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tdlawyer
tdlawyer, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 1096
Experience:  11 years experience of general practice.
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My son has 50% funding at a private college (3 year musical

Resolved Question:

My son has 50% funding at a private college (3 year musical theatre course). The other 50% is paid for by myself (mother) and is paid up until he graduates in July. The college encourage the students to work in the holidays to gain experience and to get used to funding themselves (these are conditions of the funding). My son, plus 4 others, got work over the Christmas break. The nature of the work (mostly panto, my son went to Disneyland Paris) means they have to take extended leave. When my son got the role he was congratulated by all the staff and the principal. he verbally gave them the dates of absence required, I emailed them. he has been back two weeks and he (plus the others) have been hit with an invoice for 19 days unauthorized absence at £24 per day to be cover the funding whilst he was on leave.

Can they do this?, they say its in the contract, I cant find a contract and my son doesn't believe his signed one, just a student charter saying that the parents must inform the college of any sickness/absence when the student is unable to do so themselves. (Well I emailed). They have never done this before apparently. My son has told them if he gives them what they want, then he cannot afford his train fares which is true. They said to put it in writing if he cant/wont pay or write a repayment plan.

None of the students were aware or advised prior to leave. Can they do this now?, my son has a meeting with the principle tomorrow, where does he stand please.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  tdlawyer replied 3 years ago.

tdlawyer :

Hello, thanks for your question. My name isXXXXX can assist with this.

tdlawyer :

Do either of you ever recall signing a written agreement?

Customer:

Hi Tony,

Customer:

No we don't. I can only find the students charter, which we both signed. My son was only 18 last July so even if he did (which he is certain he didn't, he says he would never sign anything without consulting me first, but IF he did, would it hold up if he was under 18?

tdlawyer :

Sometimes, contracts are enforceable, and there are examples in the case law relating to schooling and fees associated with that - they are called "necessaries". They're a general exemption from the law that you have to be 18.

tdlawyer :

Anyway ...

tdlawyer :

The issue here is whether there was agreement to meet these charges.

tdlawyer :

Absent an agreement, then they dont have to be paid.

tdlawyer :

It would be unusual for a colleage to agree part funding for somebody and only get the standard student charter signed. I would have expected some terms perhaps, but maybe that's just me being idealistic.

tdlawyer :

The college didn't have to get terms signed, and if it hasn't, then it isn't going to be able to levy these charges now.

Customer:

No we never agreed to these charges. The college has an in house 'Agency' and its understood that if their agent gets students work then they take their 15 or 20%, but students often get work themselves, like I say its encouraged, and they have never taken anything from these students before. Even the business manager said 'off record' she realizes they were not aware of these charges before they all left for their seasonal positions! My son has been back for two weeks and gets called in only the other day. The principal is using 'bullying' tactics saying they should all be grateful for the funding and should want to pay it back if they are not here!

Customer:

I have found the letter offering my son the 50% funding but no t&c's were attached or included! Just that it will be reviewed each year (hes in his 3rd and final year) and the students are expected to reach and maintain a high standard of attainment.

tdlawyer :

Hmnmm... I think the principal is in wishful thinking territory. Ultimately, the legal basis is really simple: there is an agreement between student and college (or parent and college) which provides the basis for their relationship. If there is no provision in the agreement, then they canno charge as though their was such provision.

tdlawyer :

Also, as you say, it would seem the college is prevented from relying on the terms (even if they exist) by its very agreement that the children should do this work. Ultimately, the college appares to have agreed the work, and thus the absence, and hence it cannot be unauthorised.

tdlawyer :

Arguably if the college agreed to the work by for a lesser time of absence, that could be an area for the college to go with - but at the end of the day, the facts might not allow this argument to be run, simply because the college didn't agree to a shorter period of absence!

tdlawyer :

Does that make sense?

Customer:

Yes, you mean they encouraged them to do the work knowing it would require longer than the two weeks they get 'officially' then had plenty of opportunity to say if the leave request was unsuitable and too long so by not saying anything prior to them going on leave, they were in effect authorizing it?

tdlawyer :

Yes. That's right.

Customer:

Excellent! My son is worried that the principal is pushing very hard to have something in writing for a meeting with him in the morning, should he put anything in writing?. Can they suspend him for an account that is now not fully settled?, Im not sure they (he) will back down without abit more of a fight, he is so unprofessional where this is concerned. My son says he DEFINATELY has only ever signed the student charter, that is it! How should he handle this principal tomorrow?, he is hiding behind the trustees saying they want the money back if they were not there. The business manager says they have not followed protocol and it is nothing to do with the trustees, its the principal. My son doesn't want to drop her in it but now he has been told that, he is livid. Its such a shame after 2 and a half years of a fairly good relationship with the principal that this could turn nasty if not handled correctly.

Customer:

Obviously the account is fully settled if they cant levy the charges as I have paid the remaining 50% in full like I say, I just mean in the principals eyes its not fully settled if he doesn't remove the invoice he has just issued.

tdlawyer :

I dont think they can inisist on anything in writing absent any agreement that he would do that.

tdlawyer :

I think he could tell the principal that he would like to get legal advice on the issue, then he can liaise with his solicitor about the charges.

tdlawyer :

If this is an issue affecting lots of children, then maybe they (or their parents) can group together, instruct a lawyer to do a letter, and hopefully put the matter to rest quickly?

tdlawyer :

If it needs to get to that ... the threat of taking legal advice (as he is entitled to!) would probably resolve it.

Customer:

Its affected 5 out of a total of 20 in that year. Im aware of some other parents going into meetings this week but unfortunately my son is first to meet with him. I have of course offered to go with him, but he is adamant he can handle it and as he has just turned 18 feels strongly he wants to be seen as an adult and not intimidated. I admire and respect that, but am concerned that he is out of his depth and of course the principal is taking advantage of the fact they are very young adults and naïve.

tdlawyer :

Well, if he feels out of his depth at any time, he can say simply "I am going to seek legal advice and come back to you".

Customer:

Good point. I will tell him to do that, thank you. My son has written him a letter as was requested, stating his case and the fact that he wont pay them and why, but its a little aggressive and I pointed out that at the end of the day, if he cant back it up legally, then its just his opinion. Im not sure putting anything in writing is a good idea at this stage.

tdlawyer :

Me neither - maybe just use it as a note for him in the meeting.

Customer:

Ok great, thank you very much for your time and advice. I didn't think they could enforce these charges but its good to know the legalities before conversations take place. Thank you very much indeed. Kindest regards, Lorraine

tdlawyer :

Thanks Lorraine - hope it goes well tomorrow.

tdlawyer :

Is there anything else I can assist with?

Customer:

Thank you Tony, that's it for now thank you. Hopefully as you say, mentioning legal advice/action will be enough to stop this, and the principal will learn his lesson not to try it on again, Im shocked he would stoop this low, tax return time or not!! Thanks again!

tdlawyer :

Thank you!

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