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  • Overview

    Thomson Snell & Passmore’s Education team has advised the Board of Governors of Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, Kent in connection with the conversion of the School to an Academy pursuant to the coalition government's Academies Act 2010. The conversion took place with effect from 1 February 2011.

    Weald of Kent Grammar School is a selective grammar school which has over 1,050 students on roll fromTonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. Consistently oversubscribed, the School benefits from Specialist Language College status and was awarded a second specialism in science in 2008. Ofsted inspectors, in rating the School outstanding, highlighted the high quality of teaching and pastoral care, a challenging curriculum, consistently strong academic performance and exceptional leadership from the School's senior leadership team. The School spent a great deal of time exploring the potential benefits of Academy status and consulted with its staff, students and parents before deciding to convert.

    The conversion process involves consideration of complex issues of company, education, property and employment law. Lawyers fromThomson Snell & Passmore's Corporate & Commercial, Commercial Property & Development and Employment teams were able to use their substantial experience in such matters to explain the provisions of the model conversion documents supplied by the Department for Education and to identify the key issues, risks and benefits of conversion at an early stage.

    In addition, Thomson Snell & Passmore's strong relationships with senior personnel at the Department for Education and members of the legal team at Kent County Council meant that the School's conversion ran smoothly, with the interested parties working collaboratively to agree documents promptly, helping to preserve the School's resources.

    Maureen Johnson, Headteacher ofWeald of Kent Grammar School commented: “As an outstanding school we had to be confident that the process underpinning our conversion to an Academy Trust was carried out meticulously and professionally. Thomson Snell & Passmore took time to understand our particular brief and the culture of the organisation. Their sensitive and thorough handling of the work afforded us great reassurance which enabled us to carry on with our day to day business of educating children. I should not hesitate to use their services again or to recommend them to other colleagues who expect to receive high quality service.”

    Clair Wilkins, the School's Director of Resources commented: "Deciding on the right solicitors for our academy transfer was one of the most important decisions of the whole process.We established very quickly in our initial meetings with Thomson Snell & Passmore that we would receive professional and clear advice. They also provided expert HR advice and supported us throughout the entire process, liaising with the DfE and KCC on our behalf.

    It is important to the school to support local business but it was also important for us to use a firm that understood the new academy process and that understood the individual needs of our school. Thomson Snell & Passmore provided all of this and more, we would most definitely recommend them to other schools looking into an academy conversion".

    Since the Academies Act received Royal assent, Thomson Snell & Passmore has invested more than £50,000 of its own time and resources working with Kent County Council and the Department for Education to identify practical solutions which are acceptable to the interested parties and to protect school governors from unknown liabilities, adding flesh to the bones of the Academies Act. This substantial investment of time and resources allowed us to focus on the issues which were of primary concern for the School and its Board of Governors and to offer cost effective advice.

    We are extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to work withWeald of Kent Grammar School to achieve this milestone. On behalf of the whole team here at Thomson Snell & Passmore who have been working on this very important project for the past five months, we wish the pupils, staff and senior leadership team of Weald of Kent Grammar School every success in the future.

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