Expertise

For employer organisations we offer a genuine “cradle to grave” support service for schools, colleges and academies.  The combination of employment lawyers working with our HR consultants means we are always able to provide the correct cost effective solution to any issue or project that you might need to tackle.

Our Employment & Human Resources

For employer organisations we offer a genuine “cradle to grave” support service for schools, colleges and academies.  The combination of employment lawyers working with our HR consultants means we are always able to provide the correct cost effective solution to any issue or project that you might need to tackle.

HR Consultancy

For those organisations that have limited resource, or even those that have internal HR, this service provides cost effective support when and where it is needed.  HR consultancy services include

  • Recruitment – Helping you through the recruitment process, including working up job specifications and descriptions, adverts, as well as liaising with agencies and helping you with the interview process.
  • Reward strategy – This includes salary reviews, equal pay audits, job evaluations and bonus schemes.  This is all part of the team’s support that will help the employer organisation improve its “attraction, motivation and retention” model.
  • HR audit – We will review all areas of your current HR framework to identify and recommend those that need addressing, taking into account your future business needs.
  • Training – We can provide bespoke training on any HR and/or employment law issue.
  • Contracts and policies – Working with the team’s employment lawyers, the HR consultants can put in place contracts of employment, employee handbooks and HR policies that really add value to your business.

Employment Law

Our employment lawyers specialise in employment law.  They are dedicated to this area of the law and the support and help that they can provide includes

  • Restructuring and exit programmes – Often working closely with our HR consultants, we can help you avoid the practical and legal pitfalls of restructuring the employment side of your business.  This includes providing support through complicated and large-scale redundancy programmes.
  • Litigation support – Within the Employment and HR team we have a specialist litigation and advocacy unit.  This unit can help you deal with any employment law based claim that you have to deal with, including Employment Tribunal claims.
  • Disciplinary and underperformance issues – Again, working with our own HR consultants, we can provide the support you need in dealing with these difficult disciplinary and  underperformance issues that you have to face from time to time.  The support includes providing you with any documents that you need, e.g. invite to disciplinary hearings.
  • Helpline – Many of our clients value the ability to pick up the telephone to speak directly with some of the HR employment issue that they have.  Indeed, we encourage our clients to talk with us at the earliest opportunity in order to nib any employee issues in the bud.
  • On-site support – For those trickier employment and HR issues, we are more than happy to meet you on-site.  Our experience tells us that nothing beats “walking the floor” to help us really understand the dynamic of your business and the particular issue that you are dealing with.
  • Corporate acquisitions and disposals – Working with our Corporate team, we have significant experience in advising businesses on the employee and employment aspects of sales and acquisitions.  This will often involve the impact of TUPE.  We can help steer you through this process with a comprehensive support service.
  • Business immigration – We have a comprehensive business immigration service.  This service ensures that we all your workers have the right to work in the UK and will also, for those key overseas appointments, ensure that the appropriate employment visas are in place.

Corporate & Commercial

As advisers to the education sector (in all its guises) we have seen an increasing number of situations in recent years where educational establishments have required detailed commercial advice.  Our commercial solicitors have wide ranging experience of drafting and advising on all types of commercial contract, but in particular, commercial transfer arrangements [LINK] , establishing academy trusts [LINK] and funding agreements [LINK] for academy schools, research and development agreements [LINK] for universities and colleges and outsourcing arrangements [LINK] for all establishments, including those formed under the PFI/PPP process.

Commercial transfer agreement with Local Authority

Whilst the local authorities tend to view such agreements as non-negotiable, but that is not strictly the case because one size definitely does not fit all where academies are concerned We are therefore happy to advise not only on the risk inherent in such contracts, but also on an appropriate schedule of changes.

The document itself should be discussed and agreed with the local authority before the academy opens. It is a necessary document to ensure that all information on staff transferring to the academy is recorded and the transferred to the academy trust effected correctly.  Similarly, details of any assets or contracts that will transfer to the academy trust are also recorded, as well as what won’t transfer.

Establishing an academy trust and corporate governance

Academy trusts are charitable companies, limited by guarantee and we recognise that for some, the regulation and governance associated with these entities can be daunting.  We can assist trustees with all aspects of corporate governance and formation and advise on how to best operate your trust going forward.   The trust will be the entity that enters into all agreements to establish the academy.

The Articles of Association are the constitutional document for the trust which prescribes the internal management, decision making and running of the academy trust and its liability.  We have experience of drafting these documents to enable compliance with charity law, government regulation and, most importantly the practical, day-to-day running of the academy itself.

Funding agreement with Department of Education

All academies properly established and constituted will enter into a contract – the funding agreement – with the secretary of state for education. The funding agreement provides the framework within which the academy must operate and different versions are becoming available to reflect the circumstances of different types of school, such as primary, secondary and special.

The ongoing funding of the academy trust is contingent upon the conditions in its funding agreement being met and we can advise on the best ways to meet those conditions and any risks associated with them.

Outsourcing arrangements and PFI/PPP

For schools that form part of a closed Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract, becoming an academy trust requires additional documentation to be put in place, as well as amendments being made to the funding agreement and articles of association to take account of the underlying PFI structure and the terms of the PFI project agreement. We would always advise clients to seek specialist legal advice in respect of PFI contracts and we have the required expertise to be able to do so.  The additional documentation and associated issues involved in the process means that the conversion of a PFI school to an academy is likely to take a long time and often proves stressful for those at the centre.  So why not let our commercial team take some of the strain for you?

On occasion, any school, academy, college or university will want to outsource administrative, maintenance or other obligations to a third party.  In these situations it is essential that any contract is well thought through and the risks understood.  In particular service delivery standards and child welfare and safety are paramount and our experts (many of whom are parents, trustees and governors themselves) will not only be able to advise on the law, but also the practicalities of the service to be delivered as they relate to your school.

Research and development agreements

Many further education establishments seek to encourage collaboration between their academics and industry and in such cases it is important for each to understand what is expected of them.  A common formula where ongoing research and collaboration is contemplated is to use an over-arching framework agreement which is then supplemented by individual and specific supplemental service level agreements.  There are many advantages to this approach:

For a university, the major objectives of engaging in collaborative research are likely to include:

  • Undertaking stimulating and useful research.
  • Obtaining financial support to carry out this research.
  • Raising profile in order to attract better staff, better students and increased public funding.
  • Increasing its profile with industry to supplement any shortfall in public funding.
  • Extending its range of potential contacts and collaborative partners.

For an industrial collaborator, its reasons for collaboration may include:

  • Gaining access to external expertise, particularly in fields outside the range of experience of its own research staff.
  • Supplementing internal research efforts and resources.
  • Accelerating research.
  • Gaining a competitive advantage.
  • All at comparatively low cost.
  • Generating valuable intellectual property rights which are capable of commercial exploitation.

Collaboration inevitably raises a number of important legal issues, principally those relating to the ownership and exploitation of intellectual property rights arising out of the collaboration, confidentiality and EU competition law.  Whatever the issue, we’re confident of being able to assist either party.

Property

For schools, colleges and academies, the Clarke Willmott Property team is able to provide a complete support service for any property related issue that they may have.  The support service includes specialist help regarding planning issues, maintenance concerns, rent reviews, development and redevelopment projects, property related procurement and construction contracts and issues.  Clarke Willmott’s large Property team have genuine longstanding Education sector experience that can help you with any property related issue or project that you may face.

Litigation

An increasingly complex regulatory environment means that disputes are becoming a fact of life for many education providers.  Our Dispute Resolution lawyers are experienced in acting for a range of education institutions from public and private further education colleges through to universities.  Their unique understanding of the Education Sector allows them to provide pragmatic and cost effective solutions to often complex and sensitive disputes.  We can assist with:

  • Commercial disputes, for example with IT providers and other contractors.
  • Appeals by individuals under your admissions policy.
  • Responding to formal complaints by parents, for example about exam results or a particular teacher’s performance.
  • Regulatory matters.

Immigration

We have a highly experienced Immigration team that can provide advice on all issues relating to immigration issues for the Education Sector.  Our Immigration team provides advice to education institutions in their capacity as

  • Tier 1 sponsors of graduate entrepreneur applications.
  • Tier 2 sponsors as employers of academic and teaching staff.
  • Tier 4 sponsors of international students.

This involves advice in relation to applying for sponsorship licences and compliance with terms of licences.

We can also advise students and staff in relation to immigration issues arising for them and their families on an individual basis.

We can also advise both institutions and individuals in relation to appeals of UKBA decisions, whether through the formal appeals process or judicial review.