Education in West Midlands

Browne Jacobson LLP

Browne Jacobson LLP‘s ‘first class’ education team offers a comprehensive practice with a strong focus on higher education in the West Midlands and across the UK. The team is known for being deft with complex, political and media-sensitive issues. Nick MacKenzie leads the team, acting as a key contact for many of the firm’s significant clients. He has a wealth of experience in advising executives, chairs and trustees in relation to governance and strategic projects. Richard Freeth leads the national education team’s advisory practice and supports schools on a range of issues including admission arrangements, Equality Act issues, clerking appeals and parental complaints. Helen Badger  has expertise in employment law matters affecting education. Associates Lydia Michaelson-Yeates and Hayley O’Sullivan are key members of the team. Senior associate Philip Wood is experienced in advising school and academies on issues relating to the Equality Act.

Practice head(s):

Nick MacKenzie

Other key lawyers:

Richard Freeth; Nick Mackenzie; Lydia Michaelson-Yeates; Hayley O’Sullivan; Philip Wood

Testimonials

First class in all aspects of Educational law e.g. admissions, SEND, exclusions, GDPR and HR.’

‘the support we receive from Richard Freith and Mark Bois is exceptional’

‘My main contact at Browne Jacobson is Lydia Michaelson-Yeates (Legal Director) who is always very approachable and prepared to take time to listen to my needs.’

‘The education team that I interact with at Browne Jacobson are ultimate professionals. They constantly provide sound advice based on having a robust understanding of the current contest with a consideration of where the sector is moving in the near future.’

‘Browne Jacobson offers an all-encompassing service that is forward-thinking and allows our sector the space to consider the issues and opportunities open to us through the forums they facilitate above and beyond the industry standard.’

‘Nick Mackenzie is always the individual that stands out for me. He fosters an environment for me to question what I thought I knew through his quite brilliant, simple questioning of the context within which we work.’

‘Lydia Michaelson-Yeates is personable, pragmatic, clear and responsive. I have confidence in her advice and she always makes the time to talk things through if I am unclear on anything or have concerns. She always seeks to understand the needs of our Trust.’

‘Philip Wood acts as a client lead for us and always provides pragmatic and timely support as needed’

Key clients

Arthur Terry Learning Partnership

Bath and North East Somerset Council

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Brooke Weston Trust

Elliot Foundation Academies Trust

Falcon Education Academies Trust

GLF Schools

King’s College London

Lion Academy Trust

Northampton Primary Academy Trust

Outwood Grange Academies Trust

Shaw Education Trust

University of Hertfordshire

Warwick Independent Schools Foundation

Work highlights

  • Defended an application for an injunction to stop the implementation of a trust’s policy on face masks in the first nationally known case of its kind (AB v the Trustees of the Tapton School Academy Trust [2021] EWHC 1160 (QB)).
  • Supported this successful school trust on its continued growth and continue to provide full-service advice across legal and HR.
  • Advised a consortium 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.

Mills & Reeve LLP

The varied client base at Mills & Reeve LLP includes major universities, further education colleges, multi-academy trusts, schools and public sector bodies. The team advises on a wide range of matters, such as acquisitions, finance, research misconduct, pensions, charity law, student union issues and freedom of information. Nick Abbott is an experienced employment lawyer who advises on issues including discrimination claims and large scale reorganisations. He co-leads the team with Richard Sykes , who advises education institutions on public and administrative law, education disputes and information governance. Christian Bull  is real estate education lawyer whose experience extends to acquisitions and disposals, leasebacks, due diligence, shared services and student accommodation. Principal associate Helen Tringham is another important name who specialises in public law and data protection matters.

Practice head(s):

Nick Abbott; Richard Sykes

Other key lawyers:

Clare Grice; Christian Bull; Helen Tringham; Robbie Turner

Testimonials

In-depth knowledge of the sector. Sound advice and always readily available to deal with issues promptly’

‘Richard Sykes – keen ability to apply theory to difficult issues in order to reach a sound yet workable solution’

‘Helen Tringham – Reliable and articulate with an in-depth knowledge’

‘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 multidimensional nuanced issues, and exceptional in his ability to tailor advice and explanations to specific organisational circumstances.’

‘Approachable, pragmatic practical advice.’

‘Christian Bull and Robbie Turner – both have a deep understanding of the Higher Education sector and the issues faced by Universities.’

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

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 the University of Birmingham on the £210m Birmingham Health Innovation Campus. The world-class life science campus for the West Midlands will create new jobs and accelerate the development and deployment of new drugs, diagnostics and healthcare technologies to patients.
  • Acted for a Russell Group university responding to threatened judicial review proceedings alleging that it had failed to comply with Public Sector Equality Duty when rejecting an individual’s application for a post related to equality and diversity issues.
  • Advising Coventry University on the expansion and development of the University’s London campus by the creation of two new branches.

Pinsent Masons LLP

The ‘highly committed and responsive’ education team at Pinsent Masons LLP has a strong focus on the higher education sector, offering a unique sector insight into senior level secondments and appointments. It also frequently advises clients on sales and acquisitions, joint ventures, IP agreements and TUPE transfers. Team head Gayle Ditchburn is known for her wealth of experience in regulatory, constitutional and governance issues, and her deep understanding of university governance. She works closely with senior associate Rami Labib, who specialises in outsourcings, regulation, commercial contracts, joint ventures and mergers.

Practice head(s):

Victoria Goddard; Gayle Ditchburn

Other key lawyers:

Helen Corde; Amy Flavell; Rami Labib

Testimonials

‘The team was highly responsive to short, pressurised deadlines and the advice was thorough and comprehensive.’

‘The advice is thorough but also pragmatic’

‘The Pinsent Masons team have an excellent knowledge of Higher Education and combine detailed knowledge of the law (including consumer protection and immigration and visa law) with a pragmatic approach.’

‘Highly committed  and responsive, with a knowledge that combines the law with commercial and reputational imperatives.’

‘Good experience of HE and the ever changing regulatory framework.’

‘Rebecca Stephen – excellent on a complex long running piece of multi party litigation’

Key clients

Royal College of Art

Aston University

Istituto Marangoni Limited

INTO University Partnerships Limited

University of Nottingham

University College London

London School of Economics

College of Legal Practice Limited

Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority

University of Birmingham

Kings’ College London

University of the Arts London

UCFB

University of Plymouth

University of Cardiff

Royal Holloway, University of London

Work highlights

  • Advised King’s College London in relation to its long-term strategic relationship with The Courtauld Institute of Art
  • Acted for the University of Birmingham on its procurement of a partner for the development of a project comprising the construction of 496 new student accommodation beds, stock transfer and refurbishment of 734 existing student beds as well as the construction of a multi-storey car park.
  • Acted for University College London (UCL) on the Higher Education sector’s first public listed sustainability bond.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP

Shakespeare Martineau LLP has a strong contentious and non-contentious offering for university and college clients, including estates matters, employment advice, disputes, complex governance, partnerships and regulatory and policy work. The head of the team is Smita Jamdar , a ‘genuine authority in the higher education sector’ who specialises in governance, student facing and constitutional matters for leading universities. David Browne is the lead employment partner for the majority of the team’s education clients and Geraldine Swanton advises universities and colleges on student complaints, discipline, fitness to practise and equality and human rights law.

Practice head(s):

Smita Jamdar

Other key lawyers:

David Browne; Geraldine Swanton

Testimonials

‘The team really understand the sector and their clients. They always listen fully to the client’s requirements and the context in which the advice/guidance is being sought, before offering advice tailored to the specific situation.’

‘The partners and solicitors are well informed, approachable and provide clear and relevant information to the cases where we have instructed them to act for us. They have an excellent understanding of educational law and the areas that we come across when dealing with student matters. Their advice and communication is always focussed and tailored to the facts of the case, is direct and consistent, highlighting and recommending the approach we should take and the implications this could have on the case.’

‘Shakespeare Martineau provide expert knowledge of higher education legislation and are highly proactive at engaging with the higher education sector to both share and deepen their understanding.’

‘The team are always extremely helpful and flexible where urgency is required. The advice is always excellent technically, but with a focus on pragmatic and tailored to the needs we have as a customer.’

‘Expert knowledge of the sector. Practical advice tailored to minimise risk in best possible way without impeding progress. Good updates on key issues for sector on a regular basis.’

‘Smita Jamdar listens to the concerns, is quick to understand the picture and advises on the full case, bringing in other relevant factors to the case. The advice given sets out implications, risks and consequences in each case, so we are able to make informed choices on how we proceed.’

‘Smita Jamdar in particular is excellent – an informed and engaging speaker, always willing to go above and beyond to share her expertise.’

‘Smita Jamdar is insightful and a genuine authority in the higher education sector.’

Key clients

University of Hertfordshire

Brunel University

University of Cambridge

University of Worcester

University of Exeter

UCLAN

University of Sheffield

University College London

Cardiff University

University of Roehampton

Bournemouth University

Liverpool John Moore University

Leicester College

Barnsley College

Wiltshire College

Dudley College

Abingdon and Witney College

North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College

Quality Assurance Agency

West Dean College

University of the Arts London

University of Derby

Staffordshire University

Aberystwyth University

University of West London

University of Lincoln

SOAS

Derby College

Work highlights

  • Acting on the acquisition of Ruskin College.
  • Acting on the Infinity Park manufacturing technology and innovation hub.
  • Carrying out an investigation into a Russell Group university’s enterprise activities.

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP has a highly experienced education team that works with clients across all aspects of education. Over the period under review, the group has handled a number of matters arising from the pandemic; in relation to blended working, health and safety and governance and reputational risk. Other focus areas are sexual misconduct, cybersecurity, accommodation and employment. Mark Taylor advises universities and colleges on corporate, commercial and governance issues.

Practice head(s):

Diane Gilhooley; Mark Taylor

Testimonials

‘Extremely knowledgeable. Well resourced and therefore able to respond to requirements with alacrity. Feels like an extension of our organisation and that they are working to our best interests.’

‘The individuals I’ve worked with at Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP are all approachable and extremely knowledgable. You know you’re in safe hands with them and they guide you through whichever process you need.’

‘My main contact at Eversheds has been Mark Taylor, and his services have always been of high quality , pragmatic, relevant, and provided within our required timescales, sometimes at relatively short notice.’

Key clients

University of Wolverhampton

Sandwell College

Solihull College and University Centre

University of Reading

The Greater London Authority

Medical Research Council

Vanta Education (owner of BPP)

Sheffield University

Trafford College Group

LEAD Multi Academy Trust

Nova Academy Trust

University of York

Work highlights

  • Advised universities colleges, and private providers across the education sector on apprenticeships and subcontracting to the value of many hundreds of millions of pounds
  • Having advised on half of the first wave of the cutting edge Institutes of Technology, our team in Birmingham is now advising on half of the Wave 2 Institutes.
  • Advised Vanta Education, a global education network, on its sale of BPP, a professional and vocational education provider, to private equity house TDR Capital.

Shoosmiths LLP

Shoosmiths LLP stands out for its expertise in the fields of educational needs and disability, where it represents individuals in claims against local authorities. Associate Gurvinder Samra leads the team and is popular among clients for providing ‘a sense of confidence and stability’.

Practice head(s):

Gurvinder Samra; Kashmir Uppal

Testimonials

Ms Samra’s honest, expert advice enabled us to navigate a very upsetting and stressful situation regarding our daughter’s EHCP and school placement.’

‘Parents of SEN children can often feel isolated and lost within the EHCP process, but Guv Samra was always ready to listen to our deep concerns and had the needs, and the legal rights, of our child at the core of all she was attempting to achieve for us as a family.’

‘Gurvinder Samra does a brilliant job year after year in providing legal advice for my sons’s EHCP reviews.’

‘The education specialists at Shoosmiths possess a high level of knowledge and expertise, but more importantly they are friendly, efficient, and very clear and persistent in dealing with the education authorities. I was always kept informed, and my phonecalls and emails were answered promptly.’

‘Gurvinder Samra looked after my daughter’s case, both with our original application and with a subsequent funding issue the following year. Her communication was always prompt and to the point, and she was proactive in her approach, which helped a great deal with the considerable stress of fighting the local authority for funding.’

‘Gurvinder Samra was excellent. She explained everything clearly, acted quickly and kept us up to date with our case. She achieved what she said she would. We have recommended Gurvinder to others.’

‘Gurvinder Samra continues to provide excellent advice to parent/carers of potential students. She is easily accessible and keeps in contact. Gurvinder gives parents/carers a sense of confidence and stability in what they usually find is a very stressful time.’

‘The team have extensive knowledge of special educational needs and this helps support families to ensure that they receive the best possible outcomes for their child. They can navigate the system to help families understand in a way which is meaningful for them.’

Key clients

CH & JH re MH – appeal against the content of the EHCP and the placement in relation to post 19 transition

RB re LB – challenging LA school placement decision (mainstream v special)

NM & VM re HM – appeal against the content of the EHCP and placement re secondary school transition

EF re BF – appeal against the content of the EHCP and placement re post 16 transition

SR re DR – appeal against the content of the EHCP and the placement in relation to post 19 transition

LB re TB – challenging LA in respect of a unique feeding approach and provision

SL re LL – appeal against the content of the EHCP and the placement in relation to post 19 transition

Work highlights

  • Conducted and advised on First Tier SEND appeal proceedings for a young person (MH) with autism and epilepsy securing an independent specialist college placement funded by the local authority. An agreement was reached very early in the appeal proceedings which saved significantly on legal and expert costs for parents. (CH & JH) Young person was also able to begin the placement in time with her other peers despite delays experienced with the LA which meant that the lodging of appeal proceedings had to be delayed.
  • Advised a parent (RB) after a mainstream placement was named in his son’s (LB) EHC plan. Parent was seeking a specialist placement. Initial advice was provided with actions that parent could take themselves to take to strengthen parent’s case. Parent followed the actions through and the Local Authority reviewed the case and changed their decision, without the need to lodge appeal proceedings. Parent did not have to incur fees as a result.
  • Conducted and advised on First Tier SEND appeal proceedings for a child (HM) with Worster Drought Syndrome and Global Motor difficulties securing an independent specialist school placement funded by the Local Authority. An agreement was reached without the need to go to hearing which saved significantly on legal and expert costs for parents. (NM & VM).

VWV

With a reputation for ‘high quality support‘, the education team at VWV draws clients from across the education sector, including nurseries, academies and higher education institutes. The team often advises on employment issues and commercial agreements, as well as non-contentious matters such as academy transfers. Practice head Jane Byford advises universities and further education institutes on employment and human resources. Kathy Halliday is experienced in handling complex employment litigation and change management projects. Associate Tom Brett Young regularly advises universities on immigration issues for students and workers.

Practice head(s):

Jane Byford

Other key lawyers:

Kathy Halliday; Tom Brett Young; Morag Roddick

Testimonials

‘Always available to provide high quality support. Personable, approachable and friendly staff.’

‘Katie Hirst and Jane Byford, both are approachable, extremely knowledgable, empathetic, supportive and able to explain complex legal terms in a non legal way.’

‘Quite simply they are intelligent and know what they are talking about.’

‘Willing to work through advice with the client team in a practical and useful way.’

‘Kris Robbetts – approachable, delivering tailored advice in the form required.’

‘Morag Roddick is unfailingly consistent in both the quality of advice she gives us, and the professional manner in which she does it.’

Key clients

Alvechurch Church of England Multi-Academy Trust

Bath Spa University

Brunel University, London

Cathedral Schools Trust

Cheltenham Ladies College

Coventry University

De Montfort University

Dudley Academies Trust

Dudley College of Technology

Edgbaston High School for Girls

Evolve Trust

Hallfield School

King’s College London

Loughborough Endowed Schools

Loughborough University

Malvern College

Marches Academy Trust

Middlesex University

National Star College

New College Swindon

Norfolk House School

Norland College

Ormiston Academies Trust

Perryfields High School

Queen Alexandra College

Royal Academy of Music

Royal Wootton Bassett Academy Trust

Rugby School

Solihull School

South and City College Birmingham

The Blue Coat School Birmingham

The Henrietta Barnett School

University of Bath

University of Brighton

University of Bristol

University of Derby

University of East London

University of Leicester

University of Lincoln

University of South Wales

Warwick Independent Schools Foundation

Wednesbury Oak Academy

Windsor Academy Trust

Work highlights

  • Advising University of Bristol on its procurement of a reality emulator, a super computer for use by the Bristol Digital Futures Institute, which will be located at the University’s new enterprise campus.
  • Successfully defended a multi academy trust in an employment tribunal claim of unfair dismissal, whistleblowing, disability discrimination and failure to make reasonable adjustments.
  • Supporting Kingsley School with its merger into the Warwick Schools Foundation

Bevan Brittan LLP

The education team at Bevan Brittan LLP frequently acts for education clients on employment, student litigation, property and commercial matters. The team is led by Ashley Norman, who specialises in providing employment, immigration and discrimination advice to universities and higher education institutes. Rachel Soundy acts for many leading education institutions on a range of corporate and commercial matters, with notable experience in higher education mergers and acquisitions.

Practice head(s):

Ashley Norman

Other key lawyers:

Rachel Soundy; Rebecca Pendlebury

Testimonials

‘The firm is dedicated and highly professional’

‘Ashley Norman provides excellent advice and is business focused.’

‘Rachel Soundy is excellent. She spends the time getting to know clients, offers tailored advice and really does go above and beyond- in respect of fees, added value services and commitment.’

Key clients

Cardiff and Vale College

University of York

University of Oxford

De Montfort University

Birmingham City University

Work highlights

  • Advised the University of York on its collaboration agreement with CITY College, Greece.
  • Advised on and developed an innovative multi-disciplinary staff training programme for De Montfort University.
  • Advised Cardiff and Vale College on the procurement of new facilities at various campuses through the Welsh Government’s joint venture WEPCo.

Lanyon Bowdler

Lanyon Bowdler is particularly adept at advising academy trusts and independent schools on education law issues, employment law and governance matters. The team is also equipped to advise clients on real estate projects and corporate and commercial arrangements. William Morse leads the team, with a specialism in employment law relating to the education sector.

Practice head(s):

William Morse

Testimonials

‘Very approachable, knowledgeable and professional.’

Key clients

Central Shropshire Academy Trust

New Model in Technology and Engineering

Work highlights

  • Advised a client in relation to the transfer of one Academy Trust into another.
  • Advising the board of governors of a voluntary aided school in relation to the potential conversion of the school to academy status.
  • Advised the trustees and governors of constituent schools of a learning trust as to whether it had been correctly formed.