The Confederation of School Trusts is strictly apolitical. We work with the government of the day, political parties and politicians across the spectrum to advance education in the public interest.
This page is intended to be a resource for our members. It pulls together recent and relevant publications from government in one place. CST does not necessarily support or endorse the guidance signposted on this page.
Publications and policy announcements from Ofsted and regulators can be found in the Policy and Research section of the CST website.
For executive and governance leaders
The Academies Financial Handbook sets out the financial management, control and reporting requirements that apply to all academy trusts. It describes a financial framework for trusts that focuses on principles rather than detailed guidance and reflects academy trust’s accountability to Parliament and to the public. Compliance with the handbook is a condition of each trust’s funding agreement.
Template documents with standard articles of association for different types of academy trust.
Model documents to help church schools converting to academies, and supporting documents.
Model funding agreement for single academy trusts establishing new academies and free schools. The funding agreement provides the framework for each academy or free school to operate in. These model funding agreements are for: - Schools in the process of becoming an academy with a single academy trust - Groups opening a free school with a single academy trust
These model funding agreements are for: - Schools in the process of becoming an academy with a multi-academy trust - Groups opening a free school with a multi-academy trust
For governance leaders
The ‘Governance handbook’ explains: - governing boards’ roles and functions - their legal duties - where they can find support - the main features of effective governance
The ‘Competency framework for governance’ sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours that the DFE believes school and academy governing boards need to be effective.
The ‘Competency framework for clerking sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours the DfE believes are required to provide professional clerking to school and academy governing boards.
This is a series of guidance documents to help governors to check if resources are being managed effectively. Please note: at the moment this guidance refers to individual schools. CST is working with the Department for Education to create guidance for trustees of multi-academy trusts.
The guidance, for governors and trustees, explores how to collect and analyse data. , The guidance takes the form of a set of key themes to use as an evidence base to discuss the school or academy trust’s performance. The key themes bring together a broader range of information to help guide discussions and provide a basis for challenge to ensure value for money is achieved, whilst, focusing on educational outcomes.
The East Midlands and Humber RSC toolkit includes a sample governance structures and scheme of delegation for multi-academy trusts. Please note, while samples can be informative, CST’s view is that it is essential that governance structures and scheme of delegation are developed to meet the needs and specific contexts of each trust
Academy Ambassadors have produced two guidance documents for recruiting trustees
Academy Ambassadors offer free support to MATs that want to recruit business people to their trust.
For financial leaders
Academy trusts are required by their funding agreements to submit financial returns to the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). The financial accountability and assurance framework is set out in the Academies Financial Handbook and the detailed guide to academies financial assurance. The Academies Budget Forecast Return (BFRO) collects financial outturn information as at the end of March each year. The ESFA uses the information provided to ensure that the academy sector can accurately report its financial data to HM Treasury. This guidance documents explains more about the BFRO form.
This Academies Financial Return Guidance provides further information on all the academy trust financial returns expected by the ESFA.
This guidance provides information for academies about their revenue funding allocation.
This benchmarking tool enables a school or trust to compares budgets with other schools/ trusts in similar circumstances.
A tool to provide schools in England with an indication of their efficiency compared with similar schools. Please note that this tool is currently not operational for multi-academy trusts, but it does allow trusts to assess the relative efficiency of schools in their group.
The tool helps trust boards assess whether they are meeting the Department for Education’s standards to achieve a good level of financial health and resource management. The Department for Education believes it can be used to identify areas for change to make sure resources are used to support high-quality teaching and the best education outcomes for pupils. The tool consists of a checklist and a dashboard. The checklist asks questions of trust boards in six areas of resource management. The dashboard shows how a trust’s data compares to thresholds on a range of statistics that have been identified by the Department for Education as indicators of good resource management and outcomes.
This publication provides non-statutory guidance from the Department for Education on reviewing school staff structures.
Multi-academy trusts (MATs) and some other groups of academy trusts with at least 5 academies and more than 3,000 pupils, receive a School Condition Allocation (SCA) to deploy strategically across their estate to address their priority maintenance needs. Academies that are not part of a qualifying MAT or opted-in chain can apply to the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF). In any given financial year, all schools eligible for capital funding will either (i) receive a formulaic allocation via their MAT or chain, or (ii) be able to bid to CIF.
For executive leaders
The good practice guide gives advice on what regional schools commissioners look for when they assess and approve: - the establishment of new multi-academy trusts (MATs) - plans for growth of existing MATs.
This document sets out the principles for how the accountability system will operate to provide school leaders with greater clarity and transparency on: - when they will and will not be subject to action as a result of the accountability system - the consequences of the accountability system - the roles of different organisations in the system
Scrutiny and oversight - National Audit Office
Key finding: The Department has not explicitly set out its current policy, but it is unclear how feasible it will be for it to continue to convert large numbers of schools. Most schools that are still maintained by local authorities are primary schools. These include small, sometimes remote, schools that tend to be less easy to integrate into multi-academy trusts. There is substantial variation across the country, in the relative proportions of maintained schools and academies and in the availability and capacity of sponsors to support schools most in need. This complicated position means that it is incumbent on the Department to clarify its policy and make sure that the school system is coherent with all of its parts working effectively together. This will be crucial to secure value for money and provide children with access to good end-to-end schooling.
Scrutiny and oversight – Education Select Committee
Key finding: There is a gap in assessing MATs which neither Ofsted nor RSCs presently fulfil. The current situation of Ofsted conducting ‘batched inspections’ is not sustainable or sufficient as MATs expand over the next five to six years. It is not a formal inspection or accountability process and does not necessarily lead to intervention from Ofsted or the Department.
Although the government did not accept this finding at the time, the Secretary of State announced his intention to development policy on MAT assessment in June 2018.
Scrutiny and oversight – Public Accounts Committee
Key finding: The Department for Education’s rules around related party transactions are too weak to prevent abuse.
This led to the strengthening of the requirements in relation to related party transactions in the Academies Financial Handbook 2018.
This report from the Public Accounts Committee also criticised what it referred to as ‘excessive salaries.’ However, the data in the report does not support the claim. The overwhelming majority of trusts (96%) do not pay anyone over £150,000.