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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10257
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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My family relocated to Grittleton Wilts from Scotland in

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My family relocated to Grittleton Wilts from Scotland in April this year. After much searching and debate we rented a property very close to a private School we wished our two primary aged children to attend. We have had a taster visit earlier in February where we met the Principal and the children interviewed along with ourselves. All seemed very positive and we decided it ticked all the boxes and rented the property and committed to the move in the Easter Holidays with the children starting the new school on the 18th April.
We as expected had considerable expense in the deposit and moving costs and of course uniforms for the kids. They were apprehensive and a little upset about the move but we'd thought they would soon settle in. So after the first few weeks of tears and them wanting to back north there was some joy for us when as the mid term break approached they said they were beginning to make friends and settle in.
During the mid term break this was shattered whenever we received a letter from the school saying they were going to close in 6 weeks! This caused all ends of stress as we sought to find another school for our children and again they were very upset by this occurrence. We are very angry with the school as they made no mention of this and we made the move to be nearby it. We hadn't yet paid the fees apart from the registration fee and felt aggrieved and misled. We have now received a demand letter for the fees and the threat of recovery agents.
Is there anything that can be done?

Do you know why the school is closing? Is it a limited company that runs the school?

When you moved, did you impress upon the school that the move was conditional on finding a good school.

Why did the family relocate in the first place?

How much does the school uniforms cost?

How much you actually paid of the fee and how much is the fee they are asking for in respect of what period?

Are they asking for the full fee up to the end of the six-week period?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The reason given was there wasn't enough pupils to keep going although this was raised at the interview rather they answered the small class sizes meant better 1-21 teaching.The school (Grittleton House School) operated as a split operation with the owner family running events such as weddings etc alongside at weekends. It is a very beautiful building and setting. We did very much say our move here was dependent on finding a good private school nearby.We relocated due to work but chose this location for the school and commuted the 70 mile round trip to work each day. Children were only 1 mile from school and at our previous address up north it would take us all about an hour to get through the traffic in the morning and this meant long days for the children up at 0630 to start at 0825. So this was our driver in getting their travel time down and why we chose Grittleton and the rental property.Aprrox £500 outlay for the unifomsWe hadn't paid any of the fee as they hadn't sent out the invoice at the time despite us asking. Then came the closure notice, followed by the fee request. They are asking for the full term fee from April-June approx. £6000
We felt let down and the motivation of teaching had dropped as the form teachers all received their notice at the same time and some had worked there for years. Indeed, we overheard our sons teacher say it is all she can do to get out of bed to come here.

Can you please confirm that the fee they are asking for is the fee in respect of the period the children have been at the school and no more or less?

I’m not certain of the make up of the management. Are you saying that it is run and owned by private individuals?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It is also the emotional pset to the children. My son who is quite sensitive is refusing to go to the local school after the summer holidays and is saying it is all our fault for moving in the first place. He was just settling and then he has to start all over again within weeks of arriving. We are now looking to move again as the nearest private school is about 12 miles away.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I can confirm the fee is no more or less for the term period if the school wasn't closing. It is run by family members. The school was founded by their late Grandmother and was her legacy. She passed about 2 years ago..

Thank you.

You potentially have a claim for breach of contract. The difficulty is that the school will argue that the contract runs from year to year and there is no provision for it to be renewed. You know, as well as I do, that there would need to be some kind of stability with regard to the education process but it would depend whether the court would agree that that was contractually enforceable.

Unless you specifically brought to the school’s attention, that you were getting a house close to the school purely for the purposes of the children and that you would do that if the school was not going to continue, it’s unlikely that you would have any claim in that respect.

Even if you could prove that there was a contract that would continue year on year until the children’s education had finished, the court cannot enforce impossibility and if the school is closing, and the court did find breach, the only remedy would be compensation. The school have the potential defence in what is known as Frustration of Contract where a contract can be rescinded if the subject matter is no longer there.

For example, if I am contracted to paint a building and the customer tells me they no longer want it done because the building has burnt to the ground, I have no claim for breach of contract because the contract is frustrated by destruction of the subject matter. If the school is no longer operating as a school, they could potentially rely on defence. It’s not a good defence, but they could try.

Even if there is a breach of contract, you would have to convince the court of the quantum of your loss and also that the loss was a reasonable foreseeable consequence of any breach (if there was a breach).

In my opinion, you do have a claim but it is not one which you would want to argue in court although it would be Small Claims Court because of the amount involved. There is the potential, because of the evidential issues here with regard to your claim, but it would be transferred into the fast track which means that the loser would pay the winners costs. That could be risky.

What you might want to do is explain exactly what happened to the school sympathise with the closure and exactly why you chose the school and why you moved where you did and that you’re now going to have to make other arrangements and of course, the school uniform is useless. I would therefore send them an amount of money in full and final settlement and having deducted amount of money in respect of the uniforms which you think is reasonable taking into account the wear the uniforms have had and in respect of any costs that you will incur either in relocating or finding another school. Rather than just make an offer, you will have a better chance that they will accept the money if you send a cheque telling them that by cashing it, they accepted in full and final settlement and that if they do not accept it, they should send it back. If they do if you legal proceedings, you are going to have to defend them.

My suggestion would be to send £4000 but make sure that you account for why you have deducted £2000 in the way you have. The amount of money is up to you but to avoid going to court, you want to make it attractive enough that they accept it.

Can I assist you any further with this?

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We can still exchange emails if anything needs clarification.

Best wishes.


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