In the past few months whilst working on a specific project, this legal eagle has had his eyes opened to a world hitherto confined to a domestic context. I'm talking about our schools and specifically the quite amazing individuals that I've had the good fortune to meet. As a firm we're helping a number of schools as they consider and manage the process of converting to academy status.
This is not a plug for our work with schools, although yes we are offering something of an outstanding service, more an observation on the day to day work that goes unseen and unreported.
I have yet to leave a school after one of our many meetings without feeling inspired by the people and passion within our schools.
Teachers, like lawyers, do not always get a ‘good press’. But the message I have received is one of focus and drive to improve their respective schools all for the benefit of the pupils. Academy conversion is in some quarters being seen as a political move by the Coalition and to be resisted by local authorities. The reality is that the initiative is a long standing project initiated under the last Labour administration and adopted by the new Coalition Government.
The specific pros and cons of conversion will vary with the local needs of each school but fundamentally it offers the right school the opportunity of greater independence of action whilst maximising its budget by renegotiating local contracts and reinvesting in staff and infrastructure. The object is to improve the pupils experience and performance.
The schools themselves are anything from 100 years old to brand spanking new but in all of them you'd just want to turn the clock back and go through your school days again. These are light, friendly welcoming buildings managed by quite inspirational characters.
This exposure to our local schools, primary and secondary has reminded me why I wanted to be a lawyer in the first place. It's not about the money or status. It's having the ability to be able to help individuals and their respective organisations and in so doing hopefully assist them in achieving their potential. After all that's exactly what these schools are doing for the pupils.
We decided to get involved with schools because we were concerned over some reports of early academy conversions. The small grant afforded to the school to assist in conversion was reportedly being swallowed up with professional fees and in some cases the fee was said to go beyond the grant.
Happily, matters seem to be settling down enabling the lawyers to work to clear guidelines, thereby helping to keep the fees down. This is only right given that it's public money and children’s education.
Becoming an academy requires the head teacher to adopt the role of a managing director or chief executive, not something for which they would have prepared at teacher training college.
The good news is that to date all those head teachers I've met are more than capable of making that progression, supported by good teams, chairs of governors and of course the right advisers.
Above all they are focussed on the business of improving the lives of their most precious product, the pupils. I would like to thank those I've met recently for reminding me why I became a lawyer and for highlighting the many talents that lay hidden within our region.
If you have a comment or question on academy conversion or any legal issue drop us a line at our twitter account @samplaw or via our website www.samuelphillips.co.uk