NI Schools’ Legal Update 2023

NI Schools’ Legal Update 2023

This event is brought to you in association with ASCL

It is generally agreed that the teaching profession is becoming a more difficult job year on year. Problems with the behaviour of pupils, rising expectations of parents and increased class sizes and budget cuts have all combined to often produce a marked deterioration in a Principal’s working life experience. None of that has been made any easier as a result of the pandemic.

Employment of staff, regardless of home-working, home-schooling or hybrid provision is governed by laws that continually change. The running of schools is also governed by laws and standards that change.

This event brings together the top lawyers working in education,
together with other experts in employment law in order to update school principals in Northern Ireland.

After attending you will:

  • Understand what implications recent legislation and case law have for school policies.
  • Have had ample time to explore challenging issues with our experts and your peers.
  • Be up to date on Data Protection, Technology and Social Media issues within schools.
  • Appreciate how your school’s admissions criteria and bullying policies can promote equality and tackle inequality.
  • Be able to better support transgender pupils.
  • Have a working overview of Early Conciliation and Tribunal Practice & Procedure.

Course overview/outline programme

We have sessions on employment law developments that you need to know about and three sessions on essential equality issues in schools.

Morning Sessions:

  • The NI Schools' Employment Law Update.
  • Data Protection and Social Media Round-up
  • Boards of Governors – Guardians of Equality

Afternoon sessions:

  • Supporting Trans and Gender Questioning Students
  • Practical Tips for Employment Law Claims 1: Labour Relations Agency Early Conciliation – an Overview
  • Practical Tips for Employment Law Claims 2: Industrial Tribunal Practice & Procedure – an Overview

Who is it for?
This practical seminar will be particularly valuable to School, Principals and Vice Principals and other school leaders, including teacher union representatives.

When and where?
This event will take place online on Wednesday 25 January 2023 between 9:15am and 3.30pm. All sessions will be recorded and available to view once the event has ended.

£245 + VAT

Save £20 if you book and pay online when booking.

In association with:



25 Jan 2023

NI Schools’ Legal Update 2023




Get to Know Us: Familiarise yourself with the functions of our online event to ensure you maximise return on your investment. Christine Quinn, Knowledge Partner at Legal Island welcomes delegates to our 2023 event.


Welcome and Introduction: Robert Wilson, Regional Officer Northern Ireland, ASCL


NOTE: all the following sessions are being recorded and delegates will be sent links after the event for all recordings, which can be viewed until the end of the academic year and used for revision or staff training purposes.


The NI Schools' Employment Law Update: NI may not have a functioning government, but legislation has made it through, and case law is still going strong. Find out the latest developments relating to:

  • Holiday pay of Term Time Workers - Harpur Trust v Brazell Case no: 2019/0209
  • Overtime and Holiday Pay - Alexander Agnew and others v Chief Constable of the PSNI
  • Constructive Dismissal - Hendry v Board of Governors, Thornfield House School & Education Authority [2021] NIIT 22980/19 and Avidor v Cambridge Steiner School [2021] Case No: 3302379/2020
  • Breast Feeding Facilities - Mellor v The MFG Academies Trust [2022] Case No: 1802133/2021
  • Fair Employment (School Teachers) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 (currently awaiting Royal Assent)
  • The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022.

Seamus McGranaghan, Director, O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors provides detailed notes and a checklist of recommendations to help keep you up to date and out of tribunal.


This session includes 15 minutes for Q&A.


NOTE: This session will consist of what our speaker considers to be the most important developments in employment law relevant to school leaders at January 2023 and may differ from the above topics.



Break: Time to take a break from the screen and get some refreshments


Data Protection Round-up:Technology has many benefits but also has many drawbacks when incorrectly used or when it seemingly interferes with a school’s ability to properly teach or govern.


In this session, Aisling Byrne, Partner A&L Goodbody, Employment & Incentives Group considers these technology-related issues in Northern Ireland’s schools:


  • Potential increased cyber-security threats to your school associated with teachers Working from Home
  • What information about past pupils and staff must you keep safe and for how long?
  • Non-material Loss and Damages: What penalties, other than fines by the ICO, might schools face for data protection breaches?
  • Avoiding Fines (and what to do if you don’t) for email protocol breaches
  • Latest data protection case law e.g.TBC
  • The ICO’s guidance for children on data protection and their rights under the GDPR.

This session includes 15 minutes for Q&A.



Comfort Break


Social Media Round-up: An October 2021 survey found that 60% of 8-11 year-olds used social media, with that percentage growing to 89% for 12-15 year-olds. Social media is certainly used by most children in the UK, and it plays a large role in their daily activities. Schools therefore need to be aware of the rights and wrongs around social media in the education system.


This session highlights the key things to be aware of, not only in relation to children but when dealing with staff as well.


Lauren Hilton, ASCL Solicitor explains:


  • Can schools discipline staff for inappropriate use of social media? What about outside working hours? And in their private life?
  • How can you best protect your reputation and your school’s reputation online?
  • Can schools discipline children for inappropriate use of social media?
  • How can schools report online abuse and when does conduct online become criminal?
  • What support is available for victims of online abuse?



Boards of Governors – Guardians of Equality


School governors have been described as the ‘largest volunteer workforce in Northern Ireland’ with around 11,000 people involved. Their role, as outlined in Every School a Good School, is to ‘manage the school with a view to providing the best possible education and educational outcomes for all of the pupils’. Governors shape a school’s direction and are therefore key to tackling inequality in NI.


Matthew Milliken  says that there are two significant areas of education policy where there is potential to promote equality or to tackle inequality - admissions criteria and bullying.


Matthew Milliken explains his views on how schools can use their admissions criteria and bullying policies to promote societal change.


Networking & Lunch


Supporting Trans and Gender Questioning Students


Earlier this year the Education Authority reported that they received three queries a month from schools about supporting transgender pupils. Meanwhile, a teacher in Westmeath was jailed for contempt of court for attending his school in breach of a court order to stay away after he refused to use gender-neutral pronouns while teaching. Stories like this create a media storm and push this issue up the agenda – but just how prevalent are these issues in NI? And how prepared should schools be to deal with them?


Paul Gillen of Lewis Silkin discusses this sensitive and emotive issue and gives practical advice on how to deal with it in your school.


Aileen Donnelly, Interim Head of Equality & Human Rights, Education Authority,  adds to the discussion with a practical guide to best practice in schools when a child raises this emotive issue – how can you best support them and ensure a fair and safe environment?



Comfort Break


Practical Tips for Employment Law Claims 1:


Labour Relations Agency Early Conciliation – an Overview: Early conciliation has been in place in Northern Ireland since January 2020 and is managed by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA). What should you expect when you receive notification that an employee (or former employee) has approached the LRA for conciliation?


Linda Olphert of the Labour Relations Agency takes you through the process with useful hints and tips for minimising stress and getting the most out of the procedure.



Comfort Break


Practical Tips for Employment Law Claims 2:


Industrial Tribunal Practice & Procedure – an Overview: Receiving an Industrial Tribunal claim and attending a hearing can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be - forewarned is forearmed!


Orlagh O’Neill of Carson McDowell introduces the NI Tribunal process including:


  • What forms are submitted and when
  • Different types of hearing and their purpose
  • What to expect on the day of the full hearing
  • Who’s who and what do they do?



Thanks and Close: Robert Wilson, Regional Officer Northern Ireland, ASCL





"Well prepared, well delivered, well resourced, well presented. The contributors were knowledgeable but ensured that the delivery style and content was accessible."
Graham Montgomery, Headmaster, Royal School, Armagh

"Very clear and useful information, both verbal and written. I hope I don't encounter all these potential problems but feel better equipped to deal with them should that day come."
Vivien Moorhouse, Principal, Leaney Primary School

"Very appropriate content."
Sean Sloan, Principal, Abbey CBS Newry

"Excellent speakers and information topical and well delivered."
Roisin Bell, Employment Relations Manager, Labour Relations Agency

"The information was concise, relevant and well -presented. the organisation by ASCL and LI was very good."
David Carruthers, Headmaster, Coleraine Grammar School

"I liked the expertise of the presenters - I certainly learnt a great deal; covered relevant areas."
Chris Peel, Headmaster, Sullivan Upper School


  • Robert Wilson
    Robert Wilson Regional Officer
    Northern Ireland Association of School and College Leaders

    Robert Wilson has been part time Regional Officer with ASCL since 2016. Prior to this he was principal of Limavady Grammar School. During his time as principal, Robert sat on the QUB Headteachers' Focus Group and represented ASCL NI on the UCAS Council. He had previous senior leadership experience as a Senior Teacher in Coleraine High School and as Vice Principal of Cambridge House Grammar School, including a period as Acting Principal.  He has served as an Associate Assessor with ETI and as an Associate with CSSC.

  • Seamus McGranaghan
    Seamus McGranaghan Director - Commercial
    O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

    Seamus McGranaghan qualified as a Solicitor in O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors in 2003 and is an experienced Commercial Lawyer dealing with employment, commercial and education cases.

    He has experience in the Industrial Tribunal representing both Claimants and Respondents and has provided seminars in relation to particular areas of employment law. Seamus is the only member of the Education and Law Association in Northern Ireland. He specialises in advising schools and colleges on policy matters, employment issues and student welfare. He is also responsible for the Education Law Quarterly Review.

  • Dr Matthew Milliken
    Dr Matthew Milliken Postdoctoral Researcher
    Ulster University

    Dr Matthew Milliken has extensive experience of working with young people in Northern Ireland.  He has a professional track record of developing innovative, award-winning educational projects to support the building of relationships between divided communities in regions as diverse as Ireland, the Caucasus, Southern Africa, the Basque region, Israel/Palestine and Germany.  Matthew left full-time employment with the Education Authority in 2015 to commence a PhD. His subsequent research attracted wide media coverage and was acknowledged as having contributed to the 2022 reform to include teachers under the terms of Fair Employment legislation in NI. He is a founding member of the Coalition for Inclusive Education and is regularly called upon by the local media to provide expert comment on matters relating to the NI education system.

  • Aileen Donnelly
    Aileen Donnelly

    Having recently taken up post in July 2022, I am responsible for the development and establishment of an Equality and Human Rights function, and for leading the design, implementation and continuous development of the EAs strategic and policy framework that will ensure that EA meets its statutory duties under equality legislation. A key focus of the role is to develop, promote and embed an equality culture that places equality of opportunity and good relations at the core of EA's policy making, policy implementation, policy review, service delivery, and establishing EA as a best practice employer as well as developing resources to support schools in complying with equality legislation and navigating issues. I also provide leadership and management in the context of the need for continuous improvement, transformational change, and service reform using my experience from EA’s Corporate Complaints Management, Information Governance and Corporate Planning services.

  • Orlagh O'Neill
    Orlagh O'Neill Partner
    Carson McDowell

    Orlagh O'Neill is a Partner and Head of the Employment Team at Carson McDowell Solicitors in Belfast. She advises mainly employer clients on a wide range of employment issues and acts for some of Northern Ireland's largest employers. Her education clients include universities, regional colleges and a number of voluntary grammars. This year Chambers and Partners Guide to the Legal Profession ranked Orlagh as Band One for Education. She is a committee member and Chair of the Employment Lawyers Group of Northern Ireland, a member of both the UK and Irish Employment Law Groups (ELA and ELAI) and a regular speaker at annual employment law update conferences.

  • Lauren Hilton
    Lauren Hilton In-house Employment Solicitor
    Association of School and College Leaders

    Lauren Hilton is an in-house Employment Solicitor at ASCL who advises members of the association in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. She primarily assists individuals from school senior leadership teams with their personal employment law issues, employment tribunal claims and supporting those facing professional disciplinary proceedings by their respective education regulators. Prior to joining ASCL, Lauren trained at a regional law firm working with large companies, colleges and universities and their respective HR departments offering full employment law services and advice on managing their workforce. 

  • Aisling Byrne
    Aisling Byrne Partner
    A&L Goodbody

    Aisling Byrne is a Partner in the Employment Team at A&L Goodbody.  She is a qualified mediator and she is qualified to practise in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland having previously worked for Matheson in Dublin. 

    Aisling specialises in both contentious and non-contentious employment matters and her clients include SMEs, charities, educational clients and multinational companies.   She has a particular expertise in data protection having attained the CIPP/E data protection qualification in 2020. 

  • Linda Olphert
    Linda Olphert Conciliation Team Manager (ERM) (Temporary)/Conciliation
    Labour Relations Agency

     Linda has worked for the Labour Relations Agency for 27 years, the last 20 of which she has spent working in Conciliation, helping parties resolve industrial tribunal claims.  She is based in the Derry/Londonderry office and is currently a Conciliation Team Manager, managing a team of Conciliation Officers.  Linda also deals with collective disputes and mediations.

Event details


9.15am - 3.30pm


25 January 2023





Save £20 when you book and pay online when booking.