Browne Jacobson LLP handles a wide range of educational law matters, working with over 1,300 schools and academies across the UK. Mark Blois has more than 25 years of experience in education law; he leads the practice from the firm's Nottingham base. Nick MacKenzie and Julia Green work together on an array of projects, including M&A and reorganisations. Charlotte Antoniou heads up the London-based education practice; she and senior associate Tom Briant-Evans both joined from Michelmores LLP during 2021.
Education: schools in London
Other key lawyers:
Nick MacKenzie; Julia Green; Charlotte Antoniou; Tom Briant-Evans
‘Superb in all respects’
‘Incredibly professional, approachable and knowledgeable workforce. The key difference in working with Browne Jacobson is that they really understand the Education sector and are able to answer questions, provide advice and support that is relevant, relatable and really straight-forward to understand and action.’
‘The Education Practice at Browne Jacobson LLP is deeply impressive and hugely knowledgeable. Browne Jacobson is also committed to diversity. Its won the D&I Initiative of the Year award at the British Legal Awards in 2021. This is the fourth national award that the firm has won for its innovative talent diversity and inclusion programme.’
‘The leaders of the education practice at Browne Jacobson, notably Mark Blois and Nick MacKenzie, are completely committed to the education sector and their moral purpose guides their legal advice and practice.’
‘Wide range of sector knowledge provided by access to a range of partners and associates. Excellent range of products to meet the needs of education sector means access to affordable legal advice and guidance.’
‘The customer liaison is excellent, the partners feel like an extension of the team, they make an effort to ensure that they remain up to date on both our Trusts issues and wider sector issues. Training and seminars are always relevant.’
‘Colleagues are highly accessible to our team, very personable and feel like an extension to our own team. They are knowledgable and efficient, providing great reassurance to our individual schools as well as our central Trust team. There is good transparency and openness of communication in relation to charging and the quality of service we can expect to receive.’
‘We have valued the in-depth knowledge they have not only of our sector, but of our own organisation. They have taken time to get to know people and members of the team are able to work interchangeably on case work because of the ways in which they share information. Good humour, professionalism and efficiency are all hallmarks of the way Browne Jacobson work with us.’
Apollo Partnership Trust
Accord Multi-Academy Trust
Achievement Through Collaboration Trust
An Daras Multi Academy Trust
Ansford Academy Trust
Archway Learning Trust
Arthur Terry Learning Partnership
Aspire Education Trust
Bath and North East Somerset Council
Bath and North East Somerset Council
Believe Academy Trust
Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College
Bournemouth Poole and Christchurch Council
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council
Brigshaw Learning Partnership
Brooke Weston Trust
Castleford Academy Trust
Central RSA Academies Trust
Champion Education Trust
Cheshire Academies Trust
Coast Academies Trust
Colyton Grammar School
Community Inclusive Trust
Cornwall Education Learning Trust
Cumbria Education Trust
Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust
Department for Education (RPA)
Diocese of Bristol Academy Trust
Diocese of Hallam
Diocese of Leeds
Diocese of Nottingham
Diocese of Salisbury Multi Academy Trust
Diverse Academies Trust
Dixons Academies Trust
Durrington Multi Academy Trust
Ebor Academies Trust
Education Learning Trust
Elliot Foundation Academies Trust
Exmouth Academy Trust
Falcon Education Academies Trust
Falmouth Multi Academy Trust
Finham Park Multi Academy Trust
Flying High Trust
Forward as one C of E Multi-Academy trust
Greater Manchester Learning Trust
Greengate Academy Trust
Greenwood Academies Trust
Hearts Academy Trust
Heathercombe Brake Trust
Hope Learning Trust York
Horrington Primary School
Humber Education Trust
Iron Mill College
Keswick School Multi-Academy Trust
King’s College London
Kings Langley School
Leading Edge Academies Partnership
Learner Engagement and Achievement Partnership MAT
Learning Accord Multi-Academy Trust
Legacy Learning Trust
Leodis Multi-Academy Trust
Lighthouse Schools Partnership
Lion Academy Trust
Lion Academy Trust
Lion Education Trust
Lionheart Academies Trust
Loxford School Trust
North Somerset Council
North West Academies Trust
Northampton Primary Academy Trust
Nova Education Trust
Oak Learning Partnership
Oak Trees Multi-Academy Trust
Osprey Learning Trust
Our Lady of Lourdes Academy Trust
Outwood Grange Academies Trust
Preston Primary Academy Trust
Quantock Multi Academy Trust
Rodillian Multi Academy Trust
Sea View Trust
Shaw Education Trust
South Devon College
South Gloucestershire Council
Spencer Academy Trust
SS Simon and Jude C of E Multi Academy Trust
Steyning Grammar School
Swindon Borough Council
Teaching Regulation Agency
The Castle Partnership
The Enquire Learning Trust
The First Federation
The Inspire Multi Academy Trust
The Levels Academy Trust
The Mead Educational Trust
The Sentient Trust
The True Learning Partnership
The Youth Engagement Schools Trust
Thomas Deacon Education Trust
Timberley Academy Trust
Trewirgie Junior School
Trinity Multi Academy Trust
Uffculme Academy Trust
University of Hertfordshire
University of Winchester Academy Trust
Warrington Primary Academies Trust
Warrington Primary Academy Trust
Warwick Independent Schools Foundation
Wessex Learning Trust
West Lakes Multi-Academy Trust
Westcountry Schools Trust
Wimborne Academy Trust
- Advised Oak Learning Partnership, providing representation to Hazel Wood High School in a high-profile and complex inquest opened to investigate the death of a Hazel Wood High School pupil, Shukri Abdi, who tragically drowned in the River Irwell.
- Advised Yew Tree Primary School on a successful judicial review of the Secretary of State’s decision not to revoke its directive Academy Order.
- Advised the Consortium of Outwood Grange Academies Trust, Oasis Community Learning, Harris Federation and Star Academies on all aspects of their bid to create a new Institute of Teaching to provide teachers and school leaders with prestigious training and development throughout their career. This bid was under the DfE’s Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy with allocated funding of over £120m anticipated over the lifetime of the project.
Farrer & Co handles a wide range of educational matters, including issues ranging from harassment to immigration and mergers and acquisitions. In addition to this, the practice advises on the financial and safeguarding sides of schooling across the UK. Head of education Jonathan Eley has been advising schools on withdrawal from the Teachers' Pension Scheme and union issues. David Smellie heads the firm's safeguarding unit, being involved in high-stakes employment band child protection work, including handling serious allegations of child abuse. Sam Macdonald specialises in charity law, advising on regulatory matters and fundraising with regards to schools as charitable trusts. Katie Fudakowski previously spent a decade as a barrister, meaning she brings a decade of experience and insight from a barrister's perspective. Associate Alice Yandle assists with complex employment, parental and pupil issues.
Other key lawyers:
David Smellie; Sam Macdonald; Katie Fudakowski; Alice Yandle
‘Farrers have a strong team in the educational space. We often use them to help with dispute resolution with parents in our schools and for safeguarding advice.’
‘The quality of advice has always been excellent – pragmatic, supportive and the team shows a real understanding of the education sector. The advice takes into account the sector and the nuances of working in education. The firm is also proactive in providing advice at a general level as situations change which is very reassuring.’
‘A multi-disciplined and talented team is led by a number of partners. The lead partner varies, this is dictated by the area of law that is being advised on.’
‘David Smellie – A figure of national importance as an expert, advisor and thought leader in safeguarding.’
‘The education team is well resourced and managed. Team members have excellent in-depth experience in a wide variety of matters which are relevant to clients in the education sector ranging from employment to complaints to external reviews. They take a collaborative approach, sharing sector knowledge and often working with the charities team to do the same.’
‘Alice Yandle is outstanding, one of the best lawyers I have ever worked with. She is super bright, strategic in her approach and always thinks a few steps ahead and with the ultimate preferred outcome in mind. Add to that her client care skills, diligence, responsiveness and phenomenal grasp of the law and issues in any situation, and you have the real deal: a solicitor who you can rely on and who will look out for their client. It is rare to find an advisor with Alice’s emotional intelligence.’
‘Full service team with great experience in the education sector. Great to have in your camp for regulatory work. Accessible and responsive.’
‘Alice Yandle is our main contact. She is truly exceptional in every way – cares deeply about her work, appears very conscientious and presents her advice to us clearly and with great skill. The advice is always practical and easy to follow.’
Alpha Plus Group
Danes Hill School
Dulwich Prep School
Grey Coat Hospital
Independent Schools’ Bursars Association
King’s College school Wimbledon
Latymer Upper School
Magdalen College School
Manchester Grammar School
Methodist Independent Schools Trust
Nottingham High School
St Catherine’s School Bramley
St George’s College Weybridge
St Mary’s School Ascot
St Paul’s Girls School
St Paul’s School
The Bury Grammar Schools
The Mill Hill School Foundation
The Perse School
- Advised leading independent school, Magdalen College School, on a major new overseas collaboration for the opening of a network of international schools across China and Hong Kong.
- Assisted an independent review for Winchester College into the activities of John Smyth KC (now deceased) who had groomed and abused a number of boys and young men from top UK independent schools and universities under the guise of evangelical Christianity, including at Winchester College.
- Advised on a low-level concerns policy: A guide for organisations which work with children that the Department for Education included within Part Four of its revised statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSIE). This marks a significant step forward for the better protection of children – not just in schools and colleges, but also in any organisation working with children.
Stone King LLP operates across the board on education matters, representing more than 2,000 state schools and 300 multi-academy trusts, with work including advising PFI schools in converting to academies. The team is led by four partners: Graham Burns, who works primarily with academies and high-profile mergers; Tom Morrison, who focuses on college-sponsored MAT structuring with Roger Inman; and Helen Tucker. Laura Berman is prominent in advising on discrimination claims against schools, particularly in reference to transgender issues.
Roger Inman; Graham Burns; Helen Tucker; Tom Morrison
Other key lawyers:
‘The team are swift to respond and the breadth of experience and how they collaborate with the other teams at Stone King means that advice is always available for the non-standard queries. They have really got to know us well meaning that their advice comes with good understanding of our ways of working.’
‘Laura Berman is responsive, solution focused and takes time to talk through options – it’s a pleasure to work with her.’
‘Strong knowledge of the education sector, including; academy conversion process, documents and contacts; PFI arrangements for schools; legislation affecting the operation and responsibilities of schools; land arrangements, management of leases and licences and process for securing ESFA consent when needed.’
‘The legal team have worked together well to meet our needs in a timely way. There is good use of Teams meetings so as to have conversations with multiple people at once which is helpful. Our conference with counsel worked well this way.’
‘I have found the individuals I have worked with to have good understanding and empathy about our context which they bring to bear when discussing our case. This helps because staff who work in schools generally have very limited experience of working with the law in a complex way and sometimes struggle intellectually to focus on the legal issues rather than the wider people/children context.’
‘We have used this firm in relation to conversion of PFI schools into a Multi-Academy Trust, their knowledge and experience in this area has been extremely beneficial. The team working with us are always at the end of the phone or email to answer any question (big or small) that I may have. Communication is clear.’
‘I have worked closely with both Graham Burns and Nicola Andrews. They are extremely good at keeping me informed of what is happening with our individual cases and pushing them forward. They explain things in a way a person without a legal background can understand, their knowledge of PFI is exceptional.’
Learning in Harmony
Leigh Academies Trust
River Learning Trust
Greenshaw Learning Trust
Diocese of Chichester Academy Trust
Kent Special Educational Needs Trust
Ivy Learning Trust
The Kemnal Academies Trust
Leo Academy Trust
The Beckmead Trust
Whitefield Academy Trust
Academies Enterprise Trust
London South East Education Group
Dulwich Prep London
Wycombe Abbey School
United Church Schools Trust
St George’s School, Windsor Castle
Guildford High School
Wellington School, Somerset
- Advised the Chelmsford Learning Partnership in connection with a disability discrimination claim lodged on behalf of a student with an EHCP due to join the school in Year 7. The student suffers from autism. Our robust defence of the claim led the claimant to withdraw.
- Advised a collective group of over 55 academy trusts (over 400 schools) in a successful collective action which resulted in a major concession by ESS and positively affected 70% of the academies in the country who contract with ESS (approximately 5000 academies).
- Advised Oasis Charitable Trust in relation to the establishment of the UK’s first secure school in Medway. The Secure School policy is led by the Ministry of Justice, working in conjunction with the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care, as well as NHS England.
VWV has overseen investigations into child sexual abuse, as well as advising over 300 schools on the Teachers' Pension scheme in preparation for changes in 2024. The team is led by Barney Northover, who has 22 years' specialist experience in advising independent schools on charity law, governance and M&A, and Chloe Brunton, who specialises in school reorganisation and the academies programme. Simon Bevan advises on a wide range of matters related to discrimination, industrial relations and regulation, particularly in reference to child protection incident management and providing practical and commercial solutions. Emma-Jane Dalley left in January 2022 to join DAC Beachcroft LLP, while contentious specialist James Garside was to partner in October 2021.
Barney Northover; Chloe Brunton
Other key lawyers:
Simon Bevan; James Garside
‘They understand the context and have the ability to drill down to get the information required to give very sound advice. All aspects are considered so you would be aware of any dangers or impacts of actions.’
‘Client care is outstanding and the knowledge of who to refer you to in the business is invaluable when you need immediate help and guidance and they are outstanding in this respect.’
‘Responsiveness is always excellent, and the ability for colleagues to pick up urgent issues should our usual contacts no be able. Willingness to explain in layman’s terms what legal terms mean, and the willingness to take time to explain holistically and in context.’
‘Our key contacts are very ‘human’ and relatable. Their straightforwardness makes it easy to work with them. Everyone has a voluntary role in our sector, which gives an insight and broader perspective.’
‘James Garside supports with our parental complaints and I have been extremely impressed with his ability to see a way through complex issues and provide excellent guidance in a timely manner.’
‘Simon Bevan has an excellent understanding of all aspects of our college, which means his advice and guidance are always spot on. His level of work and his commitment to the college could not be more impressive. We are exceptionally lucky to have someone of his calibre supporting us.’
‘The team are personable, they deliver on their commitments and are able to engage with non legal individuals in an effective manner.’
‘Chloe Brunton – the most knowledgeable, empathetic and personable professional I have worked with. Always accessible and no issue too small. well regarded by other people that i know who work with VWV.’
Sea Shell Trust
Sikh Academies Trust
Three Spires Trust
The Harpur Trust
Cabot Learning Federation
Cheltenham Ladies’ College
Dean Close School
The White Horse Federation
Bristol Grammar School
Haberdashers’ Monmouth Schools
Christ College Brecon
- Supported Kingsley School with its merger into the Warwick Schools Foundation. This enabled the ongoing operation of the School but within the framework and support of a broader foundation.
- Supported a number of schools, on issues relating to peer on peer abuse in the aftermath of heightened publicity about the Everyone’s Invited website following the death of Sarah Everard in March 2021.
- Advising on the merger of two multi academy trust to form a new merged multi academy trust comprising 12 schools.
Bates Wells works across the full spectrum of education matters, particularly regarding school reforms. The practice is able to work in collaboration with the wider firm's well-regarded charity law practice, as well as drawing on in-house expertise where immigration matters are concerned. The commercial team is led by Jean Tsang, who handles mergers and acquisitions of academies and independent schools as well as establishing new independent schools. Claire Whittle was promoted to head of the public and regulatory team in April 2022, and specialises in qualification regulations, contentious education matters and safeguarding.
Jean Tsang; Claire Whittle
‘Bates Wells are the absolute experts in charity, social enterprise and education practice. They have extensive experience with start-ups, multi-academy trusts and scaling organisations which gives them a fantastic perspective and portfolio. No other firm has this expertise.’
‘Their approach is unique as they build capacity in the sector – with workshops, templates and networking to help increase skills and knowledge and spread their impact more widely than just the clients they work in depth with.’
‘They are always seeking opportunities to connect our organisation with others where there could be interesting collaboration, and this has led to strategic discussions for us and advanced our mission to make education fair.’
‘They are quick to respond with clear answers. Their answers are also jargon- and waffle-free, which is reassuring: concise, well structured, reassuring. There is a clear impression that they have extensive knowledge and experience of the educational market and the legal issues common to it.’
‘I was particularly impresssed with Jean Tsang. She stood out as someone who is keen to understand the client to ensure her expert advice is spot on. And it is so, invariably. She is flexible, and not just able to rattle off stock answers but is very precise in her advice. She also has a great command of the whole project and not just the areas which she deals with directly which is most impressive.’
Mulberry Schools Trust
St. Bede’s Foundation
City of London Academies Trust
Central Foundation Schools of London
Brightside Educational Trust
Shaftesbury Young People
Raine’s School Foundation
- Advising Raine’s School Foundation on complex education, charity, trust and property law matters relating to the ownership and dealings with its two East London sites.
Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP has a track record of handling complex work for multi-academy trusts, free schools and UTCs, including the transfer of church schools into MATs and academy conversions. The team is led by Diane Gilhooley, who handles contentious and non-contentious areas of education governance, including tribunals, organisational change and harrassment claims, and Ben Wood, who specialises in advising educational establishments on governance and employment matters.
Diane Gilhooley; Ben Wood
‘The whole team has a very strong customer focus, friendly, professional and approachable. Evidence of collaboration across the organisation to ensure the best placed person is assigned with supporting any query.’
‘The people are intelligent, demonstrate high levels of moral integrity and humanity. They are also very emotional intelligent and able to deal effectively to a wide range of different, and often complex situations.’
‘Billing is timely, fair and you receive a high quality of service. They are not the cheapest but in our experience are the best at what the do and the quality of service they offer.’
‘Ben Wood has been absolutely excellent. He is highly responsive, astute and understands the nuances of highly complex situations very well. He has a high level of emotional intelligence and an excellent ability to engage effectively with a wide range of stakeholders.’
‘The Education: Schools practice at Eversheds Sutherland is experienced, competent and responsive, with a broad base of knowledge in academisation, assets transfers, new building projects and DfE interaction.’
‘Availability of experts in different fields has been invaluable when we have needed assistance in a new area at short notice. Skills, knowledge appear to be of a high standard.’
‘All individuals dealt with over the last year have been professional, knowledgeable and approachable. In most cases response times have been excellent. The service feels like it is a considerable step above that which we receive from other firms’
Cambridge Meridian Academy Trust
LEAD Academy Trust
ACS International Schools
Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust
Nova Education Trust
The Harmony Trust
Potteries Education Trust
The Great Schools Trust
The Laidlaw Schools Trust
Beacon Multi Academy Trust
Alpha Academies Trust
- Advising on a complex array of academy projects including establishing maths schools, closing University Technical Colleges, academising sixth form colleges and advising on PFI issues.
- Advising schools and academies on their response to social media and other campaigning and threats of legal proceedings by staff, students, parents and third parties.
- Advising schools and academies on Local Government Pensions Scheme issues arising from the outsourcings and insourcing of services.
Harrison Clark Rickerbys fields a ‘multi-talented, adept, informed and engaged team of lawyers’ with vast knowledge of the independent school sector. The practice’s expertise ranges from employment matters to M&A and trade union issues. ‘Exceptional leader’ Kristine Scott, whose work includes issues pertaining to sensitive dismissals and parental complaints, heads the Cheltenham-based team. Emma Swann brings to bear experience in pastoral, governance, and commercial matters, while Rachel Parkin is praised for providing ‘pragmatic advice and realistic solutions to a range of complex issues’.
Other key lawyers:
Emma Swann; Rachel Parkin; Kate Hickey
‘A very knowledgeable and responsive team.’
‘Rachel Parkin can be relied upon to provide pragmatic advice and realistic solutions to a range of complex issues. Her education-sector expertise is second to none and she has proven to be a trusted advisor throughout some quite turbulent times.’
‘Kristine Scott leads a multi talented, adept, informed and engaged team of lawyers. The advice is accurate, timely and pragmatic.’
‘HCR’s strength and depth within the Education Sector is very impressive. They are proactive and always on top of the detail specific to our industry.’
‘They have the range of services and departments that you would expect in a top tier law firm but match this with a very high level of responsive and personal service.’
‘Kristine Scott is an exceptional leader of their education team. She provides clear, concise and pragmatic advice. She is always responsive and quickly directs specific requests to relevant departments if she is not best placed to advise herself.’
St Dunstan’s College
Independent Schools’ Council
Stamford Endowed Schools
Moore Barlow advises independent schools on a wide range of issues, including mental health issues, trade union matters and anti-vaccination protests. Joanna Lada-Walicki advises on complex employment and pastoral issues, including matters related to bullying, sexual misconduct and allegations of abuse. Ben Collingwood advises on SEN, safeguarding and child personal data issues. Gordon Reid focuses particularly on the charity side of education law, including governance, public benefits and reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission. Associate Adam McRae-Taylor advises on safeguarding and pastoral issues.
Other key lawyers:
Ben Collingwood; Gordon Reid; Adam McRae-Taylor
‘We moved to using Moore Barlow after a successful reorganisation piece of work which was handled with sensitivity and careful practical planning. Questions and queries are answered in a very timely manner and meetings held in person where possible.’
‘We have a close and strong relationship with both contacts at the firm who have dealt with HR issues at our school. They are quick to respond and clear in their explanations on what is possible and and not possible. Ben Collingwood and Adam McRae-Taylor are always personable in their approach and helpful with honest and practical solutions.’
‘Excellent service in assisting us though an employment consultation. First time using Moore Barlow and looking to move further work over based on our experience.’
‘A well balanced and dependable team, who provide a wealth of sound advice. They are friendly, customer-focussed, understand the sector and have good insight into the business side of a charitable independent school. They deliver good value and consistently high quality advice.’
‘Ben Collingwood quickly grasps complex issues and reduces them to their essential components without over simplifying. He is responsive and gives clear, sound advice. Gordon Reid is dependable and solid, giving a great, reliable service. Adam McRae-Taylor has always reliably and successfully guided us though the complexities of employment law.’
‘Broad and detailed knowledge and experience within the team. A one-stop shop for all education/charity issues. Prompt response to any issues and always willing to help or recommend someone who can.’
‘Professional, quick to respond, relevant experience, pragmatic.’
‘All I can say is that those who have given advice and prepared documents went beyond the usual effort to make sure that everything ran smoothly.’
St Albans High School for Girls
Royal Grammar School, Guildford
Cranford House School
St Paul’s Girls’ School
- Advised various schools in connection with post-pandemic mental health and special educational needs issues including: anxiety disorders, depression, diverse behavioural conditions and attempted suicide.
- Advised a leading London independent school on a TPS consultation involving changing the terms and conditions of over 200 teachers including managing the involvement of two separate trade unions, strike action and requests for recognition.
- Advised many schools in relation to anti-vaccination protesters at the school gates and communications received from anti-vaccination campaign groups, including threats of litigation based on alleged harm to pupils caused by vaccination of pupils on school premises.
BDB Pitmans specialises in complex governance and charity law matters, as well as providing commercial advice relating to supply agreements, intellectual property considerations and data protection. The team is led by Penny Chapman, who specialises in providing charity law advice to independent schools and charitable institutions in the education sector. Jonathan Fewster offers particular expertise in the real estate sector. Associate Alice Unwin assists on many of these matters, including mergers and acquisitions and governance health checks and reviews.
Other key lawyers:
Jonathan Fewster; Alice Unwin
Moulsford Preparatory School
Beechwood Park School
Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools (AGBIS)
The Mount School (York)
Finton House Educational Trust
The Independent Schools Bursars Association
Cripplegate Schools Foundation – Lady Eleanor Holles
- Providing a range of charity, governance and property advice to Westminster School. Recent work has included advising on: charity law compliance in relation to property transactions; the School’s relationship with connected charities; completing the Privy Council application to update the School’s statutes.
- Advising Finton House Educational Trust on employment, pension law and governance considerations in relation to the Teachers Pensions Scheme, as well as supporting the School with a wide range of employment matters as they arise, including advising on furlough leave, issues arising from COVID-19 and managing staff.
- Working with AGBIS (the Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools) on a detailed Governance Manual (comprising 22 policies) that has been made available as a model for all its of its member schools.
Doyle Clayton advises on a wide range of matters, from crowdfunding to organising and union mergers. The team is led by the ‘formidable‘ Simon Henthorn, who has advised on removals of head teachers, potential industrial action and safeguarding matters. Peter Daly advises on disputes relating to employment and discrimination, and has recently been involved in a series of high-profile cases.
Other key lawyers:
‘Simon Henthorn is formidable in this area.’
‘The employment team has good experience in working with schools and acted quickly and efficiently with the issue at hand.’
‘I was introduced to the team due to their strong experience in employment issues related to independent schools.’
‘I find Doyle Clayton to be highly responsive, knowledgeable and efficient.’
‘I mostly work with Simon Henthorn, who is extremely good to work with. He responds extremely promptly, accepts when he needs to look something up, and is available for conversations whenever I need him, often at very short notice.’
Portsmouth Grammar School
Christ the King Sixth Form College
Lee Bolton Monier-Williams
Lee Bolton Monier-Williams's ecclesiastical, education and charities department is led by senior partner Howard Dellar, who has 'the most extensive breadth of experience' and is 'excellent at managing conflict between differing parties'. He works alongside senior associate Ella Westby , who has 'detailed technical knowledge of matters to do with church schools in relation to academy conversions and land issues.' The firm is particularly known for its advice on Church of England school matters - recent work has included advising on issues relating to school sites, school partnerships, academy conversions, updates to trusts and other complex contentious matters.
Other key lawyers:
Ella Westby; Jane Grenfell
‘Ella Westby – Efficient, thorough and friendly’
‘Jane Grenfell – clarity of analysis in relation to old school sites and implications of reverter.’
‘Howard Dellar is very personable but he is also wise and knowledgeable. He succeeds in delivering challenging messages in a supportive way and is very responsive to the needs and wishes of the client. We particularly appreciate his pragmatism whilst still holding to our legal best interests with great clarity. Howard is also excellent at managing conflict between differing parties.’
‘Ella Westby is simply outstanding. Her advice is clear, succinct and consistently correct and accurate. She is very approachable and easy to work with. Ella responds rapidly which has not always been our experience with other firms. We always feel our work matters personally to her and that the firm is invested in our concerns.’
‘LBMW have a detailed and sympathetic understanding of legal issues facing church schools from detailed knowledge of the legislation and wide experience in complex cases, particularly involving academisation and school site issues.’
‘Ella Westby – rapid turn around of work, sensible and practical advice, good with third parties, sharp and doesn’t miss much, growing and detailed technical knowledge of matters to do with church schools in relation to academy conversions and land issues. Ian Blaney – calm, practical and experienced offering carefully researched legal advice including on complex land issues. His advice is to be trusted.
‘All of the individuals we have worked with have been superb. However, Ella Westby deserves a special mention. She is supremely knowledgeable and often has answers to more complex queries readily available or is able to provide advice quickly. She is tenacious in her dealings with other legal professionals, and her updates are appropriately detailed and offered in plain English which enables those of us outside the legal profession to easily understand and make often important and far-reaching decisions.’
‘The team is so responsive and helpful. So much expertise and they are really quick to get back to us. We pay an annual retainer and it’s such good value. They are really the best in England on the specific issues to do with Church schools. I really appreciate the way they try to solve problems rather than just explain what the legal obstacles to something are. They have a really strong empathy with our moral purpose as a Trust and support that.’
Hurst Education Trust Limited
Oxford Diocesan Board of Education
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich Diocesan Board of Education
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich Diocesan Multi-Academy Trust
Canterbury Diocesan Board of Education
Litchfield Diocesan Board of Education
The Bishop Otter Academy Trust
Chichester Diocesan Board of Education
- Advised a Diocese on a possible reversion of a school site. The claimant reversioners withdrew their claim.
- Advised a Diocese after reverter was triggered over part of the school site.
Mills & Reeve LLP advises education clients on corporate strategies, M&A and safeguarding, amongst other matters. Its clients are largely independent schools and school groups; the team is led by Jonathan Greenwood, who specialises in transactions and advises on corporate matters including restructurings, joint venture and shared services initiatives. Sarah Seed advises many leading private schools matters related to debt securities.
‘Good knowledge of the sector; responsive to client needs;’
‘Individuals have good industry knowledge – they have built up a good working relationship with us and have sought to understand our needs and to build responses based on this.’
‘They are responsive to requests for meetings and creative in thinking through potential solutions.’
Academies Enterprise Trust
The Dragon School
North London Collegiate
The United Westminster and Greycoat Foundation
Kings School, Ely
Haberdashers’ Aske’s School
- Advised Rugby School on its debut private placement of debt securities
- Advising Brentwood School on a £30m private placement of debt securities, the first in the history of the School, to fund enhancements on the School estate.
- Advised North London Collegiate School on a £17m private placement of debt securities with a UK investor, to fund developments on the School campus
Trowers & Hamlins LLP's practice focuses on real estate transactions, including acquiring sites for new schools and advising on construction and mixed-use sites. The team is led by Assad Maqbool, who leads on work for the Secretary of State for Education in relation to free schools, and Amardeep Gill, who advises on commercial education matters for central government and local authorities.
Assad Maqbool; Amardeep Gill
‘Trowers have an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the sector stemming from the long-standing support they have given to the Department for Education over the last decade. This expertise is particularly strong in the property and construction teams.’
‘The team at Trowers combine excellent technical expertise with commercial nous and it is this practical approach that I value particularly highly.’
- Advised the DfE on the construction and property aspect of over 100 schools projects from acquisition to refurbishment or new build (permanent and temporary).
Winckworth Sherwood LLP advises multi-academy trusts, local authorities and teaching unions, among other organisations, on a range of issues including parental complaints, special educational needs and safeguarding. In addition to the new challenges presented by COVID-19, the practice has advised on problems resulting from the inappropriate use of TikTok. The team is led by Andrea Squires who works with dioceses and advises on estate regeneration, PFI and disputes. Aida Smajlovic was promoted to partner in April 2022.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team knows the context of the employment dispute within the education sector, inside out. It is unusual to have employment experts with such a specialist knowledge of the education sector, and is of huge benefit to their clients.’
‘Aida Smajlovic’s judgement is spot-on as a result of her extensive experience within employment law, but her specialist expertise within the sector sets her apart from her competitors. She is a shining light of sensible, practical advice for her education clients but she is also tenacious and tough in support of her clients’ best interests.’
‘The team at Winckworth Sherwood are extremely accessible and their legal knowledge is excellent. They provide pragmatic advice in an accessible way. I always feel supported and our working relationship feels like a partnership. If I have a query which requires specialist legal advice, the partner or associate I am speaking to will either consult with a colleague, or will forward my query to the relevant specialist team.’
‘I have worked with a number of individuals at Winckworth Sherwood. However, my stand-out partner is Aida Smajlovic. I have worked with her on a number of complex disciplinary and grievance investigations. She has always provided timely advice and I always feel that Aida is happy to talk through issues and scenarios. Her advice is always practical and robust.’
‘Nothing is ever too much trouble for the Winckworth Sherwood team; they are simultaneously professional and personable. People are at the heart of their practice and they take the time to really get to know their clients’ needs in order to deliver a bespoke, efficient and outstanding service.’
‘The team at Winckworth Sherwood have real expertise in the overlap between employment and education law, and the particularly complexities that that can give rise to. I am impressed by their knowledge of the nuances created by employers being, for example, charities, faith schools, and academies. Their advice is practical and commercial but, importantly, sector specific.’
‘Aida Smajlovic is great with clients. Her advice is commercial and always extremely objective-focused for clients. She understands what clients want and need to achieve, and helps them navigate the relevant areas of law to achieve those objectives.’
‘Unusually within education law, Winckworth Sherwood have leading solicitors with experience of acting on both the school-side and parent-side which assists them when acting for schools. They are impressive at dealing with discrimination law issues.’
The Bishop’s Stortford High School
St Joseph’s Catholic Academy Trust
Diocese of Hallam
The Church of England Education Office (also known as the National Society
East Barnet School
All Saints Catholic School
The Bishop’s Stortford High School
The Association of Muslim Schools
London Borough of Haringey
Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust
Herts for Learning Multi Academy Trust
Catholic Education Service
- Assisted the establishment of a turnaround MAT project, a pilot project run by the Department for Education, focusing on schools which have been failing for some and where all the usual intervention triggers have been exhausted.
- Successfully acted for All Saints Catholic School in defending a number of employment tribunal claims brought by former employees of the school. The claims related to unfair dismissal and whistleblowing.
- Providing schools with a range of support on various issues which have arisen in schools as a result of Covid-19, which have touched on a number of specialisms including contracts, parental complaints, special educational needs, data protection, safeguarding, employment law.
Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP has overseen a number of major academy conversions and transfers in addition to advising on governance, commercial and property matters. The team is led by Kevin Robertson, who specialises in local authority and school matters including academy conversions and the Priority School Building Programme, and Iain Greenshields, who advises local authorities including a number of major city councils on construction projects. Emma Moody advises on mergers, collaborations and complex governance issues.
Kevin Robertson; Iain Greenshields
Other key lawyers:
‘WBD always provides high quality service and supported by excellent customer relationships. Other firms don’t have this dynamic combination.’
‘Attention to detail, all work and responses delivered in a timely fashion and high quality work.’
Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)
Department for Education (DfE)
Oak Learning Trust
Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust
Bishop Bewick Catholic Academy Trust
Eden Learning Trust
St Lawrence Education Trust (which operates Ampleforth College and St Martin’s Ampleforth (prep school))
Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust
Waterton Academy Trust, Wakefield
Sewell Education York Limited
Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust
Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School
Vision Academy Learning Trust
Skills for Life Trust, Kent
The Constellation Trust
Horizons Specialist Academy Trust
Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust
Bevan Brittan LLP has a track record of work with the Department for Education and the Welsh Government, particularly in developing free schools and new schools in Wales. It also advises local authorities on the impact of schools acquiring academy status. Head of practice Andrew Tobin advises on a wide range of educational matters and focuses on the construction and refurbishment of schools. He is supported by David Hutton, who handles the project finance side of education-led regeneration projects.
Other key lawyers:
‘Experience in public sector’
Department for Education
London Borough of Camden
Welsh Assembly Government
London Borough of Lewisham
Barnsley Local Education Partnership
London Borough of Hackney
City of London Corporation
South Gloucestershire Council
- Advising numerous local councils in Wales on new school building projects as part of the £1.5bn 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme.
- Advising the Department for Education on over 20 free school building projects.
- Advising the London Borough of Camden on the re-location of a free school to be co-located at the site of another school.
Blake Morgan LLP handles work for a wide range of schools, including academy, free and independent schools, particularly working in the areas of child protection, employment law and regulatory work. The practice also handles mergers and acquisitions, assists with land management acquisitions and advises diocesan authorities on faith schools. Head of the education practice Matthew Smith advises on industrial relations, strikes and restructuring of senior leadership teams. Other key members of the team include legal director Ben Brice and senior associate Kirsteen Hook.
Other key lawyers:
King Edward VI School
St Swithun’s School, Winchester
University of Chichester Multi-Academy Trust
The Portsmouth Grammar School
Winchester Diocesan Board of Finance
Solent Academies Trust
The Gallery Trust
Hamwic Education Trust
Portsmouth Grammar School
Hereford Sixth Form College/Heart of Mercia
Brighton & Hove City Council
Education Workforce Council
Teaching Regulation Agency
- Advising The Gallery Trust (which runs seven special schools dedicated to providing outstanding education and support for young people with special needs and disabilities) on proposed conversions, governance and expansion of the academy trust and providing a wide range of property services including advising on post-conversion consent applications for land dealings.
- Advising Hamwic Education Trust, which currently operates 34 academies across the South of England and has a number of community operations and partnerships, on a number of academy conversions and other governance advice and support.
- Acting as legal advisers to professional conduct panels of the Teacher Regulation Authority (and prior to that, the General Teaching Council for England) in relation to disciplinary proceedings against teachers.
Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP covers immigration, employment and debt recovery work for a growing number of schools, as well as handling cases related to SEN tribunals, discrimination and historic abuse claims. The team is led by Gemma Woodhouse, who advises on both contentious and non-contentious employment matters, with a particular focus on cases related to discrimination allegations. Associate Katie Glendinning focuses on advising independent schools in areas including the removal of pupils for behavioural issues, challenging EHCPs and admissions queries.
Other key lawyers:
‘Penningtons have excellent relationships with us as the client. Our point of contact, Katie Glendinning, is excellent. We are a relatively small school and so having a consistent point of contact helps maintain consistency for us and to build relationships with our legal partner.’
‘Katie Glendinning is exceptional. Her attention to detail is outstanding and she has taken time to understand our school and our context to best give advice that fits us. Katie’s response time allows us to act on situations quickly and I have consistently found her support to be first class.’
‘The team are knowledgeable and able to anticipate and communicate any changes which may affect our business.’
‘Gemma Woodhouse – empathetic, excellent understanding of challenges in independent schools. Clear, decisive, objective. Supports client’s direction of travel but keeps us firmly on the right side.’
‘Gemma Woodhouse is a total star – amazingly accessible, practical and responsive.’
‘Gemma Woodhouse is fantastic. She always has time for us, and provides wise, nuanced answers on any topic we need. I think it is her approachability and genuine desire to understand our specific situation that sets her apart from other legal firms we have worked with.’
‘The Employment team take time to really understand our business, the issues we face and the challenges we need to overcome. As such their advice is then tailored and bespoke and always achieves the desired results. Excellent support team for our in-house HR and Management team.’
‘Gemma Woodhouse is an outstanding business partner. She knows me, my style and my business challenges. As such she goes out of her way to offer a range of solutions all of which will achieve the desired outcome but tailored to my style. Similarly Katie Glendinning has been trained well under Gemma and is also an excellent business partner for myself and my business and I have worked with both individuals across various businesses over the years.’
St David’s School
Bishops Challoner School
Hemdean House School
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Elstree Schools Limited
Caversham Preparatory School
The Oratory Schools Association
Shrewsbury House School Trust
The Licensed Trade Charity
Arnold Lodge School
King’s House School
Association for the Education and Guardianship of International students
Derby Grammar School
Beaconsfield Educational Trust (Davenies)
Prior’s Field School
Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship
Notre Dame Prep School
Cambridge Tutors College
The Stephen Perse Foundation
Falkner House Preparatory School
Mander Portman Woodward
- Assisting with the removal of a bursary for a vulnerable child as a result of safeguarding concerns regarding the child’s conduct at school and ancillary issues regarding his placement going forward.
- Advising on the exclusion of a student with various learning difficulties, and disciplinary action to be taken against another student as a result of an altercation between the two students, and exchanging inappropriate messages on social media.
- Advising a leading independent school on the proposed withdrawal from the TPS, including collective consultation requirements and potential employee grievances, industrial action and union recognition.
Sharpe Pritchard LLP works on schooling matters with reference to both local government and central government. Much of the work is focused on construction and property, although the practice also handles apprenticeship training and teacher recruitment. The team is led by Annie Moy, who specialises in the construction and establishment of new schools, and head of services Tim Farr, whose focus is on procurement and strategic public-private partnerships.
Annie Moy; Tim Farr
Hammersmith and Fulham Council
East Sussex County Council
Withers LLP advises schools in relation to property, data protection and reputation management. Its work with academy trusts dates back to advising the first academy conversion back in 2003. The team is led by Alison Paines, who advises charities and non-profits, Chris Priestley, who handles commercial projects, and Philip Reed, who advises independent schools, academy trusts and other education providers on critical issues including governance, strategic advice and restructuring.
Alison Paines; Chris Priestley; Philip Reed
‘What is unique is having US charity specialists in London and UK charity specialists in New York. You don’t get sent from pillar to post (which happens with other firms who also ‘claim’ a dual-qualified mix).’
- Advised SEEK Group, as lead investor in the GBP 15M Series B financing into MyTutor, with participation from existing investors.