Next Generation Partners

Rising Stars

Education in North

Muckle LLP

Based in Newcastle, Muckle LLP’s public sector education team takes on a range of matters for universities and further education providers, both regionally and nationally. Head of the sport, education and charities group Tony McPhillips is known for advising FE and HE institutes, schools and multi-academy trusts on major reorganisations, restructuring and employment processes. Joanne Davison is sought out by multi-academy trusts and FE institutes for advice on governance structures, frequently working on academy conversion, transfer and college merger projects. Employment law expert Jill Donabie is a key contact for clients on employment-related education matters. The trio often work together on matters involving employment law, data protection mandates and discrimination disputes. Real estate specialist Richard Nixon provides key support on property and land law issues related to academy conversion and school transfer projects.

Practice head(s):

Tony McPhillips; Joanne Davison; Jill Donabie

Other key lawyers:

Richard Nixon


‘Muckle’s education team is superb. They are highly knowledgeable of the education sector, very professional in their approach, and they are both compassionate and clear when dealing with sensitive issues.’

‘Joanne Davison is always a very positive and solution-focused individual. She has a depth of knowledge in the sector and where issues cross over into other legal areas she always finds answers for us. She is highly professional, courteous and goes the extra mile.’

‘Working with Muckle is always a pleasure, the team make things very clear to us which is helpful when dealing with complex issues. The respond very quickly and are always available to support.’

‘Richard Nixon is very responsive and progresses land issues with a problem solving and determined approach.’

‘Joanne Davison is responsive, pragmatic and always prepared to discuss a complex situation to come up with the most appropriate advice and solution.’

‘Jill Donabie is our lead partner and is very knowledgeable and helpful. She always responds quickly with a view of making our job a lot easier.’

‘Joanne Davison is great to work with. She is very knowledgeable of the education sector and the local education landscape and is also very approachable and an excellent communicator.’

‘The team at Muckle is always very helpful and knowledgeable. We have always had our queries and requests addressed promptly with professionalism. The team know our sector very well and have the skills to help us address our issues.’

Key clients


Tyne Coast College

Bishop Auckland College

Bournemouth and Poole College

New College Durham

Newcastle University

University of Northumbria

Sunderland University

Spurgeon’s College

SMART Multi Academy Trust

Sedbergh School

Dame Allan’s Schools

Three Rivers Learning Trust

Emmanuel Schools Foundation

River Tees Multi Academy Trust

East Durham College

Park View School

Balmoral Learning Trust

Aspire Multi Academy Trust

Northumberland Church of England Academy

NEAT Academy Trust

Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Learning Trust

Tyne Coast Academy Trust

Northern Leaders Academy Trust

Cramlington Learning Village

Pele Trust

Castle View Enterprise Academy

Tyne Community Learning Trust

Advance Learning Partnership

Bishop Bewick Catholic Education Trust

Nicholas Postgate Catholic Education Trust

North Tyneside Learning Trust

Work highlights

  • Providing day to day legal support to the FE provider, NCG. This includes employment, student affairs, property, governance, commercial and data protection and dispute resolution guidance.
  • Advised on the implementation of the academisation plan of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. This involved advising 2 MATs on the conversion into and transfer of all Catholic schools within the defined area.
  • Advising Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust on a range of day-to-day legal issues ranging from employment matters, commercial and data protection. We have also supported with strategic growth and completed significant projects for the MAT.

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP’s Newcastle-based education team is known for advising major public sector bodies, universities and academy trusts on large-scale conversion and expansion projects as well as governance issues. Head of the firm’s projects and procurement team. Practice head Kevin Robertson regularly works with education trusts seeking advice on property arrangements with third party occupiers, shared use facilities and statutory land transfer matters, as well as unregistered land issues pertaining to conversion projects. The team leverages the expertise of the head of charities Emma Moody to advise school boards on governance matters. A member of the projects and procurement team, Ian Greenshields dispenses advice on PFI, PPP, and school building projects. Managing associate Peter Cantwell remains a key contact for the public sector bodies seeking assistance with school building programmes.

Practice head(s):

Kevin Robertson

Other key lawyers:

Emma Moody; Iain Greenshields; Peter Cantwell


‘Kevin Robertson and his team are exemplary in terms of professionalism and dedication to the brief.’

‘Kevin Robertson and his team always go the extra mile and respond positively to every approach.’

‘Good communication; quick and accurate information provided; good breadth of knowledge.’

Key clients

Education & Skills Funding Agency

Department for Education


Bradford Girls Grammar School

Staffordshire University

Stoke on Trent City Council

Durham University

Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust

Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust

Bishop Bewick Catholic Academy Trust

Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust

Waterton Academy Trust, Wakefield

Sewell Education York Limited

Newcastle upon Tyne Royal Grammar School

Pocklington School

Vision Academy Learning Trust

Skills for Life Trust, Kent

The Constellation Trust

Horizons Specialist Academy Trust

Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising Staffordshire University on its new £100m+ Student Village Project. The Project comprises the new build of approximately 700 student beds, the construction of a shared hub facility and the subsequent provision of hard facilities management services for an operational period of up to 50 years.
  • Advising multiple academy trusts on academy conversions.
  • Advised St Margaret Clitherow Catholic Academy Trust on the commercial aspects of the transfer of 17 academies across York, North Yorkshire and the East Riding as part of the Diocese of Middlesbrough’s schools restructure.

Ward Hadaway LLP

Ward Hadaway LLP is routinely sought out by academy trusts for wide-ranging advice on governance, conversion instructions, employment, data protection and property matters. Head of the education law team Graham Vials, and procurement, PFI and education specialist Tim Care regularly collaborate to advise clients on school conversions to trusts. Real estate practitioner Neil Smith specialises in the development of new technical college facilities, while managing associate Katy Milner supports public sector real estate projects and advises schools and local authorities in academy conversion and re-brokerage processes. Employment team associate Tom Shears notably acts for clients in discrimination disputes.

Practice head(s):

Graham Vials

Other key lawyers:

Neil Smith; Tim Care; Katy Milner; Tom Shears


‘Very experienced in the local and regional market.’

‘Graham Vials is excellent.’

‘Tom Shears has knowledge far beyond his years of experience and is definitely a rising star in the profession – an excellent court room advocate.’

‘Graham has worked in education for many years and is confident and very knowledgable in all things education law.’

Key clients

Crescent Purchasing Consortium

Delta Academies Trust

Leeds Diocesan Learning Trust

Northern Education Trust

Sunderland College

East Durham College

Newcastle University

Melrose Learning Trust

Durham County Council

Areté Learning Trust

Work highlights