Mills & Reeve advise the Education Authority of Northern Ireland on an essential IT software for schools

The commercial disputes team assisted in settling a dispute to allow schools in Northern Ireland to continue to have access to this management software

The Education Authority of Northern Ireland (EANI) is a non-departmental body sponsored by Department for Education Northern Ireland. EANI is a Centre of Procurement Expertise (CoPE) and is responsible for procuring contracts on behalf of all schools in Northern Ireland.

EANI is contracted with Capita, an IT provider, to deliver a common IT solution to all schools in Northern Ireland.

Capita’s subcontractor, Education Software Solutions (ESS), provide a school information management software for schools.

ESS sought an injunction in the High Court preventing further use of its software in Northern Ireland by Capita, because it alleged the software licence it had granted to Capita had expired. The software has numerous critical functions, including allowing teachers to record and monitor safeguarding concerns and meet other mandatory legal requirements.

Any disruption to the supply of ESS’ software would’ve caused widespread disruption, including the potential closure of Northern Irish schools for an extended period, but ESS insisted that it should be granted the injunction so that it could contract directly with individual schools on its own terms.

EANI intervened in the litigation to resist the injunction for the sake of public interest and protect the policy of the government, which requires for central contracting through EANI as a CoPE.  

Frances Meehan, Director of EANI’s EdIS Programme, said: “I have no hesitation in recommending Mills & Reeve, in particular Eric France and Sarah Jacobs who made what was an extremely muddy puddle appear clear as water. Eric and Sarah were honest, effective, and efficient, and best of all their approach meant the process for us was stress free. They were on the ball, sharp and dynamic, with excellent commercial sense.   

Their local knowledge of the courts combined with their personal attributes, professionalism, dedication, and attention to detail was second to none.”

Eric France, partner at Mills & Reeve, added: “This successful conclusion to the litigation means the education of children can continue without disruption. It was a pleasure to work with the Education Authority of Northern Ireland on this dispute which was essential in ensuring schools continue to run efficiently.”

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