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Legal Counsel - Private Finance Team

The Department for Education
£65,355, London minimum £68,744. An additional market supplement allowance of up to £10k
Closing date
5 Mar 2024

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At DfE, we are proud of the commitment we make to diversity and inclusion and of the progress we have made. We have active & vibrant staff networks, special leave policies and workplace adjustments put in place for those who need them. We are continuing to build a diverse DfE, in an inclusive environment which nurtures and realises potential in all, at all levels.

Equality and Diversity - Department for Education

The Capital Directorate is a dynamic environment, delivering multi-billion pound construction programmes. We are one of the largest public sector construction clients in England, with a capital budget of £23.5bn to 2020-21, and over 600 school building projects.

We deliver new schools, rebuilds and refurbishments of existing schools to improve the condition of the whole school estate.

We help provide high quality school places where they are needed, and set standards for school and college buildings across the country.

We provide capital funding to schools and colleges so children and young people can learn in good quality, safe and sustainable learning environments both internally and externally.

Private Finance Team:

This is an integral role within the Private Finance team which is a small, dedicated and specialist team in the Capital Directorate. The function of the Private Finance team is to provide strategic direction, support and solutions where required on private finance related issues across the school estate. The DfE’s Private Finance team is recognised across central Government as a pre-eminent team at the forefront of PFI issues and expiry.

There are 172 ‘live’ school sector private finance contracts covering 741 schools. This represents the largest number of private finance contracts across government and third in terms of overall value. Of these contracts the most recent 5 are managed by the Department. The remaining 167 contracts are held and managed by individual Local Authorities (LAs).

Job description

We are looking for a solicitor qualified in England and Wales, to work within the Private Finance team and be the lead lawyer in the team advising DfE and ESFA Academies colleagues on the legal documentation in respect of PFI schools converting to Academy status, and future transfers of Academies between Trusts/Sponsors where the Academy occupies a PFI School.

This work will include taking the legal lead for DfE in all PFI Academy conversions/transfers by:

  • Being the principal contact in the Private Finance team for all PFI Academy queries from DfE colleagues.
  • Being responsible for monitoring and reporting on our involvement in PFI Academy conversions/transfers on a monthly basis including at Private Finance Operations Board.
  • Reviewing and approving all School Agreements for DfE.
  • Reviewing and approving all Academy leases, sub-leases or freehold transfers for DfE.
  • Drafting and agreeing any amendments to Principal Agreements for DfE.
  • Reviewing and approving any Deeds of Novation to School Agreement/Principal Agreements for DfE.
  • Providing strategic advice to DfE and ESFA colleagues and assisting in unblocking any PFI related issues which are preventing any Academy conversion/transfer from taking place.
  • Providing training to and writing internal guidance notes to assist non-legal DfE and ESFA colleagues working on PFI Academy conversions/transfers.
  • Update the standard PFI model Academy documentation to reflect legislative changes and DfE policies from time to time.

Whilst the principal responsibilities of the role relate to PFI Academy conversions/transfers you may also be required to assist advising the DfE’s contract management team on commercial and legal issues across the 46 new build schools in the five PSBP Private Finance batches, or on other Building Schools for the Future (BSF) / legacy education projects where the team advises multiple stakeholders (e.g. local authorities, academy trusts, individuals) on the 167 legacy projects.

Person specification

We are looking for someone with the following specific qualifications, knowledge and experience.

Essential criteria

Your application and interview will be assessed against the following essential criteria.

We are looking for a legal counsel to provide advice on PFI Academy conversions/ novations with the following specific qualifications, knowledge and experience:

  • A solicitor qualified in England and Wales with a minimum two years PQE with experience of providing legal advice on PFI Academy conversions.
  • Experience of a range of commercial and contractual issues in relation to PFI/PPP projects.
  • Experience of analysing suites of contractual documents and providing robust and clear commercial advice. 
  • Evidence of the ability to think strategically, working with senior leaders and multiple stakeholders to challenging timescales. 
  • Evidence of strong negotiation skills. 
  • Evidence of confident and effective personal communications skills both oral and written and with highly developed drafting and presentational skills. 
  • Evidence of the ability to work independently and manage a busy workload to deliver deadlines and priorities.

Desirable criteria

  • Evidence of the ability to balance and manage multiple demands of simultaneous projects, knowing how to prioritise and ensure each task is treated appropriately.
  • Evidence of the confidence to adopt a pragmatic approach and to make proposals or decisions based on constraints and deliverability.
  • Evidence of the ability to analyse complex information and present it in an engaging accessible style.
  • Evidence of the ability to comfortably work in a small team that deploys its resource flexibly and resourcefully.

Desirable criteria will only be assessed at interview in the event of a tie break situation to make an informed decision.

Qualifications Qualified solicitor in England and Wales. Benefits

Applicants currently holding a permanent post in the Civil Service should note that, if successful, their salary on appointment would be determined by the Department’s transfer / promotion policies.

As a member of the DfE, you will be entitled to join the highly competitive Civil Service Pension Scheme, which many experts agree is one of the most generous in the UK, with an average employer contribution of 27%.

You will have 25 days leave, increasing by 1 day every year to a maximum of 30 days after five years’ service. In addition, all staff receive the King’s Birthday privilege holiday and 8 days’ bank and public holidays.

We offer flexible working arrangements, such as job sharing, term-time working, flexi-time and compressed hours.

Most DfE employees will be working a hybrid pattern, spending at least 60% of their time in an office or work setting. Changes to these working arrangements are available in exceptional circumstances but must be agreed with the line manager and in line with the requirements of the role.

Travel to your primary office location will not be paid for by DfE, but costs for travel to an office which is not your main location will be covered.

As an organisation, which exists to support education and lifelong learning, we offer our staff excellent professional development opportunities.

Things you need to know Selection process details


To apply for this role, please provide a CV and a Statement of Suitability.

Your CV should include detailed information on your previous skills/experience, qualifications and job history (e.g. job title, dates of employment, roles and responsibilities including reference to any essential/desirable criteria if appropriate, that support your suitability for the role).

Please also provide a Statement of Suitability (1250 words maximum) explaining how you consider your professional skills, knowledge and experience provide evidence of your suitability for the role by demonstrating how you meet the essential/desirable criteria, listed in the Person specification section.

To confirm, the maximum word count for the Statement of Suitability is 1250 words. Please adhere to this limit as anything over 1250 words will not be taken into account.

Candidates successful at sift stage will be invited to an interview.


At interview we will assess your experience and professional skills against the essential/desirable criteria in 2 parts:

Part 1: You will be asked to prepare a 10 minute presentation, this will be sent out in advance of the interview.

Part 2: A series of questions about your experience to demonstrate, using examples, how you meet the essential/desirable criteria listed in the advert.

Feedback will be provided at interview stage only.

Other Information

We reserve the right to raise the minimum pass mark in the event of a high volume or strong field of candidates.

Please be aware that this role can only be worked in the UK from the location options provided and not from overseas.

The government is committed to supporting apprenticeships, enabling people to learn and progress in a role whilst earning. We want to monitor the number of people who have completed apprenticeships who are now applying to progress further in their career and are asking this question to all candidates, on all vacancies. You will be asked a question as part of the application process about any previous apprenticeships you have completed. Your response to this question will not affect your application and it is not a requirement of the role to have completed a previous apprenticeship.  

If successful and transferring from another Government Department a criminal record check maybe carried out.

In order to process applications without delay, we will be sending a Criminal Record Check to Disclosure and Barring Service on your behalf. However, we recognise in exceptional circumstance some candidates will want to send their completed forms direct. If you will be doing this, please advise Department of Education of your intention by emailing stating the job reference number in the subject heading.

Department for Education do not cover the cost of travel to your interview/assessment unless otherwise stated.

A reserve list may be held for a period of 6 months from which further appointments can be made.

Candidates will be posted in merit order based upon location preference. Where more than one location is advertised you will be asked to state your preferred location.

New entrants are expected to join on the minimum of the pay band. 

Applicants who are successful at interview will be, as part of pre-employment screening subject to a check on the Internal Fraud Database (IFD). This check will provide information about employees who have been dismissed for fraud or dishonesty offences. This check also applies to employees who resign or otherwise leave before being dismissed for fraud or dishonesty had their employment continued. Any applicant’s details held on the IFD will be refused employment.

Terms and conditions of candidates transferring from ALBs and NDPBs

Bodies that are not accredited by the Civil Service Commission and are not able to advertise at Across Government on Civil Service jobs will be treated as external new starters and will come into DfE on modernised terms and conditions with a salary at the band minimum.

Bodies that are accredited by the Civil Service Commission but do not have civil service status will be offered modernised terms and will not have continuous service recognised for leave or sickness benefits. Salaries should be offered at band minimum, but there is some flexibility where this would cause a detriment to the individual.

Bodies that are accredited by the Civil Service Commission and do have Civil Service status will be treated as OGD transfers. Staff appointed on lateral transfer will move on to pre-modernised DfE terms (unless they were on modernised terms in their previous organisation). Staff appointed on promotion will move on to modernised DfE terms. Staff will transfer over on their existing salary (on lateral transfer) and any pay above the DfE pay band maximum will be paid as a mark time allowance. Staff moving on promotion will have their salaries calculated using the principles set out in the attached OGD transfer supplementary information.

Reasonable adjustment

If a person with disabilities is put at a substantial disadvantage compared to a non-disabled person, we have a duty to make reasonable changes to our processes. If you need a change to be made so that you can make your application, you should:

Contact Department of Education via soon as possible before the closing date to discuss your needs.

Complete the “Assistance required” section in the “Additional requirements” page of your application form to tell us what changes or help you might need further on in the recruitment process. For instance, you may need wheelchair access at interview, or if you’re deaf, a Language Service Professional.

Any move to Department for Education (DfE) will mean you will no longer be able to carry on claiming childcare vouchers. This includes moves between government departments. You may however be eligible for other government schemes, including Tax-Free Childcare. Determine your eligibility at


Feedback will only be provided if you attend an interview or assessment. Security Successful candidates must undergo a criminal record check. People working with government assets must complete baseline personnel security standard (opens in new window) checks. Nationality requirements


This job is broadly open to the following groups:

  • UK nationals
  • nationals of the Republic of Ireland
  • nationals of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities with settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS) (opens in a new window)
  • nationals of the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and family members of those nationalities who have made a valid application for settled or pre-settled status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
  • individuals with limited leave to remain or indefinite leave to remain who were eligible to apply for EUSS on or before 31 December 2020
  • Turkish nationals, and certain family members of Turkish nationals, who have accrued the right to work in the Civil Service

Further information on nationality requirements (opens in a new window) Working for the Civil Service The Civil Service Code (opens in a new window) sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants.

We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission's recruitment principles (opens in a new window). The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equal opportunities. As such, we run a Disability Confident Scheme (DCS) for candidates with disabilities who meet the minimum selection criteria. The Civil Service also offers a Redeployment Interview Scheme to civil servants who are at risk of redundancy, and who meet the minimum requirements for the advertised vacancy. Apply and further information This vacancy is part of the Great Place to Work for Veterans (opens in a new window) initiative. Once this job has closed, the job advert will no longer be available. You may want to save a copy for your records. Contact point for applicants Job contact :

  • Name : Mark Fallows
  • Email :
  • Recruitment team
  • Email :
  • Further information The Department for Education’s recruitment processes are underpinned by the Civil Service Commissioners Recruitment Principles, which outlines that selection for appointment is made on merit based on fair and open competition. You have the right to complain if you feel a department has breached the requirement of the Recruitment Principles. In the first instance, you should raise the matter directly with the department concerned via If you are not satisfied with the response, you may bring your complaint to the Commission. For further information on bringing a complaint to the Civil Service Commission please visit their web pages

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