Education Unlocks Potential 

Napiers have many years unrivalled experience advising education clients. We provide advice on high level governance and public law requirements within the unique educational legislative structure which exists in Northern Ireland. We advise on every aspect of school life and governance from selection and recruitment of staff, to school discipline, resource management, staff interaction, admissions criteria for students, and implementation of practice and policies. We are recognised by Chambers and Partners, an independent legal research company, as maintaining a “strong track record in a range of education issues”.

We act for the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools (CCMS). CCMS supports Principals and Boards of Governors regarding the management of Catholic Maintained Schools and is the largest employer of teachers in Northern Ireland.  

Napiers is also instructed directly by many local integrated schools and leading voluntary and controlled grammar schools throughout Northern Ireland.  

Our team also act for the Post Primary Transfer Consortium (PPTC) which is responsible for administrating the GL entrance assessment – used by certain post-primary schools as part of their admissions criteria and the Exceptional Circumstances Body which processes applications from parents or guardians arising from post primary school admissions (years 8 to 12).


Why Choose Napiers?

    • Our team have a collective 45 years of working with Schools often in difficult circumstances with competing tensions. Some our solicitors act as School Governors and so have first-hand knowledge of the complexities of managing an educational community.
    • We have been at the forefront of many of the leading cases in education law within Northern Ireland. For example, we recently acted for a local grammar school in successfully defending a challenge to its admission criteria arising within the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
    • We are empathic, provide practical solutions rooted in experience, and an understanding of the day-to-day realities of school life as well as the wider regulatory framework within the educational sector.
    • We offer a holistic solution to Schools’ difficulties. If a school raises a query that cuts across more than one area of law, we will be able to ensure that expert advice is provided in a timely fashion.
    • Our team are dedicated to building a collaborative relationship, being approachable and demonstrating availability.


Specialist Areas at a Glance

Legal Issue Overview

School governance

Advising on school governance including admissions criteria and academic selection; suspensions and expulsions; complaints; and interactions with parents and statutory bodies. We assist schools with the formulation of admissions criteria.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal (SENDIST)

We regularly represent school clients at the SENDIST which considers appeals against decisions of the Education Authority about children’s special educational needs and deals with disability discrimination claims from children in the school context.

Merger & amalgamation of schools  

Employment law in Schools

We advise education clients in relation to contracts of employment; unlawful discrimination; grievances; dismissals; rights of part-time workers and fixed-term employees; protected disclosures; the Working Time Regulations; organisational change and redundancies. We regularly provide representation at Industrial Tribunals and Fair Employment Tribunals. We deal with employment related breach of contract claims in the education sector. When advising on employee relations, we draw on our extensive knowledge of TNC agreements and Union positions.
Civil cases in the education sector We have extensive experience in civil cases in the education sector. We are panel solicitors for the Education Authority and have defended schools in the County and High Court, including in relation to assaults; failure to educate; and psychiatric injury secondary to alleged discriminatory treatment.

Data Protection and Freedom of Information

We advise education clients in relation to Data Protection and Freedom of Information, including in relation to investigations by the Information Commissioner’s Office. For example, we provide advice to schools in relation to Subject Access Requests seeking pupil assessment data and Subject Access Requests made by employees in the context of ongoing employee disciplinary or grievance procedures. 

We Offer Expert Advice in Education Law

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do you act for individuals seeking to challenge the decisions of Schools?

    Unfortunately, the focus of our education law work involves advising educational establishments and this is likely to preclude us from acting for individuals who wish to challenge a decision of a particular school.

  • Do you provide legal training to schools?

    Yes, we regularly provide training to school leaders and Governors on legal issues relevant to their day-to-day work. For example, we provide workshops on recent developments in case law to promote awareness of a range of issues impacting school admissions and governance.  A pro-active approach to training and development supports risk management as well as strategic planning within schools.

  • Where can we find out more about education law?

    Paul Upson writes a Quarterly Education Law Update for Legal Island ( The update provides guidance on various aspects of education law, including employment issues pertinent to school and data protection issues in the education sphere.

  • What are the different classifications of schools in Northern Ireland?

    The education system in Northern Ireland is comprised of various types of schools. They main sectors can categorised as follows; controlled, voluntary grammar, integrated and maintained. The school’s classification dictates its governance as outlined below:

    • Controlled: The school is managed by the Board of Governors, with the employing authority being the Education Authority.
    • Voluntary grammar: Governed by the Board of Governors, who are appointed in line with each school’s scheme of management. Employing authority also rests with the Board.
    • Integrated: Brings pupils of various faiths or none together in an educational setting.  Management rests with the Board of Governors and in terms of funding, schools can be either controlled (as explained above) or grant maintained.
    • Maintained: Managed by the Board of Governors, members of which are usually made up of parents, teachers, and Department Representatives.


  • Bullying – What is the Law?

    Bullying is defined as the “repeated use of; any verbal, written or electronic communication, any other act, or any combination of those, by a pupil or a group of pupils against another pupil or group of pupils, with the intention of causing physical or emotional harm to that pupil or group of pupils.”
    The 1st of September 2021 welcomed the full introduction of the Addressing Bullying in Schools Act (Northern Ireland) 2016. This legislation reinforces the duty of the Board of Governors within the school, to prevent and record incidents of bullying. This includes incorporation and regular review of anti-bullying policies, every 4 years minimum.


“An environment which embraces and promotes innovative thinking.”

"A genuine sense of a willingness to support, listen and assist.”

“There is a very constructive and engaging culture where people really feel motivated and responsible for delivering on targets and deadlines.”