Top-slicing vs GAG pooling: financial models in multi-academy trusts (MATs)

Understand what it means to top-slice or GAG pool budgets and to pool reserves, and how trustees can make an informed decision. Find out about the rules and what pros and cons to consider, as well as questions to ask.

Last reviewed on 14 April 2023
See updates
School types: All · School phases: All
Ref: 31322
  1. The difference between top-slicing and GAG pooling
  2. Pooling reserves
  3. Trusts use this funding to provide services centrally
  4. The rules
  5. Pros, cons and important considerations
  6. Trustees' role
  7. Questions for trustees to ask
  8. Local governing bodies' role
  9. Example policies from trusts

The difference between top-slicing and GAG pooling


This is when a trust collects a proportion of each school’s budget, or general annual grant (GAG), to fund central services. The schools within the trust keep most of their own GAG funding.

Some trusts set a flat-rate contribution. Some have a variable top-slice, taking into account factors such as phase, pupil numbers or performance data with the intention that each school pays according to the level of support it'll need from the trust.

See examples at the end of this article.

GAG pooling 

This is when the trust holds each school’s GAG centrally, and delegates smaller amounts of funding to each school for it to control. 

See examples at the end of this article. 

A diagram showing money flowing from schools to the trust in top slicing, and from trust to schools in GAG pooling
Image source: The Key

Trusts can also decide whether or not to pool their academies' reserves, regardless of their approach to budgets. For example, a trust could choose