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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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We have paid the admission fee at an Independent school (she

Resolved Question:

We have paid the admission fee at an Independent school (she would not start until this September). Since that time we paid the admission fee the school has had an OFSTED inspection and found inadequate in 3 of the 6 categories and we no longer want to send her there but the admission form has the following statement.
Declaration of Parent (or Legal Guardian)
I undertake to give in writing one terms notice to be given in the first week of term for the withdrawal of my Son/Daughter from Shernold School, or to pay one term's fees in lieu of such notice at the rate current at the time when the notice was required.
I enclose the admission fee of £200, and should the place not be required without a term's notice this becomes non-refundable. All admission fees are repaid when a pupil leaves the school at the age of 11.
Does this mean we just lose the £200 or do we have to pay the full terms fees.
Thank You,
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 4 months ago.

How much is the fee for the full term? When did you pay the admission fee? Is all that you paid, the £200?

Is there any mention on the form that by signing it, you are liable for the full fee?

Customer: replied 4 months ago.
The fee for the full term is £2475.00, all we have paid is £200.00 admission fee but we have not yet attended the school. I have attached the admission form we have signed and returned however we have not signed anything else. Since paying the admission fee the school has been assessed by OFSTED (Attached) extract from a press article which summarises the report itself.The preparatory school was rated inadequate by Ofsted, which was particularly critical of the leadership structure which means no one is in overall control.
Pre-employment checks were found to not be in place.
The report, published today, reads: "Leaders and managers have not ensured that pupils are safe. They do not know or fulfil their statutory safeguarding responsibilities.
"There are serious weaknesses in the pre-employment checks regarding the suitability of staff. Checks on whether a teacher has been prohibited from teaching have not been conducted.
"There are serious weaknesses in the pre-employment checks regarding the suitability of staff. Checks on whether a teacher has been prohibited from teaching have not been conducted" — Ofsted
"The school does not comply with the statutory guidance regarding disqualification.
"No one in the school has carried out the mandatory safer recruitment training.
"The single central register that records details of all staff employed at the school is missing vital information.
"As a result, it is an inadequate tool in ensuring that pupils are kept safe."
A number of parents got in touch with the education watchdog to raise concerns about the lack of accountability.
An inspector wrote: "Although there is a 'headteacher', her role is limited to ensuring effective teaching and learning. Other senior leadership roles are not sufficiently elevated to mitigate this weakness, so no one has clear oversight or responsibility for what needs to be done.
"As a result, key aspects of the schools work are overlooked. This fragmented and unclear leadership has had a negative impact on the overall culture of the school, leading to a lack of confidence from parents."
The school was given a rating of good in 2010 but issues flagged up then haven't been addressed including the lack of a suitable medical room.
Poor maintenance and a complaints and admissions policy which don't apply by guidelines were also highlighted.
The school was rated inadequate for effectiveness of leadership and management; personal development, behaviour and welfare; and early years provisionAs well as this the report mentions protruding nails in play equipment at childs eye level.We are very concerned that this is not what we where signing up for and as result we want to keep our daughter at her existing school.We just wish to know if we would have to pay the terms fee our in view of the OFSTED report we can just forsake the £200.00 admission fee and walk away.
Customer: replied 4 months ago.
Hi any reply to the additional information?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 4 months ago.

You cannot give one terms notice obviously because your son is not at the school. Hence, you would be liable for one terms fees.

It depends whether the school want to take you to Small Claims Court to try to enforce this. The idea of the notice is so that the school can prepare for the number of pupils they need. The loss they suffer as a result of your cancellation is much less if you cancel early in the process.

For example, if you cancelled the day after you booked, they have not actually suffered any loss. If however you cancelled the day before the child must start school, they would have made all the preparations for him and the loss would be greater.

However if you were to pay a full terms fee it would be a windfall for them because they haven’t actually provided the tuition service during the course of the term. Imagine what would happen if everyone cancelled and paid the terms fee. They wouldn’t have to do anything but still get full payment. Hence, it went to court, but was a good chance that whilst their claim would be successful, they would not be able to claim the full amount of money. It depends on the view the judge takes on the day.

They would no doubt bring this is a debt claim for the full amount owed for the term of your defence would be that it’s not a debt claim as to pay the full terms fee would be a windfall and hence it should be a damages claim in respect of the schools loss.

It would not be unreasonable for them to keep the admission fee to pay for any preparatory work and processing the application.

The OFSTED report is useful because you can argue that the service they are providing is not of satisfactory quality and that you cannot be contractually forced to continue with the service which is in breach of the Consumer Right Act 2015 (which superseded the older Supply of Goods and Services Act and the Sale of Goods Act).

Can I clarify anything for you?

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Best wishes.


F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 8444
Experience: I have been practising for 30 years.
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