Building strong trusts: assurance framework

The aim of this framework is to identify trusts' most significant areas of strength and challenge, so that they can build organisational capacity. It is diagnostic, not evaluative, or judgemental.
The framework is supported by Ambition Institute, Challenge Partners, Evidence Based Education, the National Institute of Teaching, and ImpactEd.
Updated September 2023.

It includes questions based on the DfE’s Trust Quality Descriptions, however, the purposes behind CST’s paper on Building Strong Trusts and the DfE’s Trust Quality Descriptions are very different. The DfE’s intention is to set out the definitions of quality to inform their regional directors’ commissioning work. CST’s work is about supporting the sector to build organisational strength and resilience.

This document is supplied as an interactive PDF with ratings and notes fields that can be filled in electronically. It can also be printed out if preferred.

Overview of frameworks and when to use them


What is it?

When to use it

Building strong trusts assurance framework

A high-level, developmental assurance tool aligned with CST's Building strong trusts and the DfE’s Trust Quality Descriptions

To test elements of the trust's strength across 7 domains: governance; leadership; high quality, inclusive education; school improvement; workforce; finance and operations; and public benefit

Can be used to inform growth strategy

Assurance framework for Trust Governance

A deep dive into the activities and functions that influence strong governance performance, to be used in conjunction with guidance, Governing a School Trust

To test the strength of a trust’s governance

DfE MAT Assurance Framework

A deep dive to help a trust understand its current capacity to support and drive school improvement

To build and strengthen current capacity and potentially to grow capacity to support more schools

Academy Trust Governance Code (ATGC)

A voluntary, sector-led code which sets out the principles, desired outcomes, and recommended practice for effective governance

To test the principles of good governance and the behaviours, commitments and practices that inform them

Related policies

In February 2022, CST published an influential discussion paper asking the question, ‘What is a strong trust?’ Since then, we have engaged in a sector-wide discussion to understand how our proposed domains of organisational strength and resilience aligned with sector thinking and the emerging evidence base. This paper sets out our current policy position.

In this pamphlet, CST chief executive Leora Cruddas CBE sets out the case for the school trust, and a trust-based system. It attempts to set out why a trust-based system might be our best bet, and explains why a group of schools working together in a school trust is so much more than simply the changing of the legal structure of the school.

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Company no: 05303883
Charity no: 1107640

Contact details

Confederation of School Trusts (CST)
Suite 1, Whiteley Mill
39 Nottingham Road
Nottingham    NG9 8AD

0115 9170142


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