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Muckle LLP Helps the Largest School in North Tyneside to Become an Academy

16th Dec 2011

Leading commercial law firm Muckle LLP has advised the largest school in North Tyneside on being the first in the area to become an academy.

St Thomas More RC High School, which is rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and has approximately 1,700 pupils on its roll, is the first on North Tyneside to complete the conversion process and become an academy.

The conversion, which was completed on December 1, to a tight deadline within eight weeks, was handled by Muckle LLP’s Academies Team led by Tony McPhillips and supported by Sarah Forster, Richard Nixon and Jill Donabie. The team negotiated all of the legal documentation, including transfers of assets, funding arrangements, employment and property and land issues.

Headteacher, Diane Donkin, explained that the move to convert to an academy had been carefully considered by teachers and governors, as academy status will provide the school with greater control and freedom over budgets and to follow a curriculum suited to their students. They will continue their commitment to maintaining the excellent partnerships the academy has with local universities, as well as other schools in the area and wider region, which she believes is part of what makes it so special.

Mrs Donkin said: “The team at Muckle has been fantastic, every step of the way.  They really were a team of experts who dealt with all aspects of the conversion for us, from the land transfer aspects to the employment issues relating to the conversion.

“The support and advice was excellent. The team at Muckle obviously has great knowledge and expertise, but they were also incredibly personable, approachable and responsive. They were very accessible and kept us fully informed throughout the process. We were delighted with the service we received and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.”

St Thomas More RC Academy is one of 162 schools within the Hexham and Newcastle Diocese. It provides education for 11-18 year olds within the Catholic population of North Tyneside.

Tony McPhillips, partner and head of the education team at Muckle LLP said: “We were delighted to help the staff and governors at St Thomas More RC High School through the academy conversion process. We have worked on a number of academy conversions throughout the region, but this was a first for the North Tyneside area and involved collaboration with North Tyneside Council and the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.  We worked closely with all parties involved to ensure the project was delivered to a very tight time scale and within budget. We wish the Academy all the best for the future.”

For more information about how Muckle LLP’s Academies Team can help your school become an academy, please telephone 0191 211 7777 or visit

Above, from left to right: Richard Nixon (Muckle LLP), Diane Donkin (St Thomas More RC Academy) and Sarah Forster (Muckle LLP).
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