Temple Bright’s education sector expertise helps facilitate multi-academy trust school acquisition


Bristol and London law firm Temple Bright has advised the Gloucestershire Learning Alliance multi-academy trust on its acquisition of a new school.

Temple Bright has developed a strong education sector niche, providing advice to a range of organisations led by construction lawyer Julia Davenport-Cooper.

Julia, who is also a primary school governor, has longstanding education clients that include respected and high-profile institutions such as Churchill Academy, the Lighthouse Schools Partnership, Stowe School, Marlborough College and Kingswood.

The firm’s education practice also takes in other work types and client types, involving other partners.

This includes advising digital businesses in the sector, such as London-based venture capital backed start-up Stairway Learning, on deals with investors and other issues.

Four years ago Temple Bright was appointed to advise Gloucestershire Learning Alliance (GLA) in a range of legal areas, including real estate, construction, public procurement, employment and HR advice and company, disputes and governance matters.

Like other multi-school academies established in recent years, the GLA Trust has been created to maximise opportunities from sharing resources and expertise.

It was launched in 2013 with founder schools Bishop’s Cleeve Primary Academy, Rowanfield Junior School and Springbank Primary Academy. It has since grown to nine schools.

Temple Bright’s commercial and employment partner Paul Manson, who is also a primary school governor, has led the firm’s most recent advice to the GLA Trust involving its acquisition of Churchdown Village Infant School (CVIS).

Following an OFSTED inspection, in which the previously Outstanding school was identified as requiring improvement, its trustees decided it needed the support of a multi-academy trust, having converted to a single academy trust a number of years ago.

This was to enable the GLA Trust to provide the school with strategic leadership and help the necessary improvement take place.

Temple Bright liaised with the Department of Education and the outgoing board of trustees – and their solicitors – to ensure that the transfer was completed in time to meet the government’s deadline late in 2023.

This involved transferring a significant number of contracts as well as dealing with property and employment aspects while ensuring that the school’s day-to-day functioning was not interrupted.

Paul Manson led these aspects and provided tactical and strategic advice on managing the change internally.

He said: “The transfer of a school can lead to a lot of stress for all stakeholders, from governors to staff and, of course, parents, with a tight deadline and the need to ensure that its operation is maintained without disruption.

“Our task as solicitors is to ensure that everything gets done in time with proper care and attention, working with other advisers to reduce the procedural burdens on our client the trust and on the school’s management and staff.”

GLA Trust CEO Claire Savory added: “There was a lot to accomplish to meet OFSTED’s deadline for the transfer.

“Happily, this was achieved, through a concerted effort of the GLA team and its advisers, working collaboratively with the outgoing CVIS governors. We benefited greatly from the responsiveness and diligence of Paul Manson.”

Julia Davenport-Cooper said: “We were delighted to be able to guide the GLA Trust through this demanding situation, which put to good use our legal expertise in the sector as well as both of our experience as governors.”

This article appeared in the Bristol Business Newsletter on 18 January 2024.

Paul Manson
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Julia Davenport-Cooper
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