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Independent Schools Programme: Senior Leadership Workshop - Managing the Risk

Charles Russell Speechlys’ South East Education Team recently hosted an independent schools workshop in Guildford with a number of  senior leaders of South East private schools. 

Richard Gammage, Bursar at Lord Wandsworth College (“LWC”) introduced the discussion  reflecting on some of the main challenges faced by independent schools as experienced by LWC and how Charles Russell Speechlys had been of assistance to them in managing many of those risks: 

These principally include the expanse of legislation that schools are required to comply with, such as:

  • safeguarding, FCA regulation, Health & Safety and Charity Commission requirements;
  • affordability of private education;
  • funding the recruitment and retention of locally based key staff;
  • making land and buildings work best for the school;
  • balancing academic standards between above average pupils and not being selective regarding intake of pupils; and
  • the challenge for schools to developing management capability across key staff

The workshop then focused on:

Charitable status & governance and the impact of the new Charities Bill

Kate Parkinson (Associate Charities and Not for Profit) provided an update on the new laws affecting charities, including highlighting the impact of the new Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016.  Kate reflected on how independent schools can make the most of charitable status, its advantages and disadvantages and a discussion ensued around the issue of the public benefit requirement. Those attending explained the pressure their schools experience from other local schools with requests for funding for community projects or shared facilities and the discussion lead on to how misunderstandings can arise around the public benefit requirement; schools should be focusing on their charitable objects rather than on a misconception of what is required to meet the ‘public benefit’.  

Employment – Performance Management

Ben Smith, Partner Employment examined the key problem area of performance management which is experienced by many schools.  Ben focused on  under performance and
highlighted the need for proper investigation, regular appraisals, clear targets, support and training, and clear communication of both potential consequences and the need to provide a right of appeal at every stage.
Ben also reviewed the concept of Protected Conversations which can act as an effective alternative to reach a satisfactory resolution.

Property – Asset Release and Project Management

Claire Timmings Senior Associate Real Estate and David Savage  Partner Head of Construction South East   looked at how schools can  leverage their existing property portfolio to ensure they have the best facilities to attract the best reputation and pupils, and also procurement
challenges around construction projects.

Claire dealt with how the school will need to have the necessary power and the  restrictions on how the land itself can be dealt with (including issues surrounding  permanent endowment which requires Charity Commission consent before disposal) as well as  planning consents, green belt land, listed buildings consent and restrictive covenants. 

David provided an overview of some of the key issues to construction procurement including a 28 day Alternative Resolution Process applicable to all construction contracts and  different contract options and their advantages and disadvantages including the potential pitfalls in standard construction contracts  including  net contribution clauses and how to mitigate losses and delay on a construction project.
Specialist legal advice should be sought at the beginning of the project, rather than part way through to ensure a seamless delivery.

For more information please contact Virginia Cook on +44 (0)1483 252523 or virginia.cook@crsblaw.com