Academy Trust Handbook 2021 published

Formerly the Academies Financial Handbook, the new handbook comes into effect on 1 September 2021. While there aren’t any major changes, there are some updates to be aware of.

Last reviewed on 17 June 2021
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 39333

Key changes include:

  • New name for the Academies Financial Handbook – it's been renamed as the Academy Trust Handbook
  • Your trust must be aware of the risk of cybercrime, put in place proportionate controls and get permission from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) before paying any ransom demands
  • The ESFA can obtain information from third parties about your trust, where it has concerns about financial management and/or governance. Your trust must give permission for this to the ESFA if it requests it
  • From 1 March 2022, any newly appointed senior executive leader can only be a trustee if:
    • The members decide to appoint them as a trustee, and
    • The senior executive leader agrees, and
    • The trust's articles permit it
  • No one from your senior leadership team can conduct internal scrutiny 
  • Your trust should retender your external audit contract at least every 5 years
  • Where your finance committee and audit and risk committee are separate, the chair cannot be the same person (the chair of trustees still can’t be the chair of the audit and risk committee)
  • Your trust board should review your scheme of delegation annually (and immediately where there’s been a change in trust management or organisational structure)
  • Your trust board should have an objective independent external review of its effectiveness, ideally routinely
  • New name for the clerk – they’re now the ‘governance professional’
  • New name for the financial notice to improve (FNtI) – this is now called the notice to improve (NtI), to reflect that the ESFA can intervene in broader governance issues and not just financial concerns
  • Your trust leaders must get approval from the ESFA for severance payments where:
    • An exit package which includes a special severance payment is at or above £100,000, and/or
    • The employee earns over £150,000

‘New’ to the handbook, but not new to you

The handbook now includes information about trusts' existing responsibilities in a wider range of areas – the ESFA wants it to be more of a one-stop-shop for trusts, so a lot of what’s ‘new’ for the handbook isn’t new for your trust:

  • You must make sure you get DBS certificates for all staff, supply staff, trust members, trustees, and individuals on committees and local governing bodies (this was already a duty under Keeping Children Safe in Education)
  • You must make sure trust members aren’t subject to a section 128 direction (this is more explicit in this handbook, but was mentioned in the previous handbook)
  • Your trust board has a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and have regard to statutory safeguarding guidance (this was already the case under The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014 and Keeping Children Safe in Education)
  • As the employer, the trust is responsible for the health and safety of staff, pupils and visitors (this was already the case under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974)
  • You must make the agenda, approved minutes, and any other documents considered at each meeting, available for public inspection (this was already covered in the model articles of association)
  • You should have places on your board reserved for parents (having parent trustees and/or parent local governors was already a requirement in the model articles of association, and set out in DfE guidance)

Next steps

  • You can access the handbook yourself here
  • Keep your eyes peeled for our wider summary of all the changes from the new handbook 

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