Education in North West

Browne Jacobson LLP

The team at Browne Jacobson LLP in Manchester offers education clients a broad skillset, covering governance issues, strategic advice, employment matters and everyday safeguarding issues. Special educational needs is also a growing area of their work. Innovative solutions tailored to client’s needs include an education specific free-access platform containing advice, guidance and model documents to deal with challenges brought on by the pandemic. Practice head Dai Durbridge is a highly regarded education expert with specialisms in safeguarding and data protection while Ian Deakin is an experienced employment lawyer. Tom Briant-Evans joined as senior associate in March 2021 from Michelmores LLP bringing in a wealth of expertise on multi-academy trusts governance.

Practice head(s):

Dai Durbridge

Other key lawyers:

Ian Deakin; Tom Briant-Evans; Eleanor Drabble


‘The good thing about working with Browne Jacobson is that it never really matters which member of the team you are working with. Every colleague is exceptional. There is never any variation from the highest possible standards and there is such a wide range of experience that you are always working with an expert.’

‘The key people our team works with are Dai Durbridge, Eleanor Drabble and Tom Briant-Evans. They are all incredibly professional, offering high quality advice and support with very fast turnaround times.’

‘The team in the North West are not only incredibly knowledgeable and instil confidence when seeking advice, but they are also practical and have a firm understanding of the education sector. Their advice is well structured, demonstrates an understanding of the impact upon the work environment and is always delivered in a friendly, timely yet professional manner.’

‘The HR and Legal team at Browne Jacobson are extremely dedicated and supportive and never fail to provide us with sound advice. They respond quickly and will always provide back up information to support any questions. We use the MATPP service where a dedicated team who have a wide range of knowledge are available to contact. I find that they respond quickly and generous with their time and knowledge and will always refer on any questions they cannot answer initially to another colleague. They demonstrate strong collaboration across the HR and legal teams, provide us with legal and best practice guidance and excellent courses, webinars and document templates. Our MAT is enriched by their knowledge, expertise and service.’

‘We have been really pleased with the speed of service and professional advice we have received. Strong relationships and trust in the service are a strength of the practice. We have been able to liaise with experts on complex issues. We have procured several engaging and bespoke training sessions for our trust employees. We have also used Browne Jacobson for converting academies to our trust, which has been successful, even when the conversion was complex, e.g. land ownership.’

‘Broad skillset. Rapid, clear, concise advice. Generous time allocation to issues.’

‘Excellent support from Browne Jacobson. Their extensive knowledge of the education sector gives our organisation peace of mind regarding all legal aspects. Whenever I have contracted the firm I always receive a timely response and partners and associates are always available to talk through any queries and concerns.’

‘The key for the individuals who work for the company is that they have a deep understanding of the ears of law that affect the education sector, Dai Durbridge is our partner and he bring the clarity in the areas of law he is proficient in to bar on the advice provided, but brings in specialist as and when needed.’

Key clients

Accord Multi-Academy Trust

Achievement Through Collaboration Trust

Aspire Education Trust

Beckfoot Trust

Blessed Thomas Holford Catholic College

Brigshaw Learning Partnership

Castleford Academy Trust

Champion Education Trust

Cheshire Academies Trust

Consilium Academies

Cumbria Education Trust

Dixons Academies Trust


Ebor Academies Trust

Education Learning Trust

Forward as one C of E Multi-Academy trust

Greater Manchester Learning Trust

Hope Learning Trust York

Keswick School Multi-Academy Trust

Learner Engagement and Achievement Partnership MAT

Learning Accord Multi-Academy Trust

Legacy Learning Trust

Leodis Multi-Academy Trust

North West Academies Trust

Oak Learning Partnership

Oak Trees Multi-Academy Trust

Optimus Education

Pembrokeshire College

Rodillian Multi Academy Trust

Sea View Trust

SS Simon and Jude C of E Multi Academy Trust

The Enquire Learning Trust

The True Learning Partnership

Trinity Multi Academy Trust

Warrington Primary Academies Trust

West Lakes Multi-Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Acted for various schools and academy trusts on numerous complex academy projects, including re-brokerages, trust-to-trust transfers and conversion to academy status, dealing with the governance, property and employment issue and supporting our clients with onboarding the new academy(ies).
  • Supporting education clients with all of their legal advice needs, including admissions, exclusions, SEN, disability discrimination, safeguarding, GDPR/data protection, governance, employment and HR issues, commercial disputes and intellectual property advice.
  • Creating and delivering a range of innovative and engaging training courses for various schools and academy trusts to support the personal and professional development of clients’ people. Courses for specialist roles such as data protection officers, designated safeguarding leads, and people managers supplement courses for wider groups such as governors and all staff. Additional offer of EduCompli- online staff training packages.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Clients of the Manchester-based practice at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP include an array of higher education providers as well as further education providers and private education institutions. The team acts on employment and immigration issues as well as student matters, covering both contentious and non-contentious work. Recent areas of focus encompass issues of sexual harassment and misconduct, cyber-security, student accommodation and academic freedom. Practice head Diane Gilhooley is a highly regarded education and employment specialist. Robert Gray is a go-to expert for employment and governance matters, while Simon Chamberlain  regularly handles construction projects. Senior associate Siân Jones-Davies  specialises in regulatory matters and student issues.

Practice head(s):

Diane Gilhooley

Other key lawyers:

Robert Gray; Simon Chamberlain; Siân Jones-Davies


‘Responsive and experts in their fields.’

‘Robert Gray has been consistently excellent over a number of years.’

‘I have worked with Eversheds over many years primarily on employment cases and have always found them easy to work with. Their people are very commercial, professional and rational.’

‘Robert is always excellent to work with and I cannot recommend him highly enough. He is diligent, tenacious and also very pragmatic.’

‘We hold the Managing Partner Diane Gilhooley, in high regard, having worked with her for 20 years.’

‘The Education team is particularly helpful because of its sector-specific focus which enables it to provide insight and focussed, tailored advice and support.’

‘The customer facing approach provided by Eversheds; their speed of response; their obvious specialism and current knowledge of the further education sector.’

‘Robert Gray – speedy response and general approach to working through any issues to provide clear advice. Robert and Diane Gilhooley have also provided information events for Governors and staff to bring people up to date with latest developments.’

Key clients

University of Bradford

Manchester Metropolitan University

Sheffield Hallam University

Harper Adams University

London South Bank University

University of Central Lancashire

Cardinal Newman College

Loughborough University

Middlesex University

University of Manchester

Work highlights

  • Advising multiple universities on their response to a coordinated campaign of national industrial action by academic staff over pay and pensions.
  • Advising a network of overseas (mostly US) education providers, on their resumption of education activities in the UK in the Summer of 2021 (including advising on their obligations under UK health and safety, privacy, employment, student contract and consumer laws).
  • Advising the University of Manchester on the next phase of the £1.5 billion landmark development of its North Campus site.

Weightmans LLP

The Weightmans LLP practice is primarily noted for its focus on higher education, regularly assisting universities with large strategic projects, including academy-industry joint ventures as well as with employment issues and construction projects. The team also advises on students’ claims as well as highly sensitive situations such as on-campus deaths and suicides. Based in Manchester, practice head Martin Vincent focuses on joint ventures, collaboration, income generation and procurement arrangements while Josh Conroy specialises in high-value litigation and contractual claims. Employment lawyer Claire Hollins departed the practice in July 2021.

Practice head(s):

Martin Vincent

Other key lawyers:

Josh Conroy; Melanie Steed


‘Weightmans provide us with an excellent, timely service.’

‘Melanie Steed provides exceptional service with her availability and the standard and delivery of the information she provides.’


Key clients

Lancaster University

University of Cumbria

London Business School


University of Leeds

Solent University

Royal College of Physicians

University of Leicester

Newcastle University

Liverpool University

Work highlights

  • Acting for University of Cumbria in the creation of its campus in Barrow in Furness.
  • Acting for Lancaster University in the resolution of student complaints.
  • Acting for Leicester University in a series of multi-million £ construction disputes.

Forbes Solicitors

Forbes Solicitors acts for multi-academy trusts, Further Education colleges, independent schools and schools within the public sector. It offers a broad range of expertise ranging from employment, data protection issues to governance, procurement and contracts. Jonathan Holden heads the team in Central Lancashire with experience in local government pension schemes and employment law. Ruth Rule-Mullen is noted for her work advising clients on trade union relations. Public sector lawyer Gemma Duxbury was promoted to partner in May 2022 and Laura McHugh joined the practice from Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP in April 2022.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Holden

Other key lawyers:

Ruth Rule-Mullen; Gemma Duxbury; Laura McHugh


‘The education team have an exceptional knowledge of the Academies Programme and they are fully conversant with the latest government papers.’

‘Gemma Duxbury is very personable and this enables clients to relax as they understand she will fully support them during the conversion process.’

‘Excellent knowledge of the Education Sector, solid practical advice, supportive networking.’

‘Bespoke service with detailed consideration given to any HR queries that arise.’

‘Forbes provide our GDPR & DPO service. They are exceptional in their communication and appreciation of education pressures and timescales. They clearly have extensive knowledge of the area in question, and are always minded to explain clearly in simple terms to ensure we understand in school. There is little legal jargon used; rather they ensure we are armed with the relevant knowledge.’

Key clients

Blackburn College


Preston’s College

The Spencer Academy Trust

The Gorse Academies Trust

Rossall School

Bolton School

Penwortham Priory Academy

Lostock Hall Academy

Education Partnership Trust

Cidari Multi-Academy Trust

Nelson & Colne College

Pendle Education Trust

Chaigeley School

The Aspire Foundation

QEGS Blackburn Academy Trust

Romero Academy Trust

True Learning Partnership

Dunstone Academy Trust

Sea View

Work highlights

  • Assisted the trust True Learning Partnership in the management of a serious safeguarding issue; Drawing on extensive specialist experience in this area, advising on the implications of “Keeping Children Safe in Education” as well as liaison with the Local Authority Designated Officer.
  • Assisting a Multi Academy Trust with the implementation programme of bringing new Schools into the Trust.
  • Assisted a Faith School with an Islamic ethos on the successful implementation of mandatory Relationships and Health Education.

Hill Dickinson LLP

The team at Hill Dickinson LLP provides a broad range of services for schools and academies, as well as universities and colleges. It is noted for advising academy trust clients in trade union matters. For schools and academies it deals with various issues including disability discrimination claims and data protection. Luke Green co-heads the practice with expertise in employment and education, particularly in the schools sector.  Practice co-head Joe Orme is experienced with academy trusts and maintained schools. Senior associate Charlotte Hart is also noted.

Practice head(s):

Luke Green

Other key lawyers:

Charlotte Hart

Key clients

Feversham Education Trust

Endeavour Learning Trust

Essa Foundation Academies Trust

Cranmer Education Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising Feversham Education Trust on the rebrokerage of Queensbury Academy to Trinity Multi Academy Trust.
  • Advising an independent review panel on a permanent exclusion challenge.
  • Advising Essa Foundation Academy Trust on a governance review.

Mills & Reeve LLP

The practice at Mills & Reeve LLP offers wide sector expertise, including higher education, research legislation and regulation, bonds placement, student accommodation projects and campus development. Sara Barrett, who is based in Manchester and Richard Skyes in both Manchester and Birmingham co-head the practice; the former with a focus on handling employment issues for clients, the latter with experience in data protection, governance, liability and compliance issues among others. Also of note is Paul Knight’s work on technology use and data protection.

Practice head(s):

Richard Sykes; Sara Barrett

Other key lawyers:

Christian Bull; Paul Knight; Catherine Kay


‘Wide ranging experience across all aspects of Higher Education. Mills and Reeve have a number of partners and paralegals with expertise across the sector. Attention to detail and speed of response, often over long periods, are especially noteworthy.’

‘Richard Sykes – attention to detail, personal approach, excellent follow up. Takes care to ensure all aspects of a case are covered and that the client understands fully what action should be taken.’

‘Known experts in the field and good local knowledge.’

‘Mills & Reeve’s education practice is second to none. The team have significant experience in this area which they are able to apply in a practical and user friendly way, navigating and supporting through thorny issues, providing creative solutions.’

‘Richard Skyes is a stand out lawyer, who is responsive and nice to deal with, giving piece of mind that a matter has been thoroughly considered.’

‘Very knowledgeable about the sector and a “go to” firm when needing higher education specialist advice.’

‘Adaptable, responsive, and with specialists who really understand the sector and can adapt to a range of complex situations. Easily our go-to practice for anything public-law or HE-law related.’

‘Richard Sykes in particular is outstanding – intelligent, incisive and able to see to the heart of complex high-risk situations; equally good at thinking on his feet and at giving considered advice on multi-dimensional nuanced issues, and exceptional in his ability to tailor advice and explanations to specific organisational circumstances.’

Key clients

Academies Enterprise Trust

Arden University

Birmingham City University

Buckinghamshire New University

Cardiff University

Coventry University

Lancaster University

LTE Group

Manchester Metropolitan University

Nottingham Trent University

Royal Northern College of Music

Sheffield Hallam University

South & City College Birmingham

The University of Birmingham

University of Exeter

University of London

University of Liverpool

The University of Manchester

The University of Nottingham

University of Salford

University of Worcester

Work highlights

  • Advising University of Salford throughout the process of the appointment of their private sector development partner to implement their £850 million masterplan. Have also advised the University on its collaboration with Barratt Homes to develop a lived in experimental zero carbon home on campus.
  • Advising Nottingham Trent University on data protection compliance. Following the end of the Brexit transition period and the entry into force of the UK GDPR.
  • Provided extensive advice to an education institution that was called to give evidence to the Manchester Arena Inquiry. This covered responding to the MAI’s request for documentary evidence, supporting witnesses to the Inquiry and advising in connection with the Inquiry’s request for a confidentiality undertaking as well as on a related FOI request.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Regularly acting on behalf of the traditional university sector as well as new entrants to the market and independent providers, the team at Pinsent Masons LLP is able to support campus development projects as well as advise on immigration questions and data projects. Its work in education finance is also of note, as the team supports lenders and borrowers and is placing a focus on sustainable financing for higher education. Victoria Goddard  heads the team from Leeds. Key lawyer Michael Pocock in Manchester has a wealth of experience in large developments such as student accommodation projects or campus buildings.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Goddard

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Brocklehurst; Pippa Whitmore; Michael Pocock

Key clients

King’s College London

University College London

University of Huddersfield

The University of Sheffield

Bricks Salford Quay Land Limited / Bricks Salford 2 Land Limited / Bricks Capital Holdings Limited

University of Chester

London Legacy Development Corporation

Work highlights

  • Advising King’s College on what is understood to be the Higher Education sector’s first fund raising under a sustainability finance framework.
  • Acting for University College London (UCL) on the Higher Education sector’s first public listed sustainability bond.
  • Acting for the University of Chester in their search for an investment partner to help realise its vision for the future of Thornton Science Park to create the UK’s first Net Zero Industrial Cluster in Ellesmere Port.

Simpson Millar LLP

The practice at Simpson Millar LLP draws on in-depth experience of education law and social care issues. A key area of expertise is the firm's work on parents and children issues, especially regarding representation of vulnerable families at judicial reviews and Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) tribunals. They are also able to advise education providers on special education needs and discrimination issues or advise on Education Health and Care plans issued by local authorities. Sarah Woosey, based in Leeds, heads the education team.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Woosey

Other key lawyers:

Imogen Jolley


‘The level of speciality, and the family and claimant focus, are second to none.’

‘Sarah Woosey, Imogen Jolley: Excellent. Approachability and knowledge of the sector make these individuals stand out. They are absolute stars.

‘Simpson Millar is the leading team for edcuation claimant law in terms of numbers, talent and national coverage.’

Work highlights