Commercial Contract in Schools
We all enter into contracts on a regular basis, whether in our personal lives or in connection with our businesses.
Much of the time, these contracts will be low value and low risk, such as the contract we make every time we make a purchase from our local shop. Some contracts, however, will be of considerably more value than others and involve us exposing ourselves or our businesses to risk.
Your school is likely to enter into a wide range of contracts, whether they are for the supply of equipment such as computers or sports kit, the supply of services such as catering and cleaning or the hiring out of the School’s facilities. Some of these will involve substantial sums of money and can be vital to the successful running of the school.
The Importance of getting it Right
It is crucial that the terms of these contracts are properly negotiated, agreed, understood and documented so that risk can be minimised. If they are not, not only might your school end up not getting what you thought was agreed, it might also find itself burdened with obligations that you did not realise were part of the deal.
Just one example of what can go wrong for schools was the case of Glemsford Primary School who, when thinking they were signing up to a generous computer leasing agreement, ended up with a debt of approximately £500,000 for the equipment that had been supplied to them. Glemsford, sadly, fell into the gap that often exists between what a school is told by a salesman and what that contract actually says.
In response to this case, a Department for Education spokesman said:
“Schools need to be absolutely sure of what they sign up to and read the small print because it’s usually very difficult to legally challenge or break these types of contracts.”
Our Commercial Contracts Services
If Glemsford Primary had received legal advice on its computer leasing agreement, the risks would have been identified and we suspect that either it would not have entered into that contract or would have done so on very different terms.
We are familiar with the range of contracts that schools enter into and can help to ensure that you have well-written contracts that minimise the risk of costly and time-consuming disputes but also protect you if things do go wrong.
Our team provides advice and assistance in connection with drafting, reviewing, interpreting, negotiating and advising on a wide range of contracts and commercial issues that will affect your school including:
- IT Support Services
- Website Development
- Uniform & Sports Kits
- Facilities Management
- Fundraising & sponsorship
- Equipment Leasing
- Hiring out your own facilities
- Tendering, contract negotiation & project management
For the reasons we have described, instructing experienced solicitors to advise on the contracts your school enters into is extremely beneficial. However, it is also important that you yourselves have some understanding of the law and procedures involved in order that you can manage the process confidently.
Our experience tells us that some schools feel poorly equipped and under-resourced when it comes to understanding contracts and analysing the risks of entering into them.
We can help you to feel better able to manage and understand contracts by offering you training on subjects such as:
- The basic principles of entering into contracts
- The use of standard terms and the “battle of the forms”
- Contract risks and how you can limit your exposure