Independent schools are a school and a business…..or are they a business that sells an education? Needless to say, the education sector has changed and will continue to change both from an educational perspective, but also from a business perspective.
The Enrolment Contract is too frequently overlooked as a very important document. In fact, it is the most important document that a school publishes. Depending on the size of the cohort and the cost of school fees, a school’s Enrolment Contract will regulate in excess of $25M – $30M of fees annually. In light of this, it is important that a school’s Enrolment Contract reflects this level of investment in a document that sets out the various terms and conditions that underpin the relationship and also the different obligations that are incumbent on both the school and the family.
Enrolment Contracts should:
- contain clauses that ensure that they are interpreted as one contract and not a series of contacts;
- ensure that any requirement for a family to pay fees associated with late payments or insufficient notice of withdrawal are drafted to ensure that they are a genuine pre-estimate of loss;
- contain a clause that provides a school with the ability to deliver its curriculum in a manner of its choosing (for example, online);
- ensure that there is an acknowledgement from parents that they understand that a student is bound by the school’s rules and Discipline Policy;
- ensure that parent’s acknowledge their requirement to abide by a Parent Code of Conduct;
- allow for a school to include the cost of any school equipment that is not returned or is damaged at the completion of a student’s schooling;
- contain a parental consent to allow a school to make and use recordings of students (photos, videos or sound recordings) for the purposes of advertising and marketing;
- an ability to require families to provide necessary information in relation to a child’s ‘special needs’ or family law matters;
- allow the school to request vaccination information and give the school the ability to exclude a student if there is an infectious disease outbreak and the student has not been vaccinated or not provided the relevant vaccination history; and
- include a joint and several liability clause so as to ensure that both parents are liable for any fees associated with their child’s attendance at school.
The above clauses are just some of the clauses that should be considered in any carefully drafted Enrolment Contract. In many situations, a bespoke Enrolment Contract is the best option to ensure that the contractual requirements of a school are reflected in its enrolment documentation.