Update on Birketts' latest education products

01 October 2020

Our Education Team provides us with an update on the latest education products they are able to offer independent school, state school and academy clients.

For Independent School clients

New parent contract

We find that, generally, when replacing or updating its parent contract, an independent school will turn to one of the precedent form of contracts available through various national bodies.

The parent contract is a key link between a school and its parents. Right from the admissions process, the parent contract sets the scene for how the school and its parents are going to interact. It can be a means of not only clearly setting out each party's rights and responsibilities, but also for the school to emphasise its key messages.

Having advised extensively on the widely available contracts, we have identified a number of areas where they can be improved, including in connection with Equality Act obligations. For instance, adjustments for disabilities and special educational needs, where we consider a more enlightened and encouraging approach can be adopted on what can often be sensitive and highly personal issues, resulting in a more positive and constructive dialogue and leading to more effective and efficient resolution of issues, saving costs and time for all.

Compliance with consumer law is another area that can be improved. In addition, these precedent contracts are 'one size fits all' and all too often fail to mirror school's operational processes and ethical and cultural values.

To address these problems we have developed a new bespoke parent contract product. By using a specially designed questionnaire, we will be able to capture not only what is important from a commercial and operational perspective, but also how a school wants to present itself, its culture and its values to prospective parents and pupils, and to incorporate this into the parent contract.

In an increasingly competitive market, it has never been so important for schools to be able to demonstrate what marks them out from their competitors. Further, given the current extreme uncertainties, more than ever, a school needs a contract which is capable of supporting the agile way education now needs to be delivered.

Our solution will provide schools with a new form of parent contract, a contract that not only protects them to the greatest extent possible, but also seeks to embody the very thing that separates that school from its competitors. Further, the contract will be drafted from the ground up with openness, practicality and agility at its heart to enable schools to operate flexibly whatever challenges are thrown their way.

For further information and to discuss pricing, please get in touch.

Managing risk – legal risk audit

Identifying and managing legal risk within an operational framework as complex as a school's can be incredibly challenging. To help schools identify and manage the most legally risky areas of operation, we have devised a legal risk audit.

The audit involves the use of a combination of our Risk Management Framework, responses to due-diligence questionnaires, contract, policy and procedure reviews and staff interviews to get a complete picture of the school's operations. We will also confirm your understanding of risk, appetite and tolerance so that we can factor this into our process.

Once the audit is completed, we will then put together a formal written report identifying our key findings, including where risk can be mitigated and our suggestions for how that can be done. We can also meet with you to debrief you on our assessment and to identify and discuss problems, areas for improvement and recommendations and work with you to devise solutions and advise on their implementation and next steps.

Areas that we can review include one, some or all of the following:

Students Student contract, policies and procedures
Safeguarding Safeguarding policy, incidents and any litigation
Parents Parent contract, debt, fees in advance, change in family circumstance (separation/divorce)
Employment Contracts, policies, recruitment, employment procedures, dismissal
Immigration Right to Work checks, sponsorship requirements
Governance Committees and terms of office, decision-making
Constitution Including charitable status, public benefit
Commercial contracts Key contracts
Intellectual property For domestic and international collaborations
Property To include planning, construction and environmental
Complaints and litigation Focusing on lessons learned

Contact us to discuss our bespoke pricing for your School.

For our State School and Academy clients

Send claims package

We are highly experienced in overseeing discrimination claims, from initial instructions through to the Tribunal hearings. We advise on a wide variety of issues, including recently advising a client through the Upper-Tribunal Appeals Process following an upwards referral from SEND proceedings on a point of law from the First-Tier Tribunal.

We offer tailored, practical and pragmatic advice on managing what are often emotionally charged disputes for all involved. We advise, amongst other things, on identifying "reasonable adjustments", obtaining the relevant professional input and on managing the school, parent and student relationship.

Please contact us to discuss the special rates we offer for the management of SEND Tribunal claims.

For the Nursery and Early Years sector

The CMA investigation into the Nursery and Early Years sector

Following a never before seen level of complaints from the general public about the behaviour of certain business during the recent lockdown, the Competition and Markets Authority launched its Coronavirus (COVID-19) taskforce.

The taskforce singled out a number of sectors, one of which was the Nursery and Early Years sector. The taskforce identified that a significant number of providers were breaching consumer law by:

  • charging high fees for nursery and early years services which they were unable to carry out
  • relying on unfair cancellation terms in their contracts; and
  • putting unfair pressure on parents to make payments not provided for in their contracts.

Whilst, at the time of writing, no formal investigations have been launched in respect of any particular operators, it will only be a matter of time before they are. Therefore, operators should be acting now to ensure that their contracts and operations comply with consumer law.

We have produced a form of contract for the supply of Nursery and Early Years services to consumers. The contract has been drafted with consumer compliance at its heart and, can be easily tailored to an operator's specific requirements. This contract represents an incredibly cost-effective way for operators to ensure their contracts and dealings with parents remain compliant with consumer law.

For further information and pricing, please contact Sara Sayer, Senior Associate, Solicitor-Advocate and FRSA from Birketts' Education Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2020.