is flexible and takes on suggestions to support the wider schools community. The safeguarding blog is a particular example as was his willingness to work with a number of interested parties to create a guide for schools about lessons learned from non-recent abuse.’

Quite simply, Farreres has a reputation as the best and it is correct. David Smellie is master of all he surveys, the acknowledged expert on independent education in a practice built up over many years. Most of all, he has common sense and a good sense of humour. his management of his diary is exceptional.’

Key clients

Winchester College

Eton College

Harrow School

Cognita

Charterhouse

Downe House

Alpha Plus Group

Grey Coat Hospital

Westminster School

Independent Schools’ Bursars Association

Work highlights

  • Advising a number of independent schools (typically between 8 and 12 at any one time) on collaborations for the launch of new schools overseas, principally include China, Hong Kong, South East Asia and the Middle East, on every issue from early-stage heads of terms, trade mark protection and due diligence, to the detailed drafting and negotiation of long-form agreements.
  • Advised the schools (The Purcell School for Young Musicians, Yehudi Menuhin School, and Wells Cathedral School) in relation to compliance with extensive requests for information from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA or the Inquiry) relevant to phase one of the Inquiry’s Residential Music Schools Investigation, and continued to advise in respect of a range of matters connected to the schools’ ongoing engagement with the investigation, through to the two-week Public Hearing.
  • Advised United Westminster Schools Foundation on its merger with Grey Coat Hospital Foundation, which also involved incorporating a newly merged charity and obtaining a Charity Commission Scheme.

Stone King LLP

Stone King LLP has a first-rate reputation advising non-faith schools, further education colleges and Church of England (CofE) schools. Cambridge-based head Roger Inman heads up the education group, which has a specialism in academy transfers between multi-academy-trusts and conversions. Graham Burns has significant experience of the academies space and advises both local authorities and private schools.  Lee Coley is the key contact on the faith schools side, mainly advising CofE schools and Jewish schools. In Bath, the independent schools sub-group is led by Helen Tucker, who advises on international projects. Tom Morrison leads the further education practice.

Practice head(s):

Roger Inman;

Testimonials

Helen Tucker is the relationship manager and my experience is very positive. Her responses are very timely and she shows a great understanding of the legal elements of issues which are explained clearly but also an understanding of the boarding school environment. Her ultimate advice is always very balanced.’

Client relationship, knowledge of our school, accessibility. Extremely thorough.

Completely trustworthy. detailed advice and knowledge of our school. Highly recommended.’

Key clients

United Learning Trust

Anglian Learning Trust

Ark Schools

Ormiston Academies Trust

Astrea

Peterborough Diocesan Education Trust

Red Kite Learning Trust

United Church Schools Trust (independent schools group)

Inspiration Trust

Girls’ Day School Trust (independent schools group)

Work highlights

  • Advising King David High School Manchester on its judicial review challenge against Ofsted. The action arose further to an inspection of the school which had resulted in Ofsted grading the school inadequate on the basis that [Ofsted asserted] the school was in breach of its duties under the Equality Act 2010 due to the segregation of pupils and detriment suffered on the grounds of sex and religion/belief.
  • Acted for Paddock Wood Primary School, which was due to convert to an academy and become part of Leigh Academies Trust (the Trust). The school was challenged by a member of the public as to the lawfulness of its consultation process and decision-making process to convert to an academy.
  • Instructed by a boys’ secondary school in connection with the permanent exclusion of a pupil for an alleged sexual assault.

VWV

VWV has amassed over three decades of experience in the schools and higher education arena. Led by Barney Northover, who heads up the independent school's sub-group, the multidisciplinary team advises on charity law, governance issues and M&A. Bristol-based Chloe Brunton, who leads the academies and maintained schools sub-group, is recommended for charity governance matters. Employment law specialist Simon Bevan  and the 'exceptionalYvonne Spencer are other key names. Tabitha Cave, Naseem Nabi, and Alice Reeve are also notable individuals. Beyond purely domestic matters, the team also has an active international practice, where it advises schools on expansions and mergers. Bettina Rigg joined Browne Jacobson LLP.

Practice head(s):

Barney Northover; Chloe Brunton

Testimonials

‘Yvonne Spencer is incredibly pragmatic and sensitive to the wider reputational impact of challenging cases. Her knowledge is exceptional and she is a pleasure to work with.’

Key clients

Sea Shell Trust

Rugby School

Downside School

Cornwall Education Learning Trust (CELT))

The Harpur Trust

Taunton School

Cabot Learning Federation

Clifton College

Cheltenham Ladies’ College

Eton College

Work highlights

  • Advised Rugby School a on merger project, which saw prep school Bilton Grange join with Rugby School. Also advising on international projects plus the full range of their legal and regulatory compliance needs.
  • Representing a number of clients in the review of historical abuse in the education sector.
  • Acted for the shareholders of Broadway Education on the sale of Bosworth International College and St. Michael’s School to Bright Scholar.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP provides an 'excellent full-service' to a wide array of clients, including multi-academy-trusts, academies and independent schools. Jointly led by Diane Gilhooley and Ben Wood, the team excels in assisting sixth form colleges with converting into academies. It also has a student-focused sub-group that addresses crucial areas of SEN, admissions and exclusions; this is led by Nicola Bennison in Nottingham. On the employment side, senior associate Helena Tattersall is highlighted for her contentious litigation expertise and she advises education clients on employment law issues. Data protection advice is another key part of the workload. Glynne Stanfield leads the international education practice.

Practice head(s):

Diane Gilhooley; Ben Wood

Testimonials

‘Ben Wood is our primary contact. Ben has excellent knowledge of the statutory regulations which apply to our sector and is always able to give us expert advice in the context of that. Throughout the many years of dealing with Ben, he has always been extremely personable and pragmatic in his approach when dealing with myself and colleagues. His expert and practical knowledge has helped us to make both short and long term decisions that are well informed.’

‘Helena Tattersall has been brilliant. Any requests for advice, either by telephone or email are met with an immediate response. Again, Helena has extensive knowledge of our sector and that is something that I particularly value.’

‘Helena Tattersall is efficient, flexible, offers options and solutions, pragmatic approach.’

‘Ben Wood, Helena Tattersall and Heather Farrell-Boote provide excellent legal advice with humour and humour in what are very challenging times.’

Always have a ‘go-to’ person, who you can develop a relationship with, and see them as part of your team.’

Key clients

Compass Learning Partnership

Beacon Multi Academy Trust

ACS International Schools

The Bentley Wood Trust

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust

Trinitas Academy Trust

Twyford CofE Academy Trust

Chelsea Academy

Cambridge Meridian Academy Trust

The Prospect Trust

Nova Education Trust

L.E.A.D. Multi Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised a single academy trust (SAT) on company law and governance matters in connection with a dispute relating to the composition of the SAT’s directorship and membership.
  • Assisted an independent school with its pioneering project to change its teachers’ terms and conditions of employment relating to its pension provision to operate two parallel pension schemes: the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) and a defined contribution scheme.
  • Advised a MAT client on an employment tribunal claim from an existing employee for pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Harrison Clark Rickerbys

Harrison Clark Rickerbys is considered to be 'the go-to education outfit' for the independent schools sector and its practice is led by 'fantastic all-rounder' Kristine Scott. The team acts for multi-academy trusts on a wide range of matters, including M&A and conversions. Emma Swann has a particular focus on this and has expertise advising independent schools on conversions. Kate Hickey advises clients on governance matters, mergers and disposals. The group also handles contentious issues, such as peer-on-peer abuse, dismissals and pupil exclusions.

Practice head(s):

Kristine Scott

Other key lawyers:

Emma Swann; Kate Hickey

Testimonials

Particular focus on work for significant independent schools.

Krissy Scott: fantastic all-rounder.’

I have been very impressed with the work of Harrison Clark Rickerbys in the education sector. They were prompt, efficient and effective in all their work. In comparison, it is worth noting that we did not pay London prices for the time and this was also a huge bonus.’

Reactive, informed, pragmatic and approachable, HCR run the best team of education lawyers in UK, in my view.

Kristine Scott, Oliver Daniels and the others are well qualified, experienced and adept at handling every HR problem a private school can or could generate.’

Key clients

The Independent Schools Bursar’s Association (ISBA)

The Independent Schools Council (ISC)

Association of Governing Bodies for Independent Schools (AGBIS)

Boarding Schools Association (BSA)

Cheltenham College

Farlington School

Work highlights

  • Acted for Dene Magna School as an interested party in the judicial review proceedings in which John Kyrle High School challenged the decision of the South West Regional School Commissioner to grant approval of Dene Magna School’s application to the Secretary of State for Education to open a new sixth form at Gloucestershire College’s campus at Cinderford in the Forest of Dean.
  • Advised SAND Academies Trust, the Gloucester-based multi-academy trust, on its expansion in Gloucestershire.
  • Advising Mercian Educational Trust, the Malvern-based multi-academy trust, on its expansion of a primary school MAT in Malvern.

Moore Barlow

Moore Barlow, which resulted from the recent merger between Moore Blatch and Barlow Robbins, is a key name in the education landscape. Its practice is led by Joanna Lada-Walicki, who is 'an expert in her field.' The Guildford-based practice has extensive expertise acting for clients in the independent schools sector, as well as charities. It advises on a range of issues relating to corporate mergers, governance issues and employment law. Ben Collingwood advises on pastoral issues, as well as advising schools on historic sexual abuse and safeguarding matters. Gordon Reid and associate Adam McRae-Taylor are other names to note.

Practice head(s):

Joanna Lada-Walicki

Testimonials

‘The team are very skilled and knowledgeable. They are professional and support their clients very well.’

Key clients

Eastbourne College

Charterhouse

Luckley House School

Seaford College

Bede’s School

Effingham Schools Trust

Manor House School

Orchard Hill College Academy Trust

AEGIS – Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students

The Royal School

Work highlights

  • Advised on very serious allegations made by a former pupil against a current, long-serving teacher at a boarding school in the south of England.
  • Advised Luckley House School throughout its consultation with staff over a proposal to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) and offer a defined contribution alternative.
  • Advised Ripley Court on all aspects of the school’s merger with Reed’s School.

BDB Pitmans

At BDB Pitmans, the education and charities practice advises independent schools, charitable organisations and public authorities. The group is led by Penny Chapman, who handles education-related operational issues, governance and M&A. Other key members of the team include senior associate Alice Unwin, who advises independent schools on commercial and constitutional issues.

Practice head(s):

Penny Chapman

Other key lawyers:

Alice Unwin

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

At Charles Russell Speechlys LLP, the education team acts for independent and state school clients, and has a specialism in the charity sector. Led by Lynn Povey, the group advises on employment law, governance and data protection matters. Sarah Rowley is the corporate contact for M&A and she is also recommended for her charity law expertise.

Practice head(s):

Lynn Povey

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Rowley

Doyle Clayton

At Doyle Clayton, the education group is led by the 'outstanding' Simon Henthorn. It has a strong profile among schools, colleges and higher education institutions. The team excels in handling contentious and non-contentious education matters concerning safeguarding, senior-level dismissals and litigation. Elizabeth Timmins is experienced in education-related immigration matters, as is Anna Blackden.

Practice head(s):

Simon Henthorn

Other key lawyers:

Liz Timmins; Anna Blackden

Testimonials

‘Very personable, calm and expert. Extremely prompt to reply to communications.’

‘Simon Henthorn is outstanding.’

Michelmores LLP

Michelmores LLP  handles a wide range of education matters and is experienced in advising schools, multi-academy trusts and local authorities. Led by Charlotte Antoniou, the team handles matters relating to the re-brokerage and establishment of new institutions and its subsidiaries for large trusts. Associate Tom Briant-Evans divides time between the London and Exeter offices and is noted for his transactional work. Former practice head Antony Power joined PHP Law LLP.

Practice head(s):

Charlotte Antoniou

Other key lawyers:

Tom Briant-Evans

Testimonials

‘Excellent relationships, understanding my school/business, understanding the landscape, strong empathy from the key partner.’

‘All the teams in the different departments work collaboratively together on any problem. They understand how our trust works and do their utmost to ensure the trust is working well and offer opinions and ideas.’

Key clients

Academies Enterprise Trust

Ambitions Academies Trust

Apollo Partnership Trust

Bay Education Trust

Bellevue Place Education Trust

Derby Diocesan Academies Trust

Discovery Schools Academies Trust

E-ACT

Excel Enrich Engage Academies Trust

Southwark Diocese (over 200 schools)

Work highlights

  • Acted for Aspirations Academies Trust (South East and South West) on its closure.
  • Advised the interim trustees of Bright Tribe on the winding-up of the Academy Trust and its subsidiaries following the successful re-brokerage of the Trust’s schools.
  • Advised Ambitions Academies Trust on the overturning of a multimillion pound government loan.

Sharpe Pritchard LLP

Sharpe Pritchard LLP is strong in public sector education and construction projects and is considered to be the go-to for government mandates. The team handles substantive construction and infrastructure matters for schools and local authorities. Annie Moy co-heads the practice with Paul O’Sullivan, who advises on complex contracts, procurement, administrative and public law. Catherine Newman advises on academy conversions and large procurement projects.

Practice head(s):

Annie Moy; Paul O’Sullivan

Other key lawyers:

Catherine Newman; Tim Farr

Key clients

London Borough of Newham

Milton Keynes Council

Education and Skills Funding Agency

London Borough of Southwark

Department for Education

Work highlights

  • Acting for the Department for Education on three related procurements for the services required for the government’s 2nd condition data collection survey of publicly funded schools and FE colleges.
  • Advised the Department for Education on the procurement of a contractor to deliver the government’s High Potential Initial Teacher Training and Leadership Programme.
  • Retained by the Education and Skills Funding Agency to provide advice on the national apprenticeships programme.

Winckworth Sherwood LLP

Winckworth Sherwood LLP's education practice, which is led by Andrea Squires, advises clients such as schools, colleges and multi-academy trusts. The team has experience of advising on academy conversions, governance issues, dispute resolution and employment law issues.

Practice head(s):

Andrea Squires

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP's education practice, which demonstrates capabilities in academy conversions and transfers, is led by national head Kevin Robertson. The group provides a full-service offering to clients, particularly in the charity law sector which is headed by Emma Moody. On the education construction side, Iain Greenshields handles large-scale projects and procurement matters in London and Newcastle.

Other key lawyers:

Nicholas Moss; Peter Cantwell

Testimonials

Their attention to detail is first class, but more importantly, the interpersonal skills are brilliant. The head of service Kevin Robertson sets the standard for his team to follow and he sets an incredibly high standard. Because of this approach to their clients, it is always a pleasure to work with the team from WBD.’

‘They always go that extra mile to solve our problems. The work they provide is first class and it is always delivered on time and within budget. They are a very trustworthy and honest team. The standout individual is Kevin Robertson. A special mention must also go to Peter Cantwell who is another outstanding employee of WBD.’

Key clients

Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)

Department for Education (DfE)

LocatEd

St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Academy Trust

Eden Learning Trust

St Lawrence Education Trust

Carmel Education Trust, Darlington

Waterton Academy Trust, Wakefield

Newcastle City Council

Castle Trust, Medway

Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School

Pocklington School

Vision Academy Learning Trust

Liverpool City Council

The Constellation Trust

Northumberland County Council

Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust

Skills for Life Trust, Kent

Sewell Education York Limited

The Trinity Catholic Multi Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised, and continue to advise, multiple governing bodies and academy trusts on their conversion to Academy status and also multiple multi-academy trusts on Trust mergers and rebrokerages.
  • Advise the DfE as part of a small panel of law firms appointed to advise then on a range of commercial, regulatory, and other miscellaneous matters relating to academies and the wider school sector.
  • Advise the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and the Department for Education (DfE) on the flagship Free Schools programme, which includes UTCs and Studio Schools.

Blake Morgan LLP

Blake Morgan LLP's 'unique' education team is led by Cardiff-based practitioner Matthew Smith. Its expertise is reflected in its ability to advise on child protection, employment law, education and charity law, and various regulatory issues. The team group handles academy conversions and transfers, and it also undertakes a significant amount of transactional work. Mike Wilson and Tim Forer, who are both based in Southampton, handle contentious and non-contentious employment matters. Penny Rinta-Suksi is a key contact for commercial law advice. A key differentiator of the team is its ability to act for both the teacher's regulator and other professional bodies.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Smith

Testimonials

Blake Morgan LLP is unique, due to the commitment, dedication and professionalism of its staff. The team became an extension of my organisation, providing high-quality advice and quality assurance during a complex, high-value procurement. The Blake Morgan team were integral to the success of the procurement, embraced the strategic objectives of my organisation and ensured the procurement was compliant and the organisation’s interests and reputation were protected at all times.’

‘Matthew Smith – his diligence, client handling, and communication skills are second to none.

Key clients

Magdalen College School

King Edward VI School

St Swithun’s School, Winchester

Capital City Academy Trust

University of Chichester Multi-Academy Trust

The Portsmouth Grammar School

St Marylebone Church of England Academy

Portsmouth Catholic Diocesan Trust

Stockley Academy

The Cherwell Academy

Winchester Diocesan Board of Finance

Solent Academies Trust

The Gregg School

The Gallery Trust

Hamwic Education Trust

Hereford Sixth Form College/Heart of Mercia

Work highlights

  • Continuing to act for muli-academy trust The Gallery Trust in improving outcomes for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Oxfordshire.
  • Advising the Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust on all areas of law, including employment, charity, real estate and litigation and across the Diocesan Curia, parishes, and schools.
  • Acting as legal advisers to professional conduct panels of the Teacher Regulation Authority (agency of the DfE) TRA (and prior to that, the General Teaching Council for England) in relation to disciplinary proceedings against teachers.

Lee Bolton Monier-Williams

Lee Bolton Monier-Williams's education practice has a specialist focus on Church of England schools and it also has a strong track record acting for academies. Led by Howard Dellar, the practice has a wide charity and public law offering and it frequently litigates at all levels of the court system. Ella Westby is experienced in establishing multi-academy trusts, while Ian Blaney is the go-to contact for advice on charitable trusts. David Whittington and Clifford Woodroffe are also core practitioners in the group. Elsewhere, the practice has been strengthened by the arrival of partner Khalid Sofi from Johns & Saggar LLP in 2019; he brings his Islamic law expertise to faith schools.

Practice head(s):

Howard Dellar

Testimonials

The education team at LBMW has well-established expertise in educational law which is unrivalled. It is consistently well-briefed on legal developments and is adaptable to the varying needs of a range of clients.’

Clifford Woodroffe is very impressive. He has a huge amount of knowledge about trust issues in education and a very good client manner.’

We have used LBMW for nine academy conversions and they are simply amazing! All work is completed efficiently and the communication received from them is superb. You have absolute faith that charges are transparent and if their work exceeds your original brief in terms of cost or scale there is always prior permission sought about this. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Ella Westby is incredibly efficient and a very skilled communicator. She has incredible in-depth knowledge of complicated historical land issues. She is superb at explaining complicated matters to all audiences. She works incredibly hard and responds to queries at an amazing speed. Ella works tirelessly to achieve the outcome that her clients want. When we have reached deadlock over issues which seem simply unsolvable Ella has found a way!

LBMW has been established for many years and has specialist experience in the education and charity sector. This experience is tangible both in the quality of advice both from longer-serving and new staff, and gives a sense of security. Whilst there are high-quality rivals, I have not seen from any of these the breadth and depth of quality that is available at LBMW. My experience, in particular, is of the state-funded education sector.

David Whittington has been with the firm for many years, and his knowledge and understanding of the church school system is second-to-none. He understands and can explain clearly not only the legislation, but also the spirit and intent of it. His encyclopedic knowledge and network of connections is a great asset to the firm. Uniquely, perhaps, David has also sat in his clients’ shoes and understands the realities and complexities of managing a church school estate.

Ian Blaney has consistently provided high quality advice in multi-layered matters where acumen coupled with experience are required to solve problems. His knowledge of education and charity legislation has helped to protect the long-term assets that we manage. Ian has a good grasp of the wider educational landscape and provides clear and concise advice. He has a patient and professional manner.

Ella Westby is a rising star for LBMW and has impressed with her academy conversion work. A thorough and professional approach has often saved us time and money or avoided pitfalls. Ella is very well organised and capable of juggling many aspects to a matter at once, helping her clients to focus on the key matters.’

Key clients

All Saints Schools Trust

Yarmouth Church of England Primary School

ASSET Education

Lincoln Diocesan Board of Education

Lincoln Anglican Academies Trust

Liverpool Diocesan Board of Education

Liverpool Diocesan Schools Trust

St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Board of Education

St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust

Oxford Diocesan Board of Education

Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust

Work highlights

  • Acting for the claimant beneficiaries under the terms of the School Sites Act 1841 and the Reverter of Sites Act 1987 in Rittson-Thomas v Oxfordshire County Council. Succeeded at Court of Appeal. The defendants have been granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
  • Acting for the Defendant Oxford Diocesan Schools Trust in Judicial Review proceedings brought by parents of children at Burford Primary School concerning the client’s collective worship policies and procedures. The settlement was reached before trial.
  • Acting for the claimant Durand Education Trust in a claim for judicial review to challenge the Secretary of State’s decision not to require the payment of consideration for the transfer of land to a local authority.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP handles a broad scope of matters for schools and academies. The team's experience includes undertaking corporate mandates for schools, such as M&A, transfers and conversions; these are areas of expertise which Nick Abbott and Jonathan Greenwood are noted for. In addition, the group advises on student issues, such as admissions and exclusions. Richard Sykes leads the education law team in Birmingham and Manchester. Gary Attle is the national education practice head. Stuart Pemble leads the national academies practice.

Practice head(s):

Stuart Pemble

Testimonials

The team were responsive, covered for each other, delegated, kept me on track and were very cost-effective.’

Key clients

Academies Enterprise Trust

The Diocese of Ely Multi Academy Trust

University of Wolverhampton Multi Academy Trust

Birmingham City University Multi Academies Trust

University of Brighton Academies Trust

American School in London

St Dunstan’s

Cambridge Education Group

Christ’s Hospital (school)

Harrow School

Work highlights

  • Advising Academies Enterprise Trust on its ongoing restructure and development, including merging its existing corporate group to a single entity and in relation to a series of rebrokerages.
  • Advising The Diocese of Ely Multi Academy Trust through the year on its ongoing conversion processes, including in relation to governance, HR, finance and structuring issues.
  • Having supported University of Wolverhampton Multi Academy Trust in relation to its academy group restructure, the firm has been advising the group on its funding restructuring, including liaising with the DfE and ESFA to ensure all funding streams are aligned.

Bevan Brittan LLP

Bevan Brittan LLP's education group advises the Department for Education on key mandates concerning the establishment of new schools across England. The team, which is led by infrastructure and engineering expert Andrew Tobin, is experienced in advising local authorities on a wide range of issues impacting schools and academies; its expertise includes the provision of school services, disputes arising from schools PFI projects and academy conversions. David Hutton in Bristol oversees the local government's team, and is recommended for education projects and procurement work.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Tobin

Testimonials

‘Approachable, knowledgeable, committed and effective advisers offering a consistent and excellent service.’

‘Ashley Norman has for many years provided a dedicated and high quality service. He is always pragmatic, efficient and relevant.’

Key clients

Department for Education

London Borough of Barnet

Royal Borough of Greenwich

London Borough of Lewisham

Barnsley Local Education Partnership

London Borough of Hackney

City of London Corporation

Work highlights

  • Advising the London Borough of Lewisham on all aspects of the variations required (and negotiation of the same with the PFI providers and related parties) to the PFI Project Agreement.
  • Acting for the Department for Education on the delivery of over 130 new schools, academies and free schools under the Government’s Priority School Building Programme.
  • Advised the London Borough of Barnet on the building contract for the new Blessed Dominic and St James schools in Colindale being delivered by Barnet for the Diocese of Westminster.

Bird & Bird LLP

The 'extremely knowledgable' education team at Bird & Bird LLP is highlighted for its international expertise and advisory work on the establishment of schools abroad. Practice head Mark Abell has vast experience of acting on complex cross-border projects for clients. Elsewhere, the wider team has a large offering in data protection, intellectual property, and corporate law.

Practice head(s):

Mark Abell

Other key lawyers:

Nikesh Mistry; Nick Green

Testimonials

‘Mark Abell is very, very competent and very commercial and pragmatic in his advice. He does not beat around the bush and goes straight to the heart of the matter – and is prepared to raise issues which some may find negative but he knows the market and the parameters of working and investing energy in China.’

‘They have unparalleled expertise in dealing with China and an understanding of the legal, commercial and political challenges in operating there.’

‘They have a deep understanding of the market dynamics, and are able to tailor the advice, style of engagement, and input to the particular nuances of the investing party.’

Key clients

Royal Grammar School Guildford

Reigate Grammar School

Sedbergh School

Gordonstoun

The Perse School

Westminster School

University College School (UCS)

Wellington College

Haileybury School

Uppingham School

Work highlights

  • Advised Gordonstoun School on a deal that sees it establish a string of schools across China. The schools in China will combine the Chinese academic curriculum within key elements of the Gordonstoun approach to character education, developing students’ life skills of resilience, leadership, team work and compassion. The first campus is expected to open in 2022.
  • Advising the Royal Grammar School Guildford on the establishment of a school in Dubai operated by Cognita, the establishment of five schools in China, and the day to day issues involving their school in Qatar.
  • Advising on the establishment of a music academy in Qingdao, China.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

At Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP, the education group has a wide offering spanning areas such as employment, data privacy and data protection, immigration and corporate governance. The firm also has a specialist safeguarding sub-group that acts for schools and individuals in contentious student issues and historical abuse. The practice is jointly led by Hilary Aldred, Daff Richardson and Reading-based Gemma WoodhousePat Saini and Hazar El-Chamaa are also recommended.

Other key lawyers:

Pat Saini; Hazar El-Chamaa

Testimonials

‘The team is knowledgeable, pragmatic, approachable and gives clear advice. Sound knowledge and information about the sector and up to date practices.’

‘Gemma provides excellent advice and we have a good client/lawyer relationship. Gemma provides strong direction and advice with any associated risks.’

‘Gemma Woodhouse is an exemplary partner. Highly commercial dedicated hard working. Nothing is too much trouble and solves issues.’

Key clients

Wellington College

Shrewsbury House School Trust

Reed’s School

Crosfields

Haberdashers’ Aske’s Elstree Schools

The Licensed Trade Charity

Association for the Education and Guardianship of International Students

Cognitas Group

Bristol International College

The Oratory Schools Association

Unifrog Education Ltd

Beaconsfield Educational Trust (Davenies)

Work highlights

  • Advising a leading independent school on a significant property development.
  • Drafting comprehensive standards and protocols for guardians to obtain AEGIS accreditation.
  • Presenting to member schools of the Independent Schools Association on how best to prepare for Brexit.

Withers LLP

Withers LLP leverages its global network of offices to undertake international education work. Led by Chris Priestley, the team offers school clients a broad scope of legal services involving employment, charity law, data protection and commercial property issues. The firm has a particularly strong track record of advising clients on establishing international schools in Hong Kong and mainland China. Alison Paines acts for independent schools and is recommended for her charity law expertise. Elsewhere, Alana Petraske in the New York office advises clients on issues related to establishing overseas operations.

Practice head(s):

Chris Priestley

Other key lawyers:

Alison Paines; Ben Williams

Testimonials

‘Strong team – always available. Play a long game but play to win, certain team members are extremely impressive.’

‘Ben Williams – is an outstanding associate who out-performs all expectations and comes extremely well-briefed to all discussions and disputes.

Work highlights

  • Advising All Saints’ Church in the Diocese of Oxford on the use of sale proceeds of land which was given to the Church in 1853 on trust to provide a church school in the Parish of Binfield, being the former All Saints’ Church of England School.
  • Continuing to represent Bridge U as an emerging Ed Tech enterprise on its international partnerships with private schools, state schools, and institutions providing access to university courses and overseas opportunities.