The school sector is rapidly changing, with the Government's evolving academies and free schools programme and goal of large scale conversion to academy status over the coming years. There have also been more recent innovations, such as the new concept of studio schools for 14-19 year olds, which offer a range of academic and vocational qualifications, paid work placements and are designed to prepare students for working life.

We understand that the ever-changing landscape results in regular changes in law and regulation, which is difficult for those involved in the management and operation of all types of schools. The need for expert, commercial and pragmatic advice within the education sector has never been greater.

We offer guidance and support to academies (including multi-academy trusts), schools (including those embarking on the academy conversion process), free schools and studio schools. Our primary aim is to ensure that the interests of our education clients are understood and protected.

We offer comprehensive legal advice on:

  • governance
  • corporate structures
  • commercial contracts
  • academy conversion
  • estate development
  • construction projects
  • employment issues
  • disputes
  • health and safety
  • student issues
  • immigration issues
  • procurement
  • lettings.

Our team

Our Education team comprises lawyers with a particular commitment to this sector. The team is multi-disciplinary, bringing together senior lawyers with significant experience in advising a wide range of education institutions. We are ranked in the first tier of law firms with expertise in the education sector in the directory Legal 500 [UK 2015]. We also deliver general and bespoke training on a wide range of topics relevant to the sector. We have insight into the workings of education bodies, many of our lawyers having held roles as governors of schools and board members of academies.

Our approach

We know that our clients need the comfort of speaking to those who understand the unique needs of this complex sector with issues ranging across public, private and charity law. Our approach is both commercial and practical. We appreciate our clients’ need to focus on outcomes and solutions while taking into account budgets, regulations and reputation. We deliver a personal service and spend time getting to know our clients and how we can best support their objectives.

Commercial services

Our Commercial Services lawyers have advised on over 50 academy conversions and provided advice on a number of major, business-critical contracts and projects within the sector, including the development of facilities through commercial partnerships.

Examples of our work include supporting an academy through its conversion process in the construction of its state of the art new build premises and dual sponsorship arrangements, and acting on the establishment of an educational endowment to be registered as a charity with the Charity Commission.

Employment services

Our Employment team has advised on a number of school matters, including safeguarding concerns and most recently defending an employment tribunal claim brought by a former employee of an academy alleging unfair dismissal.

We can support schools and academies on all areas of employment law, including advising on changing terms and conditions, managing sickness, performance and disciplinary matters and advising on discrimination issues.

Property and construction services

We have one of the largest and best regarded Property teams within any firm in the east of England and beyond, numbering over 100 specialists. We understand that property and business strategy are inextricably linked.

We have advised academies in relation to property issues including the redevelopment and refurbishment of academy premises and the construction of new accommodation. The team has an in-depth knowledge of working on construction documentation relating to academy schemes and planning issues.

All work, including face to face, was carried out professionally, concisely and when requested. All reports met our deadlines for completion... I have no hesitation in recommending the services of Birketts in the support of academy and school based work.

Mike Walsh, Headteacher, Kelvedon St Mary's C of E Primary Academy